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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

12th class performance of incoming batch at IITK

There has been a lot of debate about eligibility of students getting admission to IITs, whether it should stay at 60 percent, may be go up slightly, say 65%, or should it become 80 percentile, or may be a slightly lower percentile. But all this has been without any data on what would be the impact of any of these eligibility conditions on the selected students.

So, I got the data of 12th class performance of all JEE admitted students this year to IIT Kanpur, and tried to analyze it. Of course, we will not know the impact of 60% eligibility, since those who get less marks than that, perhaps don't even go for counseling, and most likely would not take admission, knowing fully well that they have to submit their mark-sheet by 30th September. But JEE office informally tells me that such students are very rare.

Since COBSE has announced percentage marks equivalent to 80 percentile only for General Category students, we looked at only those students marks in the 12th class. Since 80 percentile was given only for 2012, we have assumed that the marks would have been same in 2011 as well.

Out of 398 General Category students, 14 students would not have been eligible for admission to IITs. That is 3.5 percent.

And one may note that the current COBSE list is based on 80 percentile of all students registered for the 12th class board exam in that particular board. It has already been pointed out that the IIT Council decision was to consider 80 percentile of only successful students. It means that the cut-offs of eligibility in different boards would be higher by at least one percent, and a few more students would be then ineligible, say 4 percent. This is not a small number. Assuming that a similar fraction would be seen in SC/ST/PD/OBC candidates as well, we are talking about making 400 odd candidates (out of 10,000) ineligible for admission to IITs after they have performed well in JEE Mains and JEE Advanced.

I have said in an earlier blog that in the transition year, instead of doing too many changes at once, we should bring in changes slowly, and in particularly argued that a scheme which makes just 1 percent of candidates ineligible would put strong enough pressure to take schooling seriously. I have also argued that in view of lack of data on comparison between different boards, even if IITs want to change the eligibility condition to percentile format, it should be kept low at 70 percentile in the transition year. Well, it so happens, that if we look at the percentage marks corresponding to 70 percentile, and then see how many students would not have made it to IIT system, it would have been 4 out of 398, just one percent.

Another interesting point to note is that out of 14 students identified as below 80 percentile, 12 are from CBSE and 2 from Andhra Board. Now, we all know that CBSE board is much tougher than state boards. The standard of education is much higher, and  there is more than enough evidence to show that 80 percentile of CBSE actually has a much better academic preparation than 80 percentile in many state boards. We are just waiting for these 12 students to go to court next year.

Of course, there are too many variables that we don't know. What happens to the reserved category students. Is the statistics similar at other IITs (no reason to believe that it will be different). Because of additional coaching of 12th class this year, would most students getting through JEE advanced will also get 80+ percentile scores, or will because of additional coaching of 12th class this year, the 80 percentile cutoff will increase and there will be more students who would have been selected in JEE Advanced, but would be deemed ineligible.

Only time will tell how much chaos is waiting to happen in June-July 2013.

Added on 11th October: 

More data and interesting observations:

Out of 398 students whose data I have, 296 are from CBSE (74%), 76 are state boards (19%), 25 are from ICSE (6%), and one student from another board.

The distribution of percentile is more interesting. In CBSE, out of 296, 252 have 90+ percentile, 33 have 80-90 percentile, 9 have 70-80 percentile, and 3 have less than 70 percentile. In case of state boards, pretty much all students of all states have 90+ percentile, except AP board, where 2 students are in 80-90 range, 1 student in 70-80 range, and 1 student has less than 70 percentile. In ICSE board also, 24 out of 25 have 90+ percentile, and only one student is in 80-90 percentile.

What this means is that a student who can pass JEE with a top-5000 general category rank does not have to bother about getting 80 percentile in a state board at all, in fact, not even 90 percentile. But a CBSE student who can pass JEE with a top-5000 general category rank still has to worry about clearing the 80 percentile hurdle.

This also means that if students want higher percentile, they should leave CBSE board schools and join state board schools. This will not only help them in focusing on JEE and not worry abut 80 percentile at all, but it will also help them in getting higher ranks for NITs, where the percentile score is being included in the ranking.

