Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Board exams and JEE

The IIT directors have proposed this radical idea based on using board marks for shortlisting to admission to IITs.

Entrance exams were made necessary because of several reasons, (a) corruption in the board (or university) exams (b) lack of any need to real talent to secure above 90% in board (or university) exams in some states and (c) wide variation between the marks of the state (or university) board.

Thus, JEE (and later GATE) was introduced. The first reason can possibly not be serious because these candidates will hopefully be weeded out of the system during the course work in IIT. However, this is not the solution to arrive at a corruption free board exam. The second reason is more serious because the student only mugs up the material and does not really understand anything. This is true in many universities offering B.E/B.Tech and if one solves the last 10-20 years question papers, that is sufficient to get a good score. Thus, entrance exams were supposed to test the ability of the candidate. Unfortunately, due to the predominance of coaching institutes, it is no longer possible. The last reason i.e., of the wide variation in the marks of the boards is possibly more difficult to solve. Students from different state boards perform in a very diverse way in these exams and the statistics show the performance of the students from different state boards are vastly different. Hence a proper normalization will be a tough task. A simple percentile representation from different state boards might look democratic but will not be accurate.

I do agree with some importance given to board exams (maybe as a filter) and then having only one exam for all institutes in India.  Board exams should be used only as a filter and the marks should not be counted for admission for the reasons outlined above. However, due to the reasons outlined above, I am not sure whether any radical changes to overcome the "coaching classes" syndrome is a good idea because coaching will now adapt itself to "tuition classes" for board exams.


Anonymous said...

I like this idea. I think all the 10+2 board exam results should be percentile based and should have a common PCM syllabus. Also the evaluation of the exam paper should be made by teachers from different states (at least randomly distributed across the nation). another option is: Set the exam paper by the teachers from another state board. Or make a panel of good teachers who will set the exam paper for PCM. and strictly maintain the rule of not following the problem from past 20 years of exam. That way one can determine that 70% weight of Board exam. Aaah!! finally or GOVT realizes the harmful impact those coaching centers are making.
I know its hard job to get a corruption free board exam..but i am sure if we carry on a brainstorming, we will definitely find a solution in our 1.2 billion population country.

Pratik Ray said...

If you stop the JEE, coaching institutes will simply switch to coaching for board exams and aim to make 95% the new 90%.

The root cause of coaching institute phenomena should be recognized for what it is - the lack of adequate opportunities for higher ed has reduced our high school students into entering a rat race. Until that is addressed, nothing much can really be done.

I, for one, have faced the first cause you have stated first hand. During my Class XII exams, large block of student scored 78% in math. How could students whose prior performances (and later performances in JEEs etc) varied drastically get exactly the same marks is beyond my comprehension.

If you go through newspapers from eastern India, each year you will find instances where students answer scripts of WB board exams were discovered in garbage bins or railway compartments. I would rather put my faith in JEE, than in board exams. In my experience board exams count for close to nothing. The questions are rubbish. The evaluation is rubbish. And beating the system for board exams is much easier than the JEE.

Anonymous said...

The intent of this bill is appreciable. Now coaching business will adapt to two levels.

1. New coaching centers for 10+2 will mushroom.
2. There will be coaching centers who will advertise "you still need to score 30%".

Considering the mad rush for JEE and Engineering, the coaching business may still thrive in its new version.

I agree with Prasanth that an uniform 10+2 PCM syllabus and percentile score will be more helpful. Nevertheless, a good beginning.


Rainbow Scientist said...

I thought that this article is useful in the context of this discussion;

Is there any chance that IITs becomes more creative and decides for themselves instead of HR ministers deciding what should be best for IITs (which are just undergraduate engineering institutes, maybe the best in India but still an undergraduate degree granted institute) and policy should be that whoever is interested in being engineer should be able to get that education(I don't see any real difference between student who scores 70% and student who scores 90%, they both are above average and capable of learning engineering principles).

Any system should be allowed to be flexible and make exception if it is needed.

Following link could be interesting from the biography of Nobel Prize winner in medicine, 2009, Carol W. Greider;

Below is the para of interest;

Her application package was a bit unusual, Greider says. “I had great research experience, great letters of recommendation, and outstanding grades, but I had poor GREs.” Although she did not know it growing up, Greider suffers from dyslexia, which affected her scores on standardized tests. Only two schools—the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA) and the University of California, Berkeley— offered her an interview. When she met with cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn in Berkeley, things clicked again. “I really liked my conversations with Liz, and there were a number of other people in the department that would be potentially fun to work with, so I went there,” says Greider.

rajdeep said...

