Monday, August 9, 2010

Sacrosanct JEE

I am often told by my colleagues how well the standards of B.Tech in IITs are maintained because of only one single thing, the JEE, which is non-corrupt and sacrosanct. However, RTIs have brought a spate of inconsistencies in the administration of JEE as well as admission to IITs. The latest is the quota system in IIT Kharagpur.

Documents accessed by HT using the RTI Act show the country’s oldest IIT — started in 1951 — blocked 25 per cent of its seats in popular five-year integrated science courses (up to M.Sc level) for handpicked nominees, even as students from the rest of India had to clear the IIT-JEE for admission.

IIT wards merely needed 60 per cent marks in their Class XII Board examination and should have appeared in the IIT-JEE to be eligible for the quota seats, doled out at the institute director’s discretion.

Between 2003 and 2005, those who got in through this illegal quota didn’t even need to appear for the entrance exam.

There is an interesting story about a state chief minister, who gave all the government contracts to his sons. When questioned, he said whoever gets it will be somebody’s son, so why not his own? Apparently, it is not restricted to only politicians and IIT Kharagpur faculty (at least some of them) used it. I will not be surprised if these wards who were admitted without qualifying in JEE went on to secure good grades in their degree and passed out with even medals. Then, it clearly shows that not only the admission system but the system of evaluation is also not sacrosanct.


Anonymous said...

And there are people who are justifying it because of the "rural" location of IIT Kgp!!!


An IIT Prof. said...

Then, it clearly shows that not only the admission system but the system of evaluation is also not sacrosanct.

Well, isn't there the possibility of JEE not being able to separate out men from the boys? What if those kids who got in without JEE studied hard and did better than those who got in through the JEE?

After all, there has been no studies on how JEE measures the "raw intelligence" of a person, or tests which show that students who aced the JEE in one year would do so in another year, and so on.

Giri@iisc said...

look at the petition linked in my post,

"JEE is very different from 10+2 board exams in that JEE tests a students raw intelligence.."

Petitions not to abolish JEE or not introduce quota in IIT have emphasized only one thing - If a person scores poorly in JEE, his/ her academic performance will be poor in IIT, therefore, we should not admit him/her.

Pratik Ray said...

I guess this brings us to the questions, if we abolish the JEE, do we weed out the corruption? Or can we introduce a system that measures the "raw intelligence" better than IIT JEE?

Given the state of matters, the answer to the first one is likely to be "no". I am guessing that the answer to the second question is much more ambiguous. As long as coaching centers thrive, this beast called "raw intelligence" will be found in a skewed manner in certain cities of the country.

I am not sure that any easy answers exist, apart from increasing the number of top-level institute, which the government is apparently trying to do.

An IIT Prof. said...

Giri, many of my colleagues also think that the JEE is something great. One of them even touted it to be "India's gift to the World." I believe that even if you select applicants randomly, you will get a few good students, some bad ones, and many many average students, like the kind of population making it to the IITs.

Pratik, I feel that the stress should be on Primary Education first, and then on higher ed later. The kind of students I see daily is a result of extremely bad school education. Recently, our Placements Coordinator's report said that companies thought that students lacked communication skills and even ethics, which to me is a symptom of bad school education.

iitmsriram said...

One point seems to be missed, the 'back door entry' was for seats in the 5 year integrated MSc programs, not the B.Tech.

Anonymous said...

@An IIT Prof:

"I believe that even if you select applicants randomly, you will get a few good students, some bad ones, and many many average students, like the kind of population making it to the IITs."

Its hard to agree with such a sweeping statement like this; if that was indeed the case, any college, anywhere, would have had similar distribution in terms of quality of students. Clearly the quality of students at IIT is on an average better than most other colleges in India. This is neither to say JEE is flawless nor to deny that there are equally good, sometimes better, students -- quite possibly smaller in number -- at other colleges.


Anonymous said...

"Clearly the quality of students at IIT is on an average better than most other colleges in India"

What about quality of teachers in IITs vis-a-vis private engineering colleges.

Many private engineering colleges employ fresh second class B.E. graduates to teach B.E courses. Compare this with a faculty profile in IITs.

Unless, of course, you say that the quality of teachers plays no role.


Anonymous said...


I agree, quality of teachers plays a very important role. There is a mutual feedback between them.

My point is that we should not make sweeping statements one way or the other.


pat said...

why single out iits? ever wondered how many spouses of iisc profs seem to have phds from iisc? and how many of their children who study in average bangalore colleges make it to the best american universities, presumably with recommendations from the friendly uncle next door, after a summer research stint?

Anonymous said...

The merits of JEE is a separate issue. I am disappointed though not surprised at IIT Prof's comment on this long known back door entry scheme.

By such arguments all employees of all institutions should have quotas. Where does it stop ?

SS said...

