Monday, February 13, 2012

Certified B-Schools: MAT may be withdrawn if government's test is made mandatory

For the management aptitude test (MAT), a 24-year-old examination used by nearly 1,000 business schools across India to admit students, it could well be the end of the road as the government may soon make a test run by it mandatory for all approved institutions. The All India Management Association (AIMA), which has been conducting MAT since 1988, says it will withdraw the test in its present avatar in the face of government pressure.

“If CMAT stays then MAT will not continue with its normal version. Let’s not be unrealistic about what we have to face in the future,” Rekha Sethi, AIMA’s Director General, said in an exclusive interview. The Centre has devised a common management admission test (CMAT), the first edition of which will run during 20-28 February, on the lines of the popular graduate management admission test (GMAT) conducted across the world.

CMAT aims to be used by all 3,500 recognized B-schools in the country, except the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the management schools of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) that admit students based on their common admission test (CAT). The government may make CMAT mandatory for all the 3,500 B-schools certified by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Mint reported on 6 January.

“If the government wants every student to take CMAT, then what can you do?” Sethi said. “MAT is a great product. But it’s (CMAT) a government danda (stick).” She added that with CMAT coming into the picture, the “government is reinventing the wheel”. Sethi said that as a national body comprising institutes, industry and students, the association will withdraw MAT from AICTE-approved institutes in the spirit of collaboration. If organizers of “so-called national tests” are considering collaborating with the government on reducing stress for students then it’s a good move, said an official at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which oversees AICTE. “We are yet to get any formal communication from MAT organizers,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “Everybody should strive to streamline management education to improve quality and access.”

MAT is a good test and its discontinuation in the near future could hurt aspirants in small towns, according to the director of a Bhubaneswar-based institute, who declined to be named as it might invite AICTE's ire. Without giving a specific timeframe on when AIMA will withdraw MAT from AICTE-approved B-schools, Sethi said her organization holds that there should be less stress on students.
“We thought that if the government was planning for a national test other than CAT, then MAT will be the natural choice, given that our exam has been tested over two decades,” she said. “It has proved its mettle. It’s the only test which perhaps has no controversy. Moreover, the government has been viewing this as one of the key national tests for business education.”
“When you want to reduce stress, you need to make entrances flexible and MAT is a great relief here, as it is held four times a year,” said the director of the B-school cited earlier. “Exams like GMAT are popular because they are available round the year and authorities need to think it from students’ point of view.”

To be sure, AICTE is also aiming to make CMAT more flexible. “This is our debut year and from the next session, we have decided to hold it twice a year to make it convenient for students, parents, and of course, for the management institutes,” S.S. Mantha, Chairman of AICTE and the key person responsible for CMAT 2012, said on 6 January.

Not everybody says reducing the number of management entrance examinations is a step in the right direction. E. Abraham, Director of XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur, who runs a separate national test, said one centralized entrance examination may not be a great idea for postgraduate programmes. The difference in the course curricula necessitates different types of selection processes, according to him. “One of our main focus areas is human resources, and we need to get candidates with the right aptitude,” he said. “Hence, a centralized test cannot give us that benefit.”

Both MAT and CMAT target smaller cities and towns as most well-known institutes in metros and larger cities largely use CAT to select students. Sethi said that since MAT is organized in both offline and online formats four times a year, it provides flexibility to students to better their score and opt for a better institute. “Our experience shows that only 9% of students like the online version. What we feel is that go with what the market wants and not what you want the market to want. Smaller cities are still struggling with Internet connections and electricity is still not available. What are you trying to do — a digital divide?” argued Sethi.

CAT is conducted in an online format. CMAT will also be conducted online. Gayatri Raut, an MBA aspirant from Bhubaneswar, said CAT is an elitist test and caters to the best of the institutes, but the less than 10,000 students who study in the top B-schools cannot fulfil all the needs of the industry. “MAT has been a reliable exam as it is held four times a year, and thus gives more choice to students. If you cannot do well this time, you can sit for MAT three months hence to improve your chance,” Raut said.

MAT may have to withdraw from AICTE institutes, but AIMA will focus to customize it for private universities who run independently. “AIMA is not all about MAT. We have a strong portfolio on management development programmes, and we will give more attention to skill assessment, among other things,” Sethi said.

Source: Mint, February 13, 2012

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