"Is there any chance that IITs becomes more creative and decides for themselves instead of HR ministers deciding what should be best for IITs "

This decision is by the IIT directors and not by HR ministers.

Prof. Giri has outlined some clear problems with the suggestions but IIT directors or HR ministers rarely listen to sane suggestions.

Anonymous said...

This is an unsolvable problem. So long the total number of candidates (5 lacs) and number of good engg. colleges and the glamour of the IIXs remain constant there cannot be any solution to the problem.
To this day everyone aspires to be in Top engg. colleges as that is the ticket to a good job, financial security and a decent life. The coaching centers take advantage of that dream and hence starts the rat race. I have seen people memorising thousands of problems without understanding the basic science behind it. They can actually solve problems faster than computers I think. I can bet my cousin can anyday beat pioneers in fluid dynamics like Hans Liepmann in terms of solving problems in the same area. They are in literal sense robots. There is no passion or love for science just a mad rush.
Pratik is right, the coaching centers will evolve even if a new system is introduced. The rush will not go down. Think about it; how can you pick 7000 candidates from a pool of 5 lacs for IIX. Its impossible without establishing a system which is equally cuthroat and grotesque.

Anonymous said...

Fully agree with pratik. No amount of tweaking with the exam pattern or any of these 'radical changes' are going to solve the problem unless we address the root cause - 5 lakh or more students in the rat race for a handful of good institutes. This scenario will get worse in the coming years as our young population in the college going bracket keeps increasing. Those who are batting for this 'radical idea' of giving 70% weight for board exams would do well to recollect the reasons behind introducing entrance exams, in almost all states, by the early eighties. Until then, admission to professional colleges was almost entirely on board marks. Doesn't that tell volumes about 'state boards'? For eg, in Kerala, countless instances of manipulating pre-university marks (when medical and engg admissions were solely based on them) came to light at that time. Switching to entrance exams was the 'radical change' then. Looks like life has come a full circle.

Of late, it has become a fashion to take a swipe at JEE - seems so many people have an axe to grind! As far as coaching institutes are concerned, no matter what you do, they are here to stay - whether you like it or not.


Anonymous said...

Percentile sucks. The department I work at admits some 100 MTech students with top percentiles. At most 10 of them have adequate training to take on the MTech education IIT wishes to impart to them. This is actually reflected in their absolute GATE scores, which are ignored. Life experience from (or before) birth is so compromised in India that any institution with a reasonably world class entry barrier must go largely empty. It's only by relaxing and corrupting standards at every stage that we manage to fill our classrooms.

gautam said...

I wish to first respond to a comment by "rainbow scientist". The need to be flexible and creative and innovative is all very well, and no one will argue about the merits of adopting a flexible method of handling admissions. However, we must keep in mind the social reality. We have 470,000 students (out of many millions who come out school) competing for about 10000 seats. On top that we have reservations of various kinds. In our country some 40% live in poverty. Because of all this, we do not trust our systems to be fair. Any flexibility will be taken to mean showing undue favour to someone, either because of financial considerations, or because of biases (casteist, anti-minority, etc.). So we cannot show any flexibility in admissions to the UG programmes of the Masters' programmes. It is only in PhD admissions that we can show some flexibility, mainly because the demand is limited.
I would also like to mention that the move to change the JEE system is not because of the failure of the system (one IIT Professor, whose son did not make it in 2006 has been going to town making wild allegations about wards of faculty of IITs being shown favour in JEE, etc.), but because of the consequences it is having in growing children. The coaching institutes are putting tremendous extra burden on young minds and many are "burnt out" by the time they enter college. Opinion is divided in the IITs on what to do, and so it requires a leader to push for reforms. The challenge is to figure out how to factor in Board results in the admission process when there are 32 plus Boards. How to normalise the results? How to handle reactions to any scheme (marks inflation can take place for example)? Maybe it will take quite a few years to find a solution. If so, in the meantime we must work for incremental changes.

Gautam Barua Director, IIT Guwahati

Giri@iisc said...

Prof. Gautam Barua:

Thanks very much for your detailed comments. Maybe statistics on the current students can help. How many are from ICSE/CBSE and how many are from different state boards? What is their percentile in these exams etc?