What an interesting idea sir jee?
To improve the quality of school education, you incentivise people to leave better schools and better boards.

Monday, October 1, 2012

JEE and admission to IIT, not branch

Many of my readers criticize me for focusing on Under-graduate programs. They get more ammunition with this post, since this is again about UG admissions :-) But seriously, the UG admission and the UG programs are totally broken in this country. PG education has a problem primarily because of poor-quality UG programs. There are lesser structural problems with PG education (and I have written about them at times).

The issue that I have been thinking about is whether it is a good idea to offer admission to a branch (like IITs and all engineering colleges do right now) or just offer admission to an IIT (I will focus on IITs), and the branch selection is done sometime later (say, after a year when they have all done some basic courses, and after taking into account their performance in these courses).

This idea is not new. I have heard of this almost every year in IITK. It was actually recommended to Senate in 2012 (where unexpectedly it was referred to another committee). Many people like the idea, many others don't. What do people feel will be the negative consequences of such a move. First, if IITK takes the leadership role and does this suo moto, without other IITs joining to do the same, then the top rankers in JEE (say, in the top 500 odd ranks) will prefer to join a specific program in another IIT then joining IIT Kanpur with uncertainty of the program that will be allotted next year. But on the other hand, students with 2000-3000 ranks may prefer to try to work hard in IITK and attempt to get a branch of their choice rather than get a guaranteed branch in which they have no interest. So, the chances are that we will have students in the narrower range of 500-3000 ranks, rather than 100-5000 ranks. (I am mentioning only ranks of unreserved seats, but similar thing should happen in reserved seats as well.) Interestingly, it means that the average "quality" (if JEE measures quality) will be no different if we do branch-less admissions. However, the problem is that the popular programs may want to have those students in the 0-500 ranks. On the other hand, the less popular programs would be afraid that while they will attract better ranked student, but they will get only those students who have switched themselves off after coming to IITK (since performance in the first year will matter). And, of course, as we have said earlier, students and parents would prefer to know which program they are getting admission in. So there is really no constituency for branch-less admissions.

The other reason that people say against branch-less admissions is that it will make the first year extremely competitive , and the stress period for the student will just get extended by one more year.

Is there any advantage for branch-less admissions. Actually, I believe that if handled properly, it can reduce stress, particularly if many institutions adopt this model of admission. As I have said before, the stress in JEE comes from the fact that a small mistake can affect your future very seriously. And branch-less admission is essentially telling the student that a small mistake will not affect the future
seriously, since you could work harder later and improve your chances of a branch closer to your interest. So instead of JEE being a pressure cooker, there will be lesser stress but spread over a longer period of time. And having lower stress for a longer duration is better for the mental health than the other way round.

But even more importantly, branch-less admissions are also more fair. During the debates on changes to JEE, those opposed to changes in JEE pointed out that there is a wide error margin in the 12th class marks, and therefore its use in ranking is unfair. Well, in JEE, the error margin may not be that wide (since the error on part of grading is not there), but still it is there. And indeed, even when two students get exactly the same total, we artificially try to rank them by saying one subject is more important than the other, etc. A single exam will always have error margin (and that is why exams like GRE give scores which are bunched in multiple of 10s). How fair is it to rank students who are within the error margin of each other, and based on that rank give them a branch for the rest of his/her life.

When we have a situation where no stake holder is interested in changing the system, and yet, it seems that the current system has problems which can be addressed by those changes, the right strategy is to change very little, show that it helps a little, then make a bit more change, and so on. One way to do that will be to say that while we admit students on the basis of JEE scores (or ranks), the final branch allocation at the end of the year will be on the basis of sum of JEE scores and some measure of the first year performance. In the beginning, the measure of the first year performance can be kept very small, say making a difference to the original JEE score by no more than a couple of percent marks. This will mean that if we rank all branches by way of popularity, then the branch that a student will get after the first year will be either same as the one s/he would have got at the time of admission, or will get a branch which is one higher or one lower in that ranking of popularity. Indeed, if one performs around the average of the batch, then s/he will get exactly the same branch after one year as s/he would have got in the beginning.

Once we do our minor tinkering with the admission process, and we do not see any major problem, we can increase the weight of the first year performance slightly.