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`IIT-JEE will remain dynamic'

V.G. Idichandy, Dean of Students, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, in an e-mail interview to The Hindu-Educationplus, explains the rationale behind the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) reforms, which were based on a report p repared by a Special Task Force of which he was the convenor.



A BIG INDUSTRY: Coaching institutes adopt many strategies to enrol students. Photo: H. Satish

The question of high-pressure coaching institutes affecting the admissions process has been mentioned in the media and by some academics, as one of the contexts for the proposed changes. If there will now be a single objective type test, will not the coaching industry merely reorient itself towards the new test and raise the anxiety levels, because there is no screening test and only an all-or-nothing JEE?

The reforms to JEE should be seen in totality and not in isolation. Some of the important changes are: To become eligible to take the JEE, one should have a first class in higher secondary.

Number of attempts are now restricted to just two.

JEE will hereafter, be of objective type, that too of the higher secondary level.

All these measures will help a serious student of standard 12 to take JEE without high-pressure coaching. Now on, the competition is among students of equal calibre and not with those who went through two or three years of intensive coaching.

With these reforms, the stakeholders will realise the futility of going through the rigours of intensive coaching.

The extraordinarily low acceptance rate for IIT applicants (around three per cent of applicants find a place) is a factor of the availability of seats. The proposal for increase in the number of seats by upgrading chosen institutions to IIT standards will ease the pressure a little. Was there really a need to change the JEE norms given this background?

JEE always has been a very dynamic test introducing need-based changes, and I presume it will remain so in the future. Over the years, JEE has evolved introducing path-breaking changes because the IIT system felt the need for the changes.

The two level examination started in the year 2000 was a necessity of the time. But after six JEEs with screening tests behind us, IITs are convinced that a single-stage objective type examination will be sufficient to select 4,000 plus students for the IITs. Therefore the present changes in JEE, were need-based and introduced after careful study by all IITs.

Increasing the number of seats and upgrading institution are all welcome measures to bring quality higher education within the reach of many aspirants.

Among the concerns highlighted in media analyses of the IIT-JEE system was the accessibility of the system to applicants from rural areas and women, many of whom may be unable to undertake private coaching. Have these concerns been addressed now?

If one studies the school results carefully, it is easy to observe that girls and boys perform equally well. But when it comes to JEE, girls form hardly 8 percent (IIT, Madras as the base) of the selected candidates. This was perhaps, due to the fact that the timings of intensive coaching were not very girl-student-friendly.

With the present reforms in JEE in place, when coaching becomes unimportant, we expect the girl students to perform better. Similarly students from rural areas have less access to coaching.

Our schools and teachers have an important role to play in this respect. The fear of JEE as a tough examination which can be cleared only through intensive preparation must end and the teachers should take it as a mission to identify and nurture good students.

Will the new JEE be entirely oriented around the CBSE syllabus? Are there any moves to involve State Boards to familiarise them with the requirements envisaged by the JEE framers, so that State syllabi can also keep in step with the IIT framework?

JEE syllabus is always given in the information brochure with the application form. Instead of blaming the JEE for not taking into account the syllabi of all 40-odd school boards, it is left to the school boards to adopt and update changes suggested by central education authorities.

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