Do we need a change or a positive change?

One interesting thing that our super intelligent politicians have learned from Late Mr. Arjun singh is that, if you want to show your importance in the country, to prove the usefulness of the existence of your ministry, you should bring some radical change. Ofcourse this is what all great leaders have done in the past, be it gandhi or nehru. But the problem is that they have understood only half of it. They unfortunately forgot that to be remembered as a great leader, this change has got to be a positive one, the one that will improve things, rather than taking reverse gear. The one that will take India towards the path of progress and help solve the existing problems rather than creating problems or say tasks for future leaders to work upon.
The latest such example is the proposal of MHRD to scrap IIT JEE. The supporters argue that, change is needed to make IITs more renowned in the world, that its tough for students of backward classes and towns to enter these elite institutions. Infact the best reason, that I came across was, we need those students to enter IITs who are actually interested in engieerning, rather than those who just study, crack good ranks in entrance tests and get the IIT tag and become anything but an engineer working in an engineering job contributing for the welfare of the society.
I and every educated, aware Indian would totally agree that these causes need to be taken care of. But the problem that I have is, that the proposal of MHRD is only going to aggravate the existing problems. Let me explain how?
First, let us understand the proposal. The proposal says that admission to all engineering institutions should be done through a combined score calculated on the basis of a common test and the marks of 12th board.
Now let me elaborate the problems with both of these things separately. The common test, will be an aptitude cum knowledge based test of physics, chemistry and maths. The first reason given by many supporters of this proposal is that they want to stop the exponential growth of Coaching centres, they say that by inclusion of aptitude, students not going to coachings will get equal chance. But don't they see the big CAT coaching industry, bank PO coaching industry and the fast growing NTSE coaching industry? All these train students only in the area of aptitude, and most of the aspirants feel, that aptitude tests can be cracked better by training. So, I don't see coachings feeling any threat, only that they will need to hire some more teachers for aptitude training from the CAT coaching industry. If we go into the basic reason why students go to coaching, we'll be able to understand that all students feel that their teachers at coaching are more talented and a lot better than those in schools, which helps them grasp the basics better and understand things in an easier way. Infact the difference between the qualifications of school teachers and coaching teachers speaks out this fact clearly. The only solution to this problem will be to improve the school standards, attracting more qualified teachers. But if you are saying that, making a test easier will solve the problem, it probably is like, saying, stop a kid from securing more knowledge while he is in HSC because he will create a better competition for others. And mind you, IITs are respected across the world because an IITian is believed to have more knowledge and intelligence than an average kid.
The 12th board on the other hand is a lot more complicated game, than it looks from the outside. Here, the biggest problem is in normalization and scaling across different boards. A student getting 85% in Maharashtra state board might be a better performer than the one getting 95% in CBSE or vice versa, but thinks about this? So, how do we normalize this disparity? The proper way to do so will need lots of resources and research, which will need atleast a span of 2-3 years with proper evaluation of the process itself. One of the worst examples set in this normalization is by the IIMs, who have included 12th and 10th marks as a criteria in their entrances. According to them getting 75% in CBSE board in 2004 is equal to that in 2005, but are the difficulty levels always same? There are unfortunate years when papers are tougher than other years and those kids can only curse their ill-fate. Also, IIM K this year received huge cries over unjustified and probably wrong normalization across various state boards.
Secondly, if you would notice a simple fact, the toppers of any state are almost always from some few so called Elite schools, does it mean all the talent goes to those schools only? does it mean my parents made a wrong decision by not sending me to the supreme XYZ school, and instead admitting me into a middle rung school? The reason for this lies somewhere else, the checking of copies of board exams are done by a large number of teachers, for whom this is a burden to be finished by some deadline rather than a responsibility of evaluation that will decide one's career. So, if the presumption exists in teacher's mind that since XYZ school is good, he'll give 8 on 10 to a student for an answer, while if a student from lower school writes the same answer, he won't give more than 5, because according to teacher, that school doesn't teach its students well. So, again I'll be ill-fated.
Go into the interiors and you will practically see this. There are schools where hardly any student will get less than 80% and also there are schools where a student will hardly get more than 80%. So you need to solve this disparity first, and it again will take a long time, atleast a few years. Another argument exists to solve this problem of disparity, on making board exams Objective, which will completely remove this subjectivity and problems in normalization. But lets not go into it.
Infact this disparity is magnified if you move across regions. In my college itself, students coming from schools in certain states hardly had lesser than 90%, infact getting a 92% would be not-up-to-the-mark performace in their schools. On the other hand, equally bright student from another region, say Maharashtra or UP might have been the topper of his school, best in his city, at 87%. And frankly, it won't be difficult for elite schools, who charge heavy fees, to spend some money and try to exploit into the board exam copy checking if importance of 12th board marks will increase. There are schools in south that guarantee that their student shall get 90%, which is just the visible tip of the iceberg. Spo, definitely there will be huge scope of corruption in here. How many of the thousands of teachers across India you think, will deny taking a few thousands and giving some extra marks while copy checking?
And again, do you think coaching institutes will simply shut their doors with the scrapping of JEE? Please go and check, they've already started giving out advertisements for a course that will help students prepare for both 12th and the common test. Go into their shops and see, how they are now showing the IIT dream to a student who has scored 40% in 10th class, saying that the new test is too simple to crack. So, if nothing else happens, atleast these coachings are surely going to prosper in near future. Since the early 90s, when the JEE was toughest, if you see the statistics, coachings have only increased exponentially with the entrance getting easier and easier, as more and more are being made to believe, that they are able to crack it.
Infact presently itself, the states where admission to engineering colleges is through 12th marks, have coachings helping them secure better.
Lets look at the existing system. Currently, those students studying in middle rung school have an equal right to grab a seat in IIT as someone in elite school, because they all appear for an unbiased JEE, where the school tag doesn't matter. Also, JEE has the respect of being untainted for almost half a century. There has been not a single case of someone being able to acquire a seat in IIT by bribing huge money.
Ofcourse, we need to improve things, to ensure that an under-privileged intelligent kid gets an equal shot at IIT seat. But rather than increase the competition for him from an always increasing population going to the coaching, won't the simple solution be to make JEE free of charge for him and helping him with free books?
So, dear Mr. Kapil Sibal, we all agree that change is always needed to improve things, but aren't you forgetting the term Positive Change? Please don't create a pile of problems, that will take another change to solve and eventually a vicious circle to follow.
Please leave your ego for the sake of India's future, for we are recognized in the world as a knowledge economy, lets not play stupid games with our USP.


Ankit Gupta said...

Nice article........

sujit patel said...

Nice article sir.
Also read the article in The Hindu. They've explained it beautifully too.

Purvi Thaker said...

A common entrance test is the only solution to normalization problems specially for IIT and the likes.

However, what one needs to also analyze is if scoring brilliantly in a common entrance guarantees the student has more "knowledge" and "interest" for the subject that he or she is competing for. Merely competing for the sake of earning better monetary benefits in future would guarantee a good engineer , not a brilliant one.

Nonetheless , very aptly put in words sir!!!! :)

bhuvan gupta said...

@sujit: thanks
@purvi: hehe.. you have hit the nail with capturing the basic point, how to get brillant engineers ;-)

Purvi Thaker said...

:) I read an article in the Indian Express almost a month ago which said that the researches that are considered to be top-rated and undertaken by the best faculties in the country (which also had a mention about the faculties of IIT's and IIM's), turn out poorest in terms of their practical applicability and future use for further development on any issue. If the top of the Pyramid of education is such, how do you guarantee a system, where fresh ideas and interest driven knowledge form a part of studies !!!!