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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Legal Problems in Changing JEE

There have been a lot of debate in the newspapers as well as on my blog (1, 2, 3) on the Ramasami Committee report, the desirability of considering board performance in engineering admission, and the problems of the boards, etc. One aspect that has not been considered is the legal process that needs to be followed for bringing about any change in the system. Who has the authority to decide that there will be no JEE tomorrow.

Let us start from the Institutes of Technology Act, which forms the legal basis for setting up IITs. Relevant parts of the Act, which deal with admissions are reproduced below (thanks to my colleague Neeraj Misra for pointing this out):

28. Subject to the provisions of this Act and the Statutes. The Ordinances of each Institute may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:-
 (a) the admission of the students to the Institute;

(1) Save as otherwise provided in this section, Ordinances shall made by the Senate.
(2) All Ordinances made by the Senate shall have effect from such date as it may direct, but every Ordinance so made shall be submitted, as soon as may be, to the Board and shall be considered by the Board at its next succeeding meeting.
(3) The Board shall have power by resolution to modify or cancel any such Ordinance and such Ordinance shall from the date of such resolution stand modified accordingly or cancelled, as the case may be.

(1) It shall be the general duty of the Council to co-ordinate the activities of all the institutes.
(2) Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section (1), the Council shall perform the following functions, namely:- Functions of Council 
(a) to advise on matters relating to the duration of the courses, the degrees and other academic distinctions to be conferred by the Institutes, admission standards and other academic matters.
Reading the Act, it is amply clear that admission to IITs has to be done as per their respective ordinances, and that ordinances can only be made by their respective Senates (with some power to their respective Boards to modify and cancel any proposed ordinance).

Now, let us look at the Ordinances of IIT Kanpur (and I would assume that other IITs would have taken a similar decision for admission to under-graduate programs). The Ordinance 3.2 says:

3.2 The Admission of Indian Nationals to the B. Tech., B. Tech.-M. Tech. (Dual Degree) and M.Sc. (Integrated) Programmes shall be made once a year on the basis of the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) conducted jointly by all the IITs.

The Ordinance is very clear how the admission has to take place. As far as spirit of the Act is concerned, any significant change in JEE should be first approved by Senates of all seven IITs, but that spirit was lost long time ago. As far as the letter of the Act is concerned, changes to admission process can be done by those conducting and managing JEE (that is Directors, Chairpersons and Vice Chairs of JEE), but only as long as the exam name remains Joint Entrance Examination, and it is conducted jointly by all the IITs.

In the proposed set up, the examination name is being changed to ISEET (Indian Science-Engineering Entrance Test), and its conduct will be the responsibility of an external body. How would this stand a legal challenge. If any stake holder, any student, any potential student, any parent, were to challenge such a decision (as and when it is announced) in any High Court of the country, getting a stay should be possible. And since ISEET would be discriminating against those who are giving board exams in 2012, it really should not be too difficult to at least get a stay order (though I must admit that I am not a legal expert).

The way IIT Council has operated so far, it is not just assuming the power of Senates of seven IITs, it also seems to believe that it has the power to decide admission policies for all other colleges and universities in the country. It has no problem in deciding that admissions to all engineering colleges should be on the basis of ISEET and board marks. Why is IIT Council discussing admissions in NITs, IISERs, IIITs, and other places. Does it believe that it has the legal mandate and that those systems can't think for themselves. Interestingly, the minutes issued by the Ministry for the September 2011 meeting initially said,

"the Council appreciated efforts and accepted the broad principles indicated in the report. It asked Dr. Ramasami to submit the final report, which was to be placed before CABE and State Education Ministers for a final decision."

 The revised minutes for the meeting say,

"the Council decided that for admission to undergraduate programmes in Science and Engineering weightage be given to the marks obtained by the students in class XIIth board examination after scientific statistical normalization. It was also decided that the report, which has been accepted by the IIT Council would also be placed before the CABE and State Education Ministers so that the new system could be put in place by the academic session 2013-14."

It is extremely interesting that IIT Council accepts a report which is not even submitted at that time. Someone also decided between the initial minutes and the revised minutes that IIT Council indeed had the power to force this way of admissions on everyone, and they don't need to talk to State Education Ministers for a final decision.

People who reach at the top should be humble. Unfortunately the minutes of the IIT Council do not express that humility.


gautam said...

It is amazing that this is being brought up!. Item 33 (b) of the same Act states: "to lay down policies regarding ......., levying of fees and other matters of common interest." This clause gives the Council a lot of powers.

