The decision to include class XII board exams marks as a criteria for engineering admission in Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) in 2013, has failed to serve the purpose of reducing the influence or coaching and bridge the gender and urban-rural divide in classrooms, an expert committee appointed by the government unearthed.
A nine-member panel, headed by C-DAC director Rajat Moona, analysed the admission data of 31 NITs over the last three years and found that instead of registering a decrease, the influence of coaching among candidates taking the JEE (Main) grew by four percentage points. This defeats the very purpose with which the class XII marks were included in the first place, by the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, who had successfully convinced all central engineering institutes to make major changes to their admission format in 2013. The arguement then was that giving due importance to class XII exams would bring the focus back on CBSE and discourage students opting for coaching. However, as compared to only 15% of students having attended engineering coaching, the number rose to 19% in 2015. Additionally, the rationale that since girls outperform boys in the boards, a decent weightage to the same would bring up their numbers in NITs as well has not translated into action, as the number remains unchanged at 22% (of the top one lakh) since 2012. The urban-rural divide in classrooms, also, did not change dramatically, with the number of rural students in the top one lakh candidates of JEE (Main) increasing by less than one per cent over three years, from 29.47 per cent in 2013 to 30.20 per cent in 2015.
“In order to be free of urban-rural bias (or to minimize this bias), the number of candidates appearing in the JEE (Main) should be close to the rural-urban ratio of approximately 7:3, whereas this ratio has been close to 9:11 and heavily biased towards the urban population. The new method of ranking was suggested in which board marks were incorporated to encourage this division to be as close to the population ratio as possible. By introduction of this scheme in 2013, and three years into the scheme, no substantial gains are noticed,” the report states. Since then, the NITs has been giving 40 per cent weightage to Class XII marks and 60 per cent to JEE (Main) performance. The IITs, on the other hand, grant admission only if a candidate, apart from qualifying JEE (Advanced), is either in the top 20 percentile of his or her Board results or has scored above 75 per cent. Both IITs and NITs are reportedly unhappy with this experiment and want it scrapped. They are in favour of taking students only on the basis of their performance in the entrance examinations. This issue was raised at a recent meeting of the IIT and NIT Councils, following which the matter has been entrusted to another expert committee. A final decision by the HRD Ministry is expected next month.
What does this mean for the coaching institutes?
In 2013, an ASSOCHAM survey had pegged the worth of the private coaching industry in India at $24 billion. It would be naive to think that a change in the way admissions are granted would drastically affect them, because, students, specially in the urban settings, will increasingly continue to avail their services, at the behest of their parents, or themselves. The kind of royal association one pegs with studying engineering in an IIT, or NIT, is enough to ensure that coaching institutes will not run out of business anytime soon.
Does this imply there could be another change in the admissions criteria?
Most likely, yes. One needs to consider the political backdrop to this debate as well. If the new system was genuinely counter-productive the new government will waste no time in reversing it and then gloating about it to malign the previous government. Although, it is unsure whether these changes would take place in the next academic session or later. The agenda is set, and one can expect some major announcement from the HRD Ministry soon, since engineering remains to be most-applied course in the country.