Saturday, April 18, 2009

JEE and entrance exams

There is an interesting article discussing the reforms that are needed for JEE. I had written about it in detail before. I had mentioned that JEE may allow only those candidates who have secured among the top 2.5% in their board exams to write the exam. Prof. M.S. Ananth, the director of IIT-M, mentions, "suggestion is that the school board examinations be treated as a screening test, with only the top one per cent of students being allowed to attempt JEE." 

I feel before we take such steps, one should do some statistical analysis. How many percent of the current students in IIT-M (say) have qualified in the top 2.5% (or 1%) of their board exams or have represented in the Olympiads? Is there a linear correlation between the marks obtained in the board exam and the CGPA obtained in IITs? 

Professor Idichandy, who is looking into the reforms for JEE, feels that JEE and all entrance examinations should be abolished and this would lead to the collapse of the coaching classes. Tamil Nadu, for example, has abolished the entrance exams for admission to its engineering colleges. Guess what has happened? The coaching classes for 12th standard have sprung up and replaced the coaching classes for the entrance exam. The coaching industry is not going to disappear because JEE is abolished. It will just shift to another examination. 

Currently, most of the examinations (board exams, several entrance exams) rely only on the student's ability to memorize and not understand concepts. Therefore, board examinations and, consequently, teaching in schools should change first. Maybe make all the board examinations open book exams.

Because the competition to get into IIT is unhealthy, the quantity and quality of NITs and other engineering colleges should be significantly improved so that people feel that not getting into an IIT is not a big deal. 

Without doing any statistical analysis or implementing some reforms in board examinations, simply abolishing a well conducted fair examination may not be a good idea.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Nice to see the concern about IITJEE entrance exams. Also, when the issue of coaching centers has been raised, I would like to share an interesting discussion (rather a hot argument) that was going on between me and one of me friends. The things go like this. According to one of the esteemed professors of the institute, students from some particular regions are getting ranked in GATE (I won't like to mention those regions) due to the GATE coaching, especially those at Hyderabad. According to him, IT IS ONLY DUE TO THE COACHING THAT THEY ARE COMING, NOT ACTUALLY FIT FOR THE INSTITUTE AND HIS RESEARCH IS GETTING AFFECTED BY IT. Now I could not understand one thing that how does selection by taking a coaching can make a huge difference in the QUALITY of the selected. After all every selected student does clear the exam. Well, my friends argument was that coaching centers provide materials, make students solve old question papers, give them short cut tricks etc. SO that means GATE is an exam to mug up and get through and it requires revision. Interestingly, he did not agree on this too. According to him, the current gate level is very easy but is very APPROPRIATE and should be continued. If that is the case, I could not understand that how come an easy paper is solvable by a so called poor, inefficient, coaching - goer aspirant but the extraordinary students are not able to solve. Moreover, in today's IT world, everyone has got an access to all the preparation materials, whether it is JEE, AIIMS, GATE, GRE..... and it is perfectly the student's decision to go for coaching to prepare at home. I think instead of focusing a lot of attention on the business of coaching centers, there should be attempts to make ALL THE ENTERANCE EXAMS able to select right candidates.

Sushil said...

this is w.r.t Anon's reply :-

Dear Anon,

I partly agree and partly disagree with ur friends assessment, I agree with his assessment that "that coaching centers provide materials, make students solve old question papers, give them short cut tricks etc" and this does make students of lesser competency crack a certain entrance exam, and this does effect the final outcome in terms of quality of research bcoz there are no "old papers" or "quick tricks" in a research topic which by definition is new, research needs people to be very sound in their fundamentals and have incisive thinking, but having somebody solve 100 numerical problems a day(as in coaching) doesnt make him/her clear in fundamentals, all that it does is it hard wires a students response to a particular pattern of numerical problem, this approach would have been ok if research had been all about solving some typical numerical problems (in that case the Prof. wud have been thankful to the coaching institutes for reducing his workload)..but sadly it isnt
BUTI disagree with him on what he feels about GATE, in my book GATE certainly is an exam to mug up + scribble certain type of numerical(a.k.a problem) over & over again and get through,
the questions do not test depth of concepts rather they test superficial awareness of the concepts by posing elementary numerical problems associated with it
so if the IIT/IISc Profs. are really earnest abt having the right students they should only use GATE as a screening tool and rely exclusively upon interviews for figuring out the right candidates, this certainly will increase their workload many folds but as the adage goes "no pain, no gain"

Giri@iisc said...

I agree that GATE should be changed to something like an open book exam.

Using an interview is also fraught with problems. Students from urban areas are usually more confident and have better communication skills but may not be more knowledgeable.

We need a combination of both: written exams that will test skills and interviews that will judge ability objectively.