It is based on this clause that the Council derives it authority to decide on JEE or its annulment.
Sure, IITK's ordinance has to be changed to reflect any changes decided by the Council.
By the way, IITG's ordinances has no mention of JEE since that has already been decided by the Council. It however has admission criteria for M.Tech, PhD etc. on which the Council has not issued any policy directive.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...


Le us go through the Act again.

1. Admissions will be as per the Ordinances.
2. Ordinances will be made by Senate.
3. IIT Council can lay down policies on other matters of common interest.

Combine these three, and I don't see how this can be interpreted to give council infinite power. The word "other" can only be interpreted to mean those issues on which the act is silent. On issues where the Act is absolutely clear, those powers cannot be taken over by IIT Council by interpreting the word "other."

Rainbow Scientist said...

I thought this is an interesting article, related to your posts.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Rainbow Scientist, thanks for sharing an excellent article. It is obvious that we need diversity in our admission processes, and we should not just allow but encourage innovative approaches adopted by individual universities.

Gopal said...

Dear Sir thanks for expressing your views ass an alumnus of IIT Kanpur I feel its just a matter of time that media will be full of news of another scam related to higher education in India.. I may appear to be airing my views loudly but the entire manner in which this exercise has been conducted .. I don't about others but I definitely sense a foul smell.The eagerness of the honourable minister is just unnerving me.. The JEE admission process was one of the few sacrosanct things left in this ..otherwise sold out nation.. but it looks like even this will be consumed soon by greed...God help the IITs Gopal K Ojha (B.Tech ChE class of 2001)

Vikram said...

Gopal, I find your choice of the word 'sacrosanct' very interesting. What makes the JEE sacrosanct ?

Vikram said...

Gopal, I find your choice of the word 'sacrosanct' very interesting. What makes the JEE sacrosanct ?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Vikram, I don't think Gopal meant sacrosanct in the way that it cannot be changed. JEE has been changed so many times in the past and will be changed in the future. I think what he meant by sacrosanct is that the process so far has been completely under IIT Control, and now the admission process will be controlled by outside forces, and such forces which have proven time and again that they are incapable of conducting a fair exam.

If you see the comments of IIT faculty of different IITs, most people agree that an "outside" exam can be used for filtering, and that should cause students to take those exams seriously - the purported aim of including those marks in the admission process to begin with. They even agree that JEE can be changed, it can include aptitude parts, for example.

The only thing that is being reflected in the various statements by IIT faculty is that the final ranking should be based on an exam that IITs conduct, till the time the other bodies improve their act. If tomorrow, a testing authority of India is set up (as rumored or mentioned in one of the media reports) and it conducts a few exams fairly and transparently, IITs should have no hesitation in handing over the operations to them.

Vikram said...

@ Dr. Sanghi, in a paper I once read that one of the central issues facing India's universities was the diminished role of the faculty in the functioning of the institution. That paper seemed to indicate that the situation was better in the IITs.

However, this new set of events related to the JEE perhaps indicate that faculty face a diminished role even in the IITs. I do hope that the IIT faculty, administration, the HRD ministry and other stakeholders manage to have a fuller debate. But I also hope that people (some IIT alums especially) move ahead of the idea that the JEE is some magic bullet that can forever work in a fast changing country.


Somenath Biswas said...

As per the Act, Senate is one of the two named 'authorities' of an Institute, and it is the responsibility of the Senate to maintain the standard of education in the Institute. I fail to see how can one justify altering substantially the way students are selected without even bothering to get a feedback from the Senates. Legally tenable or not, the way the Council has acted in this manner is utterly regrettable.

However, one may not care about protecting and strengthening institutions, their autonomies, and their processes. Such a person may welcome a fiat from the top because it is a 'good', 'beneficial' fiat. We should then also examine if the Council decision of killing JEE in favour of ISEET + (normalized school score) is a good decision. To me the answer is not clear as there is absolutely no clarity either about ISEET or about normalizing school scores.

ISEET vs. JEE: JEE goal was far less ambitious than ISEET goal-- JEE wanted to filter out about top 1% students and rank them. It did so by a fairly obvious strategy. ISEET will need to filter out about 20% top students, and then rank them. Is there any clarity that ISEET will be able to do so keeping the same level of fidelity as JEE did for the top 1% students-- the ones IITs will like to select?

Normalized board score: Ramasami report seems to indicate that the issue regarding normalization is settled. The ISI report itself does not say so-- the report recommends certain further studies. It is not clear, again for the top students, what will be the impact of the variability of standards of different boards in being able to conclude the first sentence of Sec 4 of the ISI report from the two assumptions made in Sec 2 of the same report.