As someone pointed out, this practice has been going on for a long time. It was there when i was a student at iit-kgp in the early 90's and presumably long before that. it used to be called the Board of Governor's (BOG) quota.

@iitmsriram : Not sure what you imply by saying "the 'back door entry' was for seats in the 5 year integrated MSc programs, not the B.Tech."

are you suggesting its ok for Msc but not for btech ? iitkgp and iitkanpur (but not iitm) has an integrated msc program where students qualifying JEE can opt for an Msc instead of a btech. so the BOG quota did limit the no. of seats available in the science streams to JEE qualifiers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Pat,

I am a spouse of a Prof of IISc. Do you know what it takes to leave your children at some daycare while you go for a PhD? Do you realize what it takes to get a PhD at a very competitive university?

Every lab has a "golden boy" and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Should I become mad because my supervisor's golden boys were always a young, male, chinese student? It could be frustrating sometimes, but it cannot diminish their real accomplishments.

Please, do not confuse frustration with others accomplishments.

Btw, my PhD was not done at India, but I have heard many "funny" comments like yours.

About their children studying abroad. Most Prof at IISc have lived abroad for years. They do know a lot of people in different fields. Do you expect that they will not pass their knowledge to their children? Common! Is it ok to pay for tuition, but is not ok to teach your children how to prepare a decent CV or to write an email?

iitmsriram said...

Dear SS,

Of course, it is not OK to have back door entry for ANY program since it corrupts the entire process. IITM (and IITG and BHU-IT, if we count it here) are the only old IITs not to have the integrated MSc program. The reason I made the point was that the integrated MSc programs are the last to close; the Maths and Computing program is the only MSc program that closes before any engineering programs at KGP, (closing before mining and agriculture & food engineering programs) - so these seats are, in a sense, at the bottom of the pile. IITKGP was countering the internal calls to drop the BoG quota by using, as one of the arguments, "it is only the MSc program which is not mandated to admit through JEE". Actually, the news article about the "quota system" is also incorrect in that this admission is not illegal - there is no law that requires IITs to admit students through JEE or any other common exam. Don't get me wrong, as I stated above, it corrupts the process and so is unacceptable. Unfortunately, it was going on for years and that is indeed a shame.

Anonymous said...

thinking that JEE or even GATE is a very good measure of a student is a false assumption.

a student with JEE rank of 6000 may turn out to be a better researcher than say someone with a rank of 60.

how a student constantly improves himself is more important than how he/she performs in some exam when he/she was in his/her 12th standard

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest advantages of JEE is simply the fact that one must spend a great deal of time preparing fairly advanced topics at a young age. A firm grasp of the basics at the level of JEE can go a long ways in one's academic career. Furthermore the ability to do long calculations by hand, to be unafraid of difficult questions and work well under pressure are traits that can be developed by preparing for this exam at the formative years of one's life.

In other countries students only have exams at the level of board exams, which are boring for intelligent students. One can attempt to distinguish oneself by going for olympiads, but this is quite difficult and does not require the breadth that JEE does (physics, chemistry, and math, rather than just your favourite.) All said and done, JEE is a blessing in disguise.

pat said...

@anonymous (spouse of iisc prof)
what exactly is your point?
-there are several people with young kids who do a phd, whether iisc prof's spouse or not. that does not in any way affect their eligibility. do you mean to say that other parents of young kids who do phds somehow suffer less than iisc spouses? incidentally, some of these ppl travel from places very far from the campus (yes, i am an iisc alum)
-since you have done your phd abroad under a prof, presumably with a chinese 'golden boy', i do not get which raw nerve i have touched in you. maybe you are just traumatised by the memory, but its no way related to my comment here.

there's really no harm in offering a phd to the spouse to attract good profs, and several US universities do it. my grouse is in the fact that this seems done underhand.

PS i am referring to the iisc prof spouses who joined the program AFTER marriage. there seems to be a disproportionately large number of them (maybe its just that the selection committee dont want to be on bad terms with their peers in other depts)

-about the kids. ppl with iisc masters degrees (supposedly equivalent to a good US research university's) largely do not get into the same league of university's as kids of iisc profs (at least in my dept they get into schools ranked 50+ though profs are ivy league trained and publish in top journals, and the dept has only 20-30 students, so its very selective). and here i am not talking of the naturally gifted kids who went to the iits or even those american-born ones who went abroad at undergrad level. i am talking about those who did engineering at average VTU colleges like RV and ramaiah. somehow the iisc progeny from these places end up in ivy league and equivalent places whereas their peers (sometimes with way better grades, test scores, etc) end up in second tier univs. how?

Anonymous said...

@pat: I did not see her point either ! At the end of the day what happens at IIX's or other such premier institutions is a reflection of the moral fabric of our society. Why expect teachers to be any different ?