Thursday, June 21, 2012

One nation one test

The recent news about the premiere institution of the country has not been related to the quality improvement or the faculty development but for some other reason. The decision taken by the MHRD in consultation with other concerned groups has not been taken kindly by the faculty and alumni of IITs. They do not want the common entrance examination to be made mandatory. Before looking at their perspective let us see what the ministry has suggested and the background of the same.
We all are aware that IITs have been the most sought after engineering institutes in for the last many years and the craze of the same has been increasing day by day. Due to this,a large number of the children prepare themselves for the tough examination. Till four years back, the number of seats in IITs were around six thousand and for that there would be approximately two lacs candidates. The government has set up nine more IITs and the number of seats available has gone up to ten thousand approximately but the number of aspirants has also risen to five lacs. It means only one out of fifty applicants can make it to the final list. The number of seats in old IITs (including ISM Dhanbad and IT Banaras) is around eight thousand five hundred and the new IITs set up from 2008 onwards have around one thousand seats. Due to the big difference between demand and supply most of the students and their parents are desperate to ensure admission to these elite institutions. This gave birth to the coaching centers which started in a small city of Rajasthan and now has taken the shape of Burgad tree having roots all over the country be it Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka or any other state. The concept which started with a simple idea of helping those children who needed some extra help at a place where the good schools might not have been available, engulfed the whole country. Coaching became an industry which almost paralyzed the school education system. Not only this, children and the parents were put into a lot of stress. They found it difficult to cope-up with school and the hectic schedule of a coaching centre. The fresh graduate from IITs were lured by these sure shot of making it to the IITs. This made everyone to have a feeling that without coaching it is just impossible to clear IIT JEE (which is a myth and not a reality).  The children and the parents were keen for IIT than for the school education hence the attendance in the schools was on decline. The coaching became synonymous to getting into IITs. Due to lack of interest of the children towards schools the qualifying marks (class XII) to appear in IIT JEE were increased to sixty percent but that also did not yield desired result and the children were as stressed as before. The other factor is that the children would have to take multiple entrance examinations for the admission to different engineering colleges. This causes mental as well as financial burden on the parents and the children both. Two factors have been taken into consideration for the recently introduced change in the entrance examination system. One, the children are saved of the multiple tests and the second the school education be given proper attention. Both the reasons seem to be very justified and children friendly.
The other question which comes to my mind while deliberating on the issue of CET, is to be paid a serious attention before further talking about the different views about the same. Why is it so that IITs are so much preferred by the children than any other engineering institution? If we analyze it honestly and without bias, than it appears as the quality of IITs has not improved in the last two-three decades but the quality of others have deteriorated. No attempts seem to have been made in that direction. On the other hand, the quality of the other government institutions including most of the NITs and private colleges has gone down drastically. Notwithstanding, the gap between the quality of IITs and other colleges has  widened further without the IITs trying to be better than what these were before. In addition to it, the quality of education in other reputed universities, like Allahabad University, Lucknow University, Jadavpur University, Mumbai University and many more has also not been better but has witnessed a fall in the growth graph. Last decade has seen exponential growth in the private engineering colleges but there also the quality has not really been taken care of. Except very limited number of private engineering colleges most of them have become stereotyped without qualified teachers and infrastructure. Some of the colleges fill their seats by direct admissions compromising on the talent and producing engineers without skills but a degree. So, when the people compare these institutions they find huge gap between IITs and others hence more craze for IITs which in turn forces kids to opt for coaching at a very early age. It has observed that the coaching for admissions start as early as in class VI and VII. Due to this the pressure has increased on the children and they are tuned and fixed to cram things in a manner to crack difficult questions in IIT JEE. Though IIT JEE question pattern is revised every now and then but the coaching phobia has grasped the nation so much that the children and the parents easily get influenced by the big advertisements and tall claims made by the coaching institutes.  In the month of June, every year, the newspapers are flooded with such ads and you find so many hoardings all around the city and towns propogating the same. This forces the children to further believe that it may not be possible to clear IIT JEE without joining these coaching institutes and they tend to ignore their school studies. These advertisements do not always give the correct picture but most of the times have inflated figures. Even if a child has gone to the reception of the coaching institutes they get the form filled and the photograph pasted and if the child gets selected (due to his/her own hard work) he is claimed to have qualified because of the coaching institutes. All would be aware of the dispute between two so called giants in the field of coaching a few years back. I do not know whether school education has suffered because of coaching centers or coaching centers have mushroomed because of the quality of education in the schools; however, this can be another topic of debate which should also be addressed. Whatever may the reasons, but the sufferer are the children who have been forced to spend more time in coaching centers than in the schools or other creative activities. I think we have been able to understand the background of the decision taken by MHRD regarding the CET.
The faculty and alumnis of IITs are not in favour of the same because they feel as the autonomy of IITs is at stake. They indirectly say as the new pattern will not give them quality students. They also argue that this will further increase the stress as the coaching centers that have already started advertising that they will prepare children for the board examinations also hence the burden of coaching will increase further as the children now will be forced to go for two types of coaching. The other apprehension is regarding the anomaly in the education system because there are more than thirty state education boards conducting class XII examination. Do we have a fool proof method to normalize the marks obtained by the children passing out from different boards? Some people are apprehensive that it might even caused erosion in the process of class XII examination as all will try to get better marks by whatever means they can do. The other group of people say that one nation one examination might put a child in problem if he/she is not able to appear in the exam or not able to perform well due to illness or some other problem in the family. In this case the child will lose the whole year because next examination will be held next year only.
On the other hand, if this system is implemented then it will improve the school education and the children will pay proper attention to the same as well. In the last few years it has been observed that many children do not pay much attention towards languages and the additional fifth subject because for IIT JEE they need to prepare three subjects only. This has definitely reduced the reading capacity of the children because they do not come out of the burden of the three major subjects. The basic life skills are also not paid much attention to by these children because of the pressure of the preparation for IIT and less attendance in the schools.
There are three suggestions for all to consider. One, let us give the new system a try and then whatever problems are faced, we should try to find solution of the same and the second that MHRD should try to implement common syllabus across the country, at least mathematics and science syllabus. The education policy should be such which integrates the country than otherwise. The third thing is to take into consideration the aptitude of the child either through written examination or personal interaction.
Though the topic is important that it requires more space and time but I would like to add that IITs should not be seen by the children as something which shall  enable them to earn more money and better package but the spirit with which IITs were set up should be clear to all. The IITs were set up with an aim to train scientists and the engineers with the aim of developing a skilled workforce to support the economic and social development of India.