It’s time to say ‘Your marks, get CET and go’
By S Vaidhyasubramaniam
01st July 2012 12:00 AM
The National Policy on Education 1986 and the Programme of Action Plan of 1992 clearly laid the visionary map towards entrance tests for admission to institutions of higher education and urged UGC and the state governments to promote a National Testing Facility. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, as early as 1981, accepted and observed that an entrance test facilitates assessment of comparative talent of students who come from diverse backgrounds. According to the Bench, an entrance test will apply uniform standard and will make good the possible distortions that might creep due to varying evaluation metrics followed by different high-school examining authorities. The Bench made this observation when an institution regulated admission based on entrance test and not on qualifying marks.
However, the ‘entrance alone’ model has churned out young humanoids who crack a JEE and in a senior bureaucrat’s jocular words “in an interview for IIT admission, they need multiple choices to tell their names”. This mindless coaching class syndrome for competitive exams like JEE and AIEEE has made school education irrelevant and less interesting. The continuing McDonaldisation of IITs and IIMs has made evaluation more important than education, spoiling the youthful potential of our country. Taking cognisance of this, some states and universities went to the other extreme of eliminating entrance exams completely and use only board marks as the basis of admissions. An amalgamation of both these options is what the present HRD minister is trying to put in place not only for IITs but also for NITs/deemed universities and also state governments. Before understanding the rationale behind this, some IITs have raised a thunderous voice and even approached the Prime Minister seeking his intervention.
The Common Entrance Test (CET) policy with adequate weightage to board marks is an outcome of a scientific study made by a committee headed by T Ramaswami, secretary, Department of Science & Technology. The intent of the committee is visibly clear as it wants to present a meaningful formula with inbuilt flexibility to ensure that both learning in schools and training in coaching classes achieve a desirable outcome. The CET formula suggested by the committee for IITs and for NITs/DUs/state governments seems to be a workable proposition that can make both ends meet. In a recent meeting convened by the UGC in which over 100 deemed university vice-chancellors participated in the presence of the Union HRD minister, the idea of a scientific admission system for engineering institutions using a flexible CET-board marks formula was elaborated. The initiative is to encourage institutions to adopt a common entrance test like JEE or AIEEE and also factor high school performance. Both of these at a predetermined mix, with a minimum weightage of 40 per cent to high school marks, seem to be the magic formula to satisfy all stakeholders. The UGC has not made CET the only choice but has allowed deemed universities to conduct their own entrance exams and also use board marks. Further, the MHRD has also suggested that institutions can also give 100 per cent weightage to board marks. With this formula in place, there is no element of doubt that all students’ and other critical stakeholders’ concerns are addressed. For Tamil Nadu, this formula is a second coming of its first nature as it was following this system from late ’80s till mid-2000. We should move forward in adopting this new formula in its best customised form, positively leveraging the generous flexibility provided.
The National Testing Facility as contemplated in 1986 has been in cold storage for 26 years. Let us not allow it to freeze and die. It’s time to say, “your marks, get CET and go.”
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