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

I would like to agree with Prof. Barua here. The idea of pursuing the board exam scores or other possibilities for IIT admissions is valid for the following aspects:
1. The fact that not all bright students will have enough financial support to go to a brain drilling coaching institute.
2. The diversity of languages in India, for one, I know of many students in their regional language medium of instruction being extremely smart and talented but may not do that well when it comes to national exams due to lack of skills in English. I think this is a major problem in our country that we try to ignore unlike China.
3. The aptitude test needs to be included along with exams that test you on the subject material alone, since this will allow an above average but smart student to flourish.

Anonymous said...

@Prof. Barua on "one IIT Professor, whose son did not make it in 2006 has been going to town making wild allegations about wards of faculty of IITs being shown favour in JEE, etc." - Prof. Barua, you are doing an excellent service through ur reply and putting a different standard not seen in top brass. However, you don't need to get personal when the topic here is something else. I follow Prof. Rajeev Kumar's blog, Ekalavya. He is quite sensible and perhaps more sensible than many of you. In IIT-JEE 2010 he is the first to point out glaring mistakes immediately after the exam. IIT Directors countered the mistakes as the students do not read instructions so doesn't matter. See the quality of arguement!! This is found laughable, annoying even to Mr. Sibal and he is doing the right thing. (Src. Today's (27.4.2010) ToI) Regarding, Prof. Kumar's grievance on his son being not admitted in 2006 IIT-JEE and IIT's reaction, everything is above board (his blog ekalavya) and had it been 'wild' you would not have reacted on that in 2010 in a forum where he is not present. Face him, counter his arguments, if you can do that (ref: his blog). I think one Prof. single handedly is doing what many a wise people could not and cannot even today (as seen in IIT JEE 2010) do. Pls. refrain from personal attack. If possible, not as a IIT director, as an individual free spirit, salute the courage shown by an individual who is fighter, the kind of people we lack in our country of cowards and appeasers.


Anonymous said...

Can you give us the web site of Ekavalya?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

May 2 deadline to clear air on JEE

New Delhi, April 26: Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal today asked the IITs to declare by May 2 how they would compensate students for errors in this year’s joint entrance examination (JEE).

The minister is reportedly unhappy with the explanations given by the tech schools.

An upset Sibal quizzed the directors of IIT Madras, Delhi and Kanpur whom he had summoned to seek an explanation on how the errors had crept in. The IITs have admitted to the errors in an internal report.
The IIT directors reportedly told him that many students don’t read the instructions and so would not have suffered because of the misleading instructions. Sibal, sources said, shot down the argument. “I have also appeared for many examinations and always studied the instructions,” the minister is understood to have told the IIT bosses.

gautam said...

Mr Kasturi is another one good at lying. I was present in the meeting with MR. Sibal along with the Directors of Madras and Delhi. The Minister did not ask us to declare anything by May 2. We informed him that a JAB meeting on May 2 would take a decision on how to handle the errors in JEE 2010. The Minister was unhappy that these errors were there and we said we were sorry this happened. We did not try to explain away the problem by saying that students do not read instructions as implied by his report.

Now a word about Mr Rajeev Kumar. Please go into his allegations that IIT faculty's wards have been favoured in JEE. What evidence has he given in his web site? To state that some sons of faculty have got high marks without also giving full deatils of how many wards of faculty do not make it in JEE, is a form of lying. Please do not fall for all he says. Yes, he was one of many who pointed out errors in JEE 2010. But that does not make everything he says true. His writings on how JEE is run and what is wrong with the system is a totally biased view. We find it below our dignity to engage him at his level. I got burnt when I included him in my emails to Shailesh Gandhi on an RTI matter. He selectively released my emails to his favourite journalists which was against all etiquette. I had nothing to hide, but we now how selective releases can be misinterpreted.

Anonymous said...

