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Monday, April 11, 2011

IIT Joint Entrance Examination Completes Half Century of Secrecy

Finally, it is over. The 50th edition of Joint Entrance Exam (unless you count the 1997 JEE twice, when the first exam was cancelled because the question paper was leaked) is very different from the first edition in 1962, in format, in terms of number of students, number of IITs and programs, and of course, the hype that JEE generated then and now. But the two editions are not different in one important way - everything about JEE is confidential. The whole organization lacks transparency despite the flaws which has been repeatedly pointed out. At least now we have RTI, and we do come to know of some information about JEE, but often this information is delayed past the time it becomes useless.

JEE always raises more issues than other exams. This is supposedly the key to the greatest career, and hence media reports every little detail about JEE, much more than it cares for AIEEE, even though latter is taken by 2.5 times as many students as JEE.

This year, media has latched on to a couple of announcements by the organizing IIT. The first one said that the answer key will be available within 48 hours of the exam. The second one said that a scanned copy of the answersheet (ORS) will be posted online for all students, even before the result is formally announced. The third one said that the marks obtained by every candidate will be put on the website on the day the results are announced.

The links to media articles are as follows:

Deccan Herald

Times of India

Indian Express

Hindustan Times

These were great announcement. But sceptics were not convinced that this was really going to happen.

JEE already has the answer keys prepared by the same group who prepared the question paper. But the key is not announced because there is a fear that some mistake might have crept in, and if that mistake is detected, there will be a loss of face for the venerable IITs. This time, they promised that the keys will be announced soon after the exam is over, so that students and others can point out mistakes, if any, and then JEE can take those objections into account to decide the final key or grading policy, which will be fair to everyone. Seems like an excellent idea, but an organization built over secrecy for 50 years is not going to let out even the genuine information. It does not matter whether this is fair or not. And sure enough, JEE has gone back on this announcement.

Here is the link for the news report:

Times of India

Now, the key will be announced only after 15th May. How will this enable others to offer feedback before the result is out. We don't know. Why couldn't it be done on 11th April. We don't know. But JEE is sacrosanct within IIT system. You don't ask such questions about God.

Posting of scanned answerbooks (ORS) was to give confidence to students that the technology used by IITs in scanning and recording answers is fool proof and does correct evaluation in all cases. Of course, if it did make an occasional error, then the student can point that out and IIT will fix it before the result is formally out. Seems fair enough. This was done after Allahabad High Court gave a ruling in another exam of BHU that the students should have access to the ORS sheets. (As one would notice that almost all "reforms" in JEE are forced either by courts or by RTI or by Ministry, and the only role of IITs is to delay those reforms till they can.)

However, just putting the scanned copy of the ORS on the web was not good enough. This does not help the student at all, unless you also put on the web how each has been graded. Ideally, the website should have a scanned copy of ORS and what was the right answer for each question, and what is the answer that the JEE evaluation mechanism has recorded. If all this information is there, only then a student can request correction. But this was not to be.

Even the announcement of putting scanned ORS on web has been diluted and now there are doubts whether it will be done before the result is formally announced and counselling process is launched, giving time to students to request correction. The link to the media is:

Hindustan Times

Why is IIT doing this. Apparently, they are afraid that a large number of students may request regrading. Actually, that can be handled very easily. Put a charge of Rs. 1000 for regrading request. After several boards handle many more students, many more exams, and still allow the option of regrading. And the regrading requests are small because one wouldn't pay the regrading charges unless there is a real chance of making to IITs or improving the rank. The real reason is different. I don't think IITs have the confidence in their own processes. There is a fear that if they give out all this information, there may be a large number of cases where the scanning has resulted in significantly different marks. And if that indeed happens, then IITs lose respect, and there is a delay in admission process. And for IITs, the brand equity and the timetable of admission process is lot more important than the fairness to all candidates.

JEE is also afraid that some students will go to court on frivolous counts if a lot of information is revealed before the admission process is over. (Later on, they are forced to reveal it through RTI anyway, but it is too late for most students to approach courts.) But is this fear out of some genuine experience. Have courts stayed admission process through AIEEE which is much transparent than IIT JEE, and which provides the basis for admission into hundreds of engineering colleges. Have JEE lost court cases in the past which were frivolous in nature. What they are really saying is that they don't trust the High Courts of the country, and they can act like that since they are the IITs.

There is still time to act. One hopes that if enough people put pressure on IITs to do the right thing, they may actually do what they promised last month. Improved transparency will be a great move forward by JEE in its Golden Jubilee Year.


J_&_I Microelectronics said...

Sir,is it also possible for GATE?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Yes, it is also possible to give out answer keys on the website, and show scanned copies of ORS.

maneesha said...

They can give carbon copy of ORS sheets to students at the time of exam and can post answer keys later on. What is so difficult about it. IIT dont want transparent system. Some hidden agenda or want to behave as GOD, WHO can not commit any mistake.I am unable to understand the use of pencil in place of pen as done in AIEEE.