Riddle of Common Entrance Test – An expert’s opinion

There has been a lot of discussion / debate regarding the proposed system of having one Common Entrance Test for all Engineering colleges in India (including IITs and NITs).
Dr. K. Narasimhan, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Metallurgical Engineering & Materials Science, IIT Bombay, shares his opinion on this burning issue, in an interview with S. Shraddha, student reporter of YOCee.

How would you rate our education system with respect to education systems of other countries, basically what are our strengths and weaknesses?

Comparing with the developed countries, our education system is far more competitive and stressful to the children.  The strength of our system is that the children get very good technical and academic inputs.  The weaknesses – (a) soft skill development is not adequate, (b) lack of conducive environment for children to enjoy learning and (c) most of the examinations are testing the memory skills of the students and (d) lack of imparting moral and values to the children

Every student aspires to join a premier institution after Std XII and prepares for final Board / entrance examinations. How can one prepare to crack these exams successfully?

There is no simple mantra.  What could possibly help is to be focused in studies and preparation for both the board and the entrance exams.  It is possibly a good idea to make a detailed timetable (short and long term), where adequate time is provided for both studies and play and religiously follow it.  Plenty of practice and revision is a must.  One cannot forget the saying –all work and no play makes jack a dull boy!

What according to you has been the main reason behind the success story of IIT institutions? Is it the system or the students or the faculty? Can you tell us more about this?

All the stake holders have contributed to the success of the IITs.  The IIT system brings the best of students and faculty and provides an ecosystem that promotes excellence at all levels.  Generous funding from various Government agencies and private partners ensures excellent infrastructure, high quality teaching and research at the IITs.

With regard to the proposed system of Common Entrance Test 2013 for all Engg. Colleges in India, What is the underlying spirit / objective in this move?

The Government’s objectives are – (a) Reduce stress on students which arises due to taking multiple entrance exams, (b) revive importance of XII school boards by giving weightage to it in the common entrance test process and (c) Reduce the impact and need for private coaching. 

Who is conducting this CET & advanced test? How is the ranking done? Kindly throw some light on this for benefit of the aspirants?

The JEE Main will be conducted by the CBSE and the JEE Advanced will be conducted by the IITs.  For admission to the IITs, based on the JEE Main test the top 1,50,000 candidates will be shortlisted who will be eligible to take the JEE Advance test. This advance test will be conducted 4-6 weeks after the Main test.  The performance in the JEE advance test will be used for ranking the candidates for the selection to the IITs.  In addition, the candidates need to be ranked in the top 20% in their respective +2 board to be eligible for IIT admissions.

For other institutes like NITs, the merit list will be prepared based on +2 board performance (40% weightage) and the JEE Main test (60% weightage). The board performance will be computed based on the percentile score of the candidate in his/her board and not on the percentage obtained by the candidate.  

What will happen to JEE, AIEEE and other entrance exams? How will the counseling be done for IIT and other institutions?

The AIEEE equivalent will now be the JEE Main test.  The existing JEE equivalent will be the JEE Advance test.  Of course now AIEEE equivalent will be conducted 4-6 weeks before the JEE equivalent test.  It is not clear which other institutes will make use of this CET.  Possibly, some of the States may use the JEE Main along with their board performance (Maharashtra, Gujarat have already agreed for this).  It is not clear which other states and deemed institutes will use this CET.  Maybe after few years, many institutes may start using the CET of the MHRD.

Regarding counseling nothing is clear yet.  The MHRD proposes to have joint counseling for the IITs and the NITs, but only time will tell how this will work out.  

How will this current change in system benefit the student (average and good performer)?

This aspect is really not clear.  Possibly, the new system (CET) could benefit candidates who tend to do very well in their board, but may not do too well in the competitive tests, as there is direct weightage given to the board performance.  In the long run, if many institutes adopt the CET, then it can lead to reduction in number of tests a candidate needs to take and thereby achieve stress reduction (the main stated objective of the MHRD)

What is your suggestion / advice for children who can’t get into IIT?

It should be appreciated that only very few will eventually make it to the IITs, irrespective of the selection / admission process (as of now this number is about 10,000).  The admission process is more of elimination, rather than selection because of the large number of aspirants for the IITs (about 5,00,000 students aspire for the IITs as of now).  Certainly, many more than the top 10,000 candidates are very good and are equally capable.  Therefore, not getting admission to IITs should not be considered as “failure.” In today’s scenario, the opportunities are plenty and one should explore the same and think beyond the IITs.

Student is under lot of stress these days due to competition, peer pressure, expectations from self and parents etc. How do you suggest parents / student addresses this? Please suggest some methods /activities for students to destress themselves, relax?

In my view, each student should compete with himself / herself and not with others and try to do his/her best.  Stress becomes many folds when one starts comparing with others.  It is important to realize that each will have different capabilities and therefore, it is unfair and stressful to keep comparing.  The moment we start comparing with our own self, always striving to keep raising our bar, then we will keep improving, without feeling the stress.

As mentioned earlier, it is very useful to have a timetable, where enough fun components are built in.  There should be enough sports (outdoor) activities in one’s timetable.  Minimise time on TV and Computer, as these activities are monotonous and discourage networking and retard development of interpersonal skills.

For both the students and the parents try always to do your best and DO NOT compare with others.  This single action will be the best de-stress medicine!

There is a larger life beyond the IITs and the NITs

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