Googled. This is what Prof. Barua is referring to and corresponding 3 page CIC ruling that went in favour of Prof. Kumar (apparently, not sure, not from law background - posting here in fairness of the discussion and allegation against an IIT faculty member (started by Prof. Barua) and since Prof. Kumar not present in this forum) in
--- from expressbuzz ---
Misuse of data by coaching centres has now become the latest ruse which IIT-Guwahati (IIT G)— which organised the 2009 JEE— is using to refrain from full disclosure of JEE 2009 data.
In an email to Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on October 2, IIT G director Gautam Barua said, “We (IITs) are apprehensive that this request for electronic data is to profit from it by using the data for IIT-JEE coaching purposes (planning, targeting particular cities, population segments, etc).” Subsequently, on October 3, Barua wrote, “If private details of all candidates appearing in exams are to be released as a matter of course, then there will be serious repercussions on privacy, issues of profit-making, possibly even property rights may come in.” On property rights, he said that the JEE data has monetary value, and the “IIT system may wish to price it.” Barua was responding to a charge that IIT G had failed to comply with a Central Information Commission order to release JEE data to Right to Information applicant Prof Rajeev Kumar of IIT Kharagpur.
Prof Kumar had sought data of marks secured by candidates in individual subjects along with personal details such as name and address to be provided on a compact disc (CD).
Responding to the points raised by Barua, Prof Kumar wrote to Gandhi “Making an argument that IIT wishes to make profit, and thus IIT is against disclosure of data, is against transparency and the RTI Act.” The case is being viewed as an important test of IIT-JEE’s credibility, as disclosure of the 2006 JEE data showed that formulas for calculating subject cutoffs did not tally, and answer sheets were destroyed earlier than required, despite pending appeals.
Interestingly, Barua has said that they are ready to show the running of the software which calculates the cutoff procedure with the original data, but expressed reluctance to provide an electronic version of the data to the applicant.
In his e-mail to CIC Gandhi, he said “...the appellant could come to IIT Guwahati and view the data, see the software being run.” Further, Barua wrote, “In case... the CIC insists on our giving the data, we will wish to provide the data in hard copy form, the costs of printing having to be borned (sic) by the appellant.” With data of nearly 4 lakh candidates, this would be a mountainous amount of data, making any analysis practically impossible.

RandomGuy said...

Aren't we getting OT big time??..
lets leave the private discussion to rest..the post is about the changes in JEE format and I think we should be constructive rather than get into mudslinging..

My two cents on this:

The problems that IITs face because of JEE are

1. Excessive burden on students from coaching institutes.

2. Not being able to spot raw talent.

3 Yet maintain the excellence in intake..

Now if we do a analysis..

Point 1..As long as demand outstrips seats by 500:1 or so there is nothing that can be done to stop people from going to coaching obviously coaching institutes would proliferate and to be in the market would put the students under excessive stress to perform.

Point 2 & 3..I think the screening followed by JEE was a nice format..Screening could include questions on logical/analytical thinking (to get Raw talent)..and the Mains can test the application of concepts (to get Engineers)..

Everyone(NITs/other colleges) could go by the screening scores while the IITs can go in for the Mains to get more refined ones..

Those who cleared screening but did not make it to the IITs would ofcourse have the other best colleges to choose from.

I know this could be one of the many proposals discussed and discarded so please excuse my ignorance


Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Barua,
May be I am dumb witted but I totally fail to understand how shifting from JEE to a format where more importance is given to +2 will solve problem of coaching? May be you guys are able to see something which we common man are not able to see. According to our dumb thinking what will happen is that students in big cities good private schools will get good coaching to improve their +2 marks. End result will be less student from rural area or backward states. At the moment most of small town kids take help from Kota like coaching center to get some short of level playing field.

If you do not believe in this, ask any of faculty from Bangalore with school going kids. They already are talking of integration of FITJEE with +2 classes in Bangalore schools. I believe same is true in all big cities.
By the way, in a country where 90% of kids do not manage to go to +2 level, the current priority of IIT-JEE shows that whose problem IIT and indian govt is bothered about. The fact is most of decision makers are bothered because it is becoming harder and harder for big city kids to compete with small city kids.

gautam said...

"coaching" per se will not go away, but a system parallel to the school system will go away. Today, children are overburdened, having to attend two parallel "schools".
I suppose the coaching institutes will set up schools where they will "coach" students to do well in class XII Board exams. That will be fine.
The argument that students from rural areas will suffer as they have a chance to attend coaching classes now can be countered by stating that places like Kota will now have "schools" for those very same students. After all the cost (to both parties) will be the same.
However, as I have mentioned earlier, it is not going to be easy to factor in class XII results as there are 30+ Boards in the country, with different number of students in them and with differing standards.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Barua,
If you do not expect coaching influence to be reduced, so What exactly you guys plan to solve by introducing huge incentive on +2 marks? Am I right in understanding that you are keen to reduce mental pressure on kids from private schools in metros (where sons and daughters of policymakers study) while increasing the pressure on rural kids.
Oh! Yeah I agree with you that it is very difficult to make any sense of results coming out of 33 different boards with no uniformity and often no standard too. BITS PILANI tried and backed out of it. However, IIT wants to junk a working system in favor of
something which is known to be failed.

Varun Aggarwala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Removal of IITJEE : Throwing the baby out with the bathwater? It seems so from above discussion.

