Written By: Saurabh Bose
‘India has exam system, not education system’– says C N R Rao, who heads the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. A student here has to write multiple exams, be it final examinations, entrance examinations, qualifying examinations, selection examinations, and so on. Starting right from primary school admission tests to post graduation entrance exams a student here sits for a pile of exams. We have many different state boards and ironically even more than a single central board!
The examination system in most of the other countries is far more organised. The American method is to hold one national exam before joining university. Today there is not a single educational institution in India which is equal to the best institution in the advanced countries. This is what the students here get after their hard work(which we know is a hell lot more compared to the Americans or others) and payment of a huge amount of fees to multiple institutions.
Kapil Sibal in 2011 announced that the joint entrance examination (JEE) for admission to the undergraduate engineering programmes will be held from 2012-13. The exam will also consider the marks obtained in Class XII Board examinations. Brief, inadequate technical details like an additional advance test were also mentioned. This announcement has had diverse reactions or better put contrary reactions.
The HRD ministry has made clear three main objectives- to reduce stress on students, to discourage coaching institutions and to make sure rural students are not disadvantaged. Let’s analyse this proposed exam pattern in our current education system. Firstly by conducting this proposed single exam, one is marring the prospect of the student as on any given bad day. So it’s more like putting all eggs in one basket. Also, including board examination will bring the students under more stress. Now students have to study harder for 4 or 5 subjects (instead of just 3 – physics, chemistry and maths).
Secondly this pattern is in no way discouraging coaching. In coming years, we may then witness multi-tier coaching system for engineering entrances- class 12 board preps, main exam and advanced exam. This will only worsen the situation. Coaching institutes shall enhance their fee on account of the advance test. Thirdly in the present exam system we can often find students from rural background getting into the best IITs and IIMs. A good number of students are from middle or lower class. Many of these institutes have even provided financial support to such students.
The intentions of HRD ministry are unexceptionable but it seems to be lacking in sense and logic. A single centralized exam is a welcome move but before implementing it the government should try and implement a common pattern of syllabus across all boards in India, so that competence can be justified. When the board syllabus and the evaluation is not standardised, what is the point of unifying the entrance exam? It’s just going to be a mockery of the intention to be served. One of the solutions can be that all the state boards across India follow only the NCERT/CBSE syllabus, having one or two lessons catering to state/regional items (local geography/history/culture/civics).
Instead of diluting the IITs and IIMs, investments related to providing facilities, talent and right training amongst the semi-rural and rural population should be stepped up. Instead of issuing confusing statements since months, HRD Minister should try and focus instead on providing high quality education to our masses.