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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

JEE 2013: The ISI Report

Yesterday's Hindustan Times had this news item, where they claimed that the Ramasami Committee had ignored an earlier report of ISI experts on normalization of marks across boards in the country. The news item made interesting reading as it claims that the ISI experts had said that there was no fair mechanism of normalizing marks across boards. Apparently, they were asked to submit another report, in which they were specifically told that the Government is not interested in fair or unfair business. They should simply say what is the best way of comparing marks (even if wrong). And ISI apparently obliged with a new report.

Another interesting claim by the newspaper is that when they contacted Dr. Ramasami to opine on this earlier report, he appears to have said, "We don’t have to accept what the experts recommended. What they say doesn’t become law."

Frankly, I wasn't even aware of the earlier report. The final report itself was sufficient to conclude that the board marks cannot be compared. But I got curious and finally, thanks to some friends, got a copy of the report. You can read these reports at my JEE 2013 website.

In layman's terms, the final report says that if two conditions hold, then percentile scores across boards may be comparable. (More on this at my previous blog article.) It gives some hints on why the scores may not be comparable. The initial report writes those two conditions more formally in mathematical terms, makes the same statement that if these conditions are true, then percentile scores would be comparable, and crucially, goes on to demonstrate in detail as to why these two conditions are not true.

The part about "why these conditions are not true" has been dropped in the final report, allowing Prof. Barua, amongst others to claim that the two conditions are "obviously true." Just because the proof of a statement being wrong is deleted from a paper, the statement becomes true. I am shocked.

But, after my previous blog, several persons have advised me that I should not use the word "lying" in public spaces. I guess it is parliamentary language to say, "Sir, you are indulging in inexactitude."

We also heard on a previous blog post of mine that most IIT faculty are raising this issue of normalization and ISI report because their kids go to CBSE schools.

How sad that our IITs are full of such selfish creatures. And these faculty members will go to any extent to scuttle any scheme which gives an advantage to other boards. And look at the limit of their selfishness. They even demand that the process be scientific and academically sound.

These faculty also have a class bias. The poor is happy being poor and uneducated. When they come in contact with rich, they get into psychological problems. The new scheme is ensuring that they don't come in contact with rich at all, and hence no stress on them. But these anti-poor faculty members, they actually want to continue a system which allows these poor kids to join the mainstream. How can a system where a poor kid can sit besides a rich kid be allowed to continue.

Seriously, how can ANYONE reading the original ISI report ever agree to normalization of board marks for admission purposes, where a fraction of a mark counts. But, of course, what experts tell us cannot be allowed to become the law. Only what non-experts decide should be the law.

Yes, IITs have been temporarily spared from using board marks for ranking. But, two points, I want to make here.

One, if the comparison of board marks is an inherently unfair process, then having a tight cutoff of 20 percentile for eligibility (to get admission to IITs) is seriously flawed. It has to be much more liberal.

Two, while IITs may have been spared temporarily (only for 2013, even for that, there is some confusion in the minutes that have been circulated), it is being imposed on NITs, IIITs, and several other colleges, universities, various states, etc. Just like this ISI report was not available anywhere and not many people had seen it, I have a suspicion that a lot of stakeholders in those institutes are also agreeing to consideration of board performance without having the benefit of reading the original ISI report, and lots of students are going to be treated very unfairly in 2013 and beyond.

Having a different admission process for IITs does not solve the problems of students of 12th class across the country. Since their 12th class performance will count towards admission to most engineering colleges, including NITs, they have no option but to undergo coaching for that too, along with coaching for JEE Mains (AIEEE) and JEE Advanced (JEE). All the problems that IIT faculty has highlighted in the overall scheme of admissions, continue to be there.

Of course, it is not right for me to interfere in the admission process of other institutes, just like it is not right for IIT Council to interfere in the admission process of my Institute, but I hope people from those institutes, and other stake holders like students and parents, and most importantly, media, will continue to fight, till the status quo is maintained for 2013, and there is an assurance that there will be wider consultation for 2014 from amongst all stake holders.

On a lighter note, I think the overall strategy of our administrators could be the following:

Since these great administrators have no hopes of improving school education in the country, they believe that the only way to have well trained students is through coaching. Everyone should do 12th class, and after that, if you want continued poor quality education, you can join some poor quality institute. However, if you want to join a good-quality institute, you must do class 13th, and of course, that can only be done in a private coaching school. The current system was allowing too many people to join even good colleges right after the 12th class, and hence the good institutions were not getting good enough students. The new process will force many more people to get quality education in Kota and other coaching Mandis, so that quality of good colleges improve further.

It is all in the interest of the nation. If schools cannot teach, then let coaching classes teach. The goal should be quality education. End is important, not means. And how does it matter whether only rich can benefit from this process. At least some people are benefiting. The nation is benefiting. Haven't you heard of trickle down economic theory of Reagan and Thatcher.

Aren't coaching classes part of nation?

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