Aptitude test: Ramasami recommends an 'aptitude' test in the pattern of SAT. But SAT and GRE clearly feel (and rightly so) that testing for scholastic aptitude necessarily requires testing on both quantitative and verbal abilities. Will ISEET aptitude test also have a verbal component? If so, how will you normalize tests dealing with different languages? On the other hand, if you decide not to have a verbal component, is it really possible to assess scholastic aptitude totally ignoring the language ability? The report says that ISEET will evaluate 'ability of learners' rather than 'preparedness'. Pray, how?

Seems to me, what basically the Council has decided is that JEE will be scrapped right away and IITs will use some other modality for selecting its UG entrants from 2013. This decision has been taken without having any clarity about the other modality and without working out any of its details, thereby allowing the possibility that the alternative will be far worse for IITs than what JEE is. one is amazed that our Directors, who are the Chairmen of our Senates, have let things come to this pass.

gautam said...

It is not correct to say that the Senates of IITs and faculty were not consulted. The process started with the Acharya Committee and it took feedback from IIT faculty and also from Senates before preparing its report. The Ramasami Committee was set up as the issue of how to normalise Board marks was not satisfactorily addressed by the Acharya Committee. The Ramasami committee took feedback from other sections of society and it took the advice of ISI Kolkata regarding normalisation. ISI Kolkata's inputs were very clear: the only way normalisation can be done without controversy (my words) was to use percentile ranks. Unfortunately, the Ramasami Committee report did not bring this out clearly ( I wonder why). Please refer to my comments in this blog (earlier : no time to dig up place URLs :( ) regarding the implications of using percentile ranks.
The JEE reform issue has been under discussion since 2009 in the IIT Council and outside. So it is definitely not a sudden decision. It is also not a decision foisted on the Directors (at least not all the Directors). I personally have been asking for reforms even before 2009. I wanted common counselling with AIEEE in 2009, but was outvoted in JAB. I am convinced that the proposals are in the right direction. It is easy to find flaws, but the existing scheme in my view is becoming very bad.
There are issues regarding what the aptitude test will look like and it will take a few years before we get a proper scheme in place as the test will have to be in multiple languages ( I dont think comparison will be a problem), and we do not have experience in India of this kind of test for our environment. In the meantime, I suspect the "aptitude" test will be an "easy" version of the main test. A notification needs to be issued quickly empowering somebody to take this forward otherwise 2013 will be very difficult. Newspaper articles mention a task force under the IITK Director, but I am not aware of a formal announcement. I hope it will happen soon.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Gautam, If a committee gives a draft report, takes feedback on it, and the feedback has few changes suggested, then the committee can take those suggestions into account, and submit a final report. But if the feedback is overwhelmingly negative, and a large number of suggestions have been given, then the committee must come back to the stake holders after incorporating those changes.

Acharya Committee draft report was sent to all IITs, and feedback received. I remember that a small committee of faculty members at IITK looked at it, gathered views, collated them, had an open house and all that, and came up with a formal response, which pointed out major disagreements, and several suggestions on how we could move forward. I am told that there were several such responses that were sent to the committee.

If you call THAT as feedback being taken by Ramasami Committee, sorry, I disagree. Even IIT Council, which as I have said earlier is accepting a report on 14th September, 2011, which would be submitted on 21st November, 2011, despite such gross decision, it still decided that Directors will be asked to submit feedback, and I haven't heard of a single Director who has taken feedback from his Institute and submitted.

And, Gautam, if everybody agrees that there is lack of preparedness, then why not go a bit slow. Let us make changes which can be done with less preparedness and draw a 5-year plan for incrementally reaching a stage which takes into account most issues raised by stake holders.

Gautam, the problem in our country is that every person who reaches the decision taking level either believes that nothing should be done, or that s/he is the only one equipped to take a decision. Slow changes are rejected on the count that we cannot depend on future leaders to be smart. We are the smartest, of course. We haven't looked at board marks for 50 years, and since some people who happen to be in powerful position today believe that it was wrong, they must swing the pendulum to the other extreme quickly, because future leaders cannot be trusted to continue taking the pendulum in that direction. If on a 0 to 10 scale, we are at 1 (consider 60% cutoff), and we want to reach at 9 (where substantial input in ranking will be from board marks), we must go from 1 to 9 in a single step, even though everybody seemingly agree that we are not ready, and the process has not been followed properly. Why not go from 1 to 7 in one step (where we consider high 12th marks, after normalization, for eligibility), and decide that we will review in 2 years whether boards have improved and whether there is a strong correlation between 12th class marks and performance in engineering colleges, and other such studies, and then move to 8 and stay there for 2 years, etc.