To me the authority should not worry much about other things like coaching centres. Instead, they should concentrate how to get the best students into IIT even in the worst case scenario. Coaching centre will be there whatever be the amount of effort. As it is market demand. There are large imbalances in Govt. provided education. Even in places where you have good schools (Metros) I have seen students opting for coaching centres or taking 8-9 tution teachers. It is the competition, the prized trophy. It is the greed of the parents ... it is a systematic failure that has more to do with the make up of mind in a modern capitalistic society.

My simple suggestion - given the complexity of the issue, IIT should focus on how to get the best student for themselves and not worry about other affairs, affairs of coaching centres, conduct of board exam.s etc.

How to do that? What is the woory of IIT? They are not getting good enough students. (Running of country coaching centre are outside their business or mandate).

How the students enter IIT? Through IIT JEE. How IIT JEE is designed? MCQ-Buubble. Can changing over to written exam help? Most says YES. Why don't we do that? Answer-script correction is a big problem for 5 lakh students.

The solution being suggested is within the domain of IIT. Let us continue.

If 5 lakh answer-script correction is difficult is it possible for 1 lakh? IIT can come up with a number - the last time when they conducted written exam could give the clue.

Can IIT select these 1 lakh from 5 lakh in an efficient/logical way? Sometime back there was a screening test. I don't see much debate on merit and demerit of that. Instead they talk about getting into others territory - board exam. the standard of which is much worse than IIT? Can a system be improved by incorporating something that is much worse? Science does not say that. Given the amount of errors, correction in review results reported every year in different board exam. - if not anything IIT will be facing thousands of court cases due to third party error.

Still, if there is a strong wind in favour of that among the people who matter let it be like this.

Class X (not XII - enough time to normalize across board, take care of litigations, review errors) good percentile and IITJEE screening (MCQ) in Dec.-Jan. to select the top 10-20%. Then IITJEE main which is not MCQ in April.

My single rupee on that.


s.b. said...

I am back with my blog.

s.b. said...

Prof. Gautam Barua,

I want your comments on my blog:

If you could spare time from making arrangements to get AGP 12000 for you and your freinds, please explain why you and other directors are not trying to implement the following in IITs also:

If you are in some IIIT or ISM Dhanvad, you will be awarded AGP of 9500 and designation of Associate Professor after being for 3 yrs in prerevised scale of 12000-420-18300.

However, if unfortunately you are in some IITs or IIMs, you will get AGP of 9000 and will remain Assistant Professor.

Ajit R. Jadhav said...

Just leaving a note here that I found this post informative.

Also, I have written a post more or less on the same topic, at my blog, here:

Comments on my post are welcome!

Prashant said...

Dr. Gautam Barua - as an ex-student of the system , am really happy to see a senior professor actively taking part in this discussion . Regardless of whether we agree with your views or not , its a reflection of how involved you are .

Now , abt Prof. Rajeev Kumar - the numbers on his blog make a lot of sense . And given that the marks for the 2009 examination were released , it is easy to make out the range of marks people score at the JEE and the claims he makes about arbitrary cut offs at the test sound very logical . I have taken his courses , and I must admit , that in the midst of a totally un-transparent , black box style grading system at IITs where most of the professors would give never display the individual marks or bother to show you corrected answer scripts , which went into determining a students grade ; RK was someone who always put up a detailed tabulation and was 100% transparent . So I would be inclined to trust someone like him and would certainly not trust most of the IIT faculty who enjoy a convenient cloak of secrecy . Most of the ex-students I know also feel this way and have full faith that his claims are mostly true.

Prashant said...

On a slightly different note , has anyone tried to solve one major problem for even those who clear the JEE - allotting branches which students are interested in ?

It might not be practical to give everyone exactly what they want but in my time Kharagpur had some up with a decent solution - have a curriculum which is somewhat relaxed , filled with slots for electives and additional courses , and the option of a Minor Degree . It wasn't perfect but it still gave the students some breathing space . Many people used this system quite well . Then for some random reason "loss of academic excellence , loss of interest in academics" someone came and stamped out this flexibility and randomly increased the core courses in later batches .

Anonymous said...

As a person who has been with the IIT system for past 20 years I can say with certainity that all is not well with the JEE system. The attitude has become highly casual. The recent mix up in the JEE 2010 ORS put all of us to shame. Even Nitish Kumar could not force a JEE re-examination which should have taken place. The organising IIT did not punish anybody who are responsible for the mix up--apparently it has been the case of irresponsible handling of the most Prestigious National Examination. The IIT administration can get away even after committing the gravest of offences. It needs not one but several Rajeev Kumars to cleanse the system.