In 2006, Prof Chandy's study established a correlation between how the student performs in 10th n 12th to his GPA at IIT. But your dossier said that the board marks don't matter that much. So what is your take on the same?
I haven't seen the detailed analysis of Mr. Chandy's report. So I cannot comment if it is absolutely right. The JEE rank not only ensures admission to IITs but also determines the department one gets. Someone with a rank less than 100 would get Computer Science and someone above the rank 2000 would get textile etc. Moreover, IIT GPA or grading is not absolute but somewhere between absolute and relative. So there is distortion in the CGPA due to the department. For example, someone who secured 100th rank in JEE may score lesser CGPA as his performance is measured relative to the brighter students in Computer Science. On the contrary, someone in Textile may have higher CGPA as the competition is less fierce in Textile. This fact is reflected in the Interim report dated September 1, 2010 as it mentions that the JEE rank correlates well with CGPA in the first year but not after that. It should be noted that in the first year, courses are common for all the students but after that grading becomes specific to the department. Also, the grading and examination system at IIT is still not very competent as expressed by the Cabinet minister Jairam Ramesh. Since the institution always attracted the best minds, the caliber of those who pass out of IIT's is always maintained. The examination standards are nothing compared to the top US universities.
What are the pitfalls that the alumni association feels about the 12th marks being given weightage?
There are many reasons why we feel that giving weight age to 12th marks would not be a correct decision. We have written a dossier which gives a detailed explanation of this reasoning. We have seen the Ramaswamy committee report and the proposed methodology of normalization of 12th marks from ISI and we are writing a paper criticizing the proposed normalization scheme.
Today even management institutes give profile based calls based on past academic records. So why can't IIT's adopt the same?
As per IIM's are concerned, they look for an all round ability in students to be good at all subjects as b-schools have a great outlook for diversity. Even if there is a small error in the normalization process, it would not alter the quality of output much. Also IIMs only give a weightage of about 20% to board marks which is half than the proposed 40%. IIT's on the other hand are more about a specialized technical education. One has to look at the quality of the student in terms of the specific subjects rather than proficiency in general subjects like English. They need not be good at everything but they should be best at their field as IIT's are research institutions. Hence including 12th marks may work for IIM's but I don't think it works for IIT's. Earlier few engineering colleges normalized like BITs Pilani, but later they stopped it and after that there has been a drastic demographic shift in the caliber of student's post 2004 which suggests that including 12th marks significantly alters the input to an institute.
As pointed out, IIT's don't look at diversity. Isn't that a disadvantage?
Engineering is more technical and it need not be diverse. Diversity promotes everyone to do everything while we prefer everyone should be allowed to do what he is interested in. We don't impose diversity when it comes to dancing, wrestling or selecting a team for cricket. Similarly IIT is a specialized technical institution where the sole focus should be on getting the people who are interested in that. On the other hand, an MBA is generic education and undergrads take it up after their specialization, so it is bound to attract people from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.
This initiative is taken in order to eliminate a lot of coaching activities and dummy schools. Do you think these will b achieved?
There are two parts to it. The dummy schools would definitely go but coaching classes are happier, as now the student will have to perform for three exams: 12th, JEE and the aptitude test. Students will take recourse to coaching, thus it will become inevitable. It would have serious repercussions for the students who can't afford coaching.
In terms of convenience, the students will now have to prepare for only one exam?
AIEEE and JEE both have similar syllabus and so one need not prepare for either of them specifically. Now it appears like, there is only one examination but in reality students have to appear for three.
The MHRD aims to reduce the dependency on coaching classes and give impetus to school education with this initiative. So, what changes would you suggest for this?
Both the objectives are good. But as far as giving school education focus goes, there is a need to rectify the school education. NCERT books etc should be updated as other books are better. The school education, syllabus and exams should be more credible and the level of education should be in good shape. It is advisable to maintain a minimum benchmark like 75-80% rather than including 12th standard grades as a determinant of one's JEE rank. Some of the alumni feel that coaching classes can be helpful as they have trained IIT graduates as teachers. Our school system is not competent enough and a lot of times students without coaching may not get into IIT's. The one easy remedy for that is that the examination should not depend on how the training is. Rather it should be based on what the student is, which is why the aptitude test is added. I doubt its implementation to the desired effect. The alumni suggest that it is essential to come up with books, videos and other study material that all can have access to, so that there is no need for added coaching. We have been making efforts in that direction so that people from small towns too can get good quality education on the lines of Khan Academy in USA, NPTEL etc. Preparatory material should also be there as there can never be enough good teachers. When I was preparing I didn't have good books. I didn't even take coaching classes, so it was difficult to prepare. IIT's should ensure that all students have equal opportunity.
How many alumni are supporting you in this and what are your future steps?
There is an alumni association for each IIT. I am from IIT Delhi and it is quite active. Our head Yogesh Andlay conducted a survey and a significant majority of us feel that the proposed system is wrong. We have sent official mails too, so that we can gather a size-able opinion. We are also working with professors from IIT so that its autonomy is not seized.
How many people are backing you in this cause?
Around 40-50 alumni were involved in preparing the report and after it was circulated, we had over 400 comments via physical and virtual discussion forums.
What is the next step?
Firstly, we wanted to create awareness about it and garner support from alumni and teachers. IIT Kanpur senate has passed a resolution condemning the Ramaswamy report and so has IIT Delhi. Given that IIT is an autonomous body under a parliament act, no step can be taken unless it is passed by the senate. So our next step would depend on how the senate reacts to it. In case the new proposal is brought bypassing the IIT Senate, we may take legal recourse.