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IIT Director questions the IIT- JEE pattern

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Is one of the country's toughest tests, the Joint Entrance Exam for IITs, failing to sift the brightest minds for admission to India's premier engineering institutes? Now, voices from inside the IITs are beginning to question the JEE format. The director and the dean of IIT-Madras have called for radical changes in the JEE, saying that the coaching institutes were enabling many among the less-than-best students to crack the test and keeping girls from qualifying.

"I am looking for students with raw intelligence and not those with a mind prepared by coaching class tutors. The coaching classes only help students in mastering (question paper) pattern recognizing skills. With this, you cannot get students with raw intelligence," said IIT-Madras director, M S Ananth.

Virtually opening what could be a heated debate on the current JEE format, Ananth wanted the system to lay more stress on students' performance in school. "You may not be able to do away with the JEE but I am wondering if we should be conducting an examination for 3,00,00 aspirants and selecting just 5,000. Instead, we must evolve a system where only the top 1% of students from different state boards and CBSE are permitted to appear for the JEE," he said.

Professor V G Idichandy, dean (students), IIT Madras, was more vocal, demanding that JEE be abolished. "One of the reasons for the poor intake of girls in the flagship BTech programme is that parents don't send daughters for coaching classes. The best way to increase the intake of girls is to have direct admissions," he said.

Both Ananth and Idichandy expressed concern that the present system did not allow for the 12 years of schooling to have a bearing on admissions into IITs. "The overall capability of a student cannot be merely assessed by their performance in physics, mathematics and chemistry. The student must have good communication skills also," Idichandy said.

'Need to revamp JEE'

IIT-Madras director, M S Ananth said, by attending the IIT coaching classes, students were learning a wrong lesson that the ends justify the means. "They (students) think there is nothing wrong in missing school to attend coaching. But the student does not realize his real loss."

Ananth recalled that three years ago, a JEE review committee had suggested a cut-off of 85% marks in the Class XII board exam for students to be eligible for the JEE. "But the CBSE and other boards turned it down and wanted to have 60% as the cut-off. Now, that's an easy score to get," he said.

While acknowledging that the JEE has led to proliferation of coaching classes and has put students under stress, IIT-Bombay director, Ashok Misra, was more cautious on bringing in wholesale changes. "If we can develop another system that is not overhyped, I am for it. But doing away with the JEE does not seem appropriate at present. We have been constantly working on tweaking the JEE as per the students' needs and also to cut down on pressure," he said. Evidently, we haven't heard the last word on this issue.

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