Thursday, October 20, 2011

Criticized for falling standards, IITs tweak JEE format

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have tweaked the format of next year’s joint entrance examination (JEE) after being criticized for falling standards by Infosys Ltd. Chairman Emeritus N.R. Narayana Murthy.

Aspirants for a place in India’s elite engineering schools will now have to score minimum marks in each of three subjects they are tested in — physics, chemistry and mathematics — as well as a minimum aggregate to be considered for admission, the institutes said in a statement on Wednesday.

The IIT-JEE is one of the most competitive examinations in the country, with just two of every 100 candidates qualifying for admission to the 15 IITs. But Murthy, an IIT alumnus himself, said on 3 October that IIT graduates fare poorly in jobs and overseas colleges. He blamed the entrance process and admission coaching centres, which he said prepare candidates through rote learning, for the drop in standards.

Currently, students are ranked on a merit list based on overall marks. Coaching centres often encourage students to focus on any two subjects of their choice, as even students who are weak in one subject can make the grade. But such students come under pressure once they get admitted, as well as later in their careers. “Obtaining a rank in IIT-JEE 2012 does not guarantee admission to any of the courses available in IITs, IT-BHU and ISM, Dhanbad,” said IIT Delhi, which is organizing next year’s examination. Besides the 15 IITs, the Information Technology Department of Banaras Hindu University (IT-BHU) and Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad also select students from JEE.

Under the new format, candidates must score at least 10% in each subject and 35% overall to be considered for the merit list. Separate rank lists will be prepared for students from other backward classes (OBCs), scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as well as for disabled students — but on the same principle. For example, an OBC student must score at least 9% in each subject and 31.5% aggregate to be on the OBC rank list.

“For the first time, we are making the cut-off list public even before the entrance. The predefined cut-off will be made public through the admission brochures,” said S.K. Chowdhury, chairman of the JEE committee at IIT-Kanpur. The move will give equal weight to every subject, said a professor at IIT-Delhi. “We have seen visible disparity in the scoring pattern of many students. The effect of coaching centres can be reduced now,” the professor added, requesting anonymity.

Some 485,000 students took the JEE in the last academic year, vying for around 10,000 seats. The next examination will be conducted on 8 April, 2012.

The change may also help ensure no seats are left vacant, especially in the reserved categories. “Around 300 seats go vacant every year and we hope this change will also fill up these seats,” said Chowdhury of IIT-Kanpur. Gaurav Mittal, who runs DMC Tutorials and Quest coaching centres, said the change in JEE format won’t have much bearing on the way they approach preparing students. “They are attacking the false perception that coaching is a must for entering IIT,” he added.

Source: Mint, October 20, 2011

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