You are right that the change is not being foisted on the Directors. Directors are foisting the decision on the Institutes.

gautam said...

You have stated:
Even IIT Council, which as I have said earlier is accepting a report on 14th September, 2011, which would be submitted on 21st November, 2011, despite such gross decision, ....

Where did you get this information? It is a lie. Dr. Ramasami submitted a draft report to the Council in its meeting on Sept 14 2012 and there was a presentation and the report was discussed. The minutes on the item was revised (essentially to make things clearer, not to add anything new), but there was no mention of a final report being submitted. In fact, there is no other version of the Ramasami report submitted other than what was placed before the Council. The "Draft report" is the final report.
As regards the Directors foisting things on the Institutes, I can say the same thing about you. You are "rabble rousing" as you do not have any arguments to counter the other views except to keep re-iterating your own views, and to resort to throwing mud at the Minister, the IIT Council, and the Directors. The main argument now seems to be that "we were not consulted". This is what I mean by rabble rousing. "If you do not agree with us, you are wrong,", seems to be your stand. The argument about being fair to the current class XII batch, just shows that "your side" has run out of ideas.
Feedback was taken from IIT faculty, but it was also taken from other members of society and a decision taken. If it was not to the liking of some of the active faculty members in some IITs, so be it. Everyone cannot be pleased.
Finally, we should not get so worked up about UG admissions. Let us be humble and admit that our expertise is not in assessing school graduates. Our expertise is in doing research and in teaching. Let us concentrate our energies towards improving these. Let us work together to improve PhD admissions and to strengthen the path of research that the IITs have taken. The days of the B.Techs' prominence in IITs are over. Let us face it.
Gautam Barua

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Gautam, thanks for your latest comments. They just prove the point that I have been repeatedly making that Directors of IITs approve things that they do not know. I have a document from MHRD that says that the final report was submitted on 21st November, 2011. Under normal procedures, draft reports are approved "in principle" and not through revised minutes. (Even if there was no final report, at least on 14th September 2011, you did not know that there will be no final report. All references to the report are "draft report.")

Gautam, I have said nothing about the Minister or any ministry official, except that someone must have played a role in revising the minutes. I do not believe that the Minister would force a decision that is opposed by several Directors. The issue is IIT Council and Directors' roles in IIT Council, and please do not drag Minister and Ministry into this.

As I have said before, as far as action point is concerned, we have a relatively small difference of opinion. If you recall, last year we had discussion on why we must increase the 60% cut-off and how that would put a greater focus on 12th class boards. I also find that faculty at large in at least Delhi/Bombay/Kanpur are interested in giving a greater focus on 12th class boards, and are only asking that at least initially, 12th class marks be used for eligibility. I see that the stake holders within IITs are willing (though they may not fully agree) to go with most of what IIT Council is forcing on them. But for just one point of difference, Directors are willing to bypass Senates, and come up with innovative interpretation of the Act.

There are lots of things wrong with Ramasami Committee report in my opinion (and in the opinion of several faculty members at IITK). The faculty here wants a solution, and are willing to accept most things, even though they disagree with them. We want to move on with life. But as far as Directors are concerned, I have not seen any flexibility as yet.


gautam said...

The revised minutes mentions about the final report being submitted within a month and also that the Council has accepted the report. So obviously, the reference has to be to be to the report placed on September 15 (draft or otherwise: nowhere is it mentioned in the agenda or the minutes that it is a draft report). Obviously the minutes were revised to reflect that the Council has indeed accepted the report even though it requested the final version to be made ready within a month. Incidentally, there is nothing new in the "final" version as opposed to the "draft" version.
I do not accept the "innovative" interpretations of the Act argument. I have already stated my position in the first comment in this post and I am confident this interpretation will stand legal scrutiny. Please also consider how admissions have been implemented for 50+ years. UG admissions have always been done together by all the IITs. Why? Why did no IIT use its "powers" to do something different? Why did all the IITs follow the directives of JAB all these years?
As far as flexibility is concerned, a lot of it has been shown by all, and everyone has been sensitive to opinions. Please see the compromises that have been made. What is now being proposed is the following:
a) Board marks will have 40% weightage using percentile rankings (effectively an eligibility criterion)
b) The test will be in two parts: main, and advanced
c) the same test will be used for all CFTIs (so merger of AIEEE and JEE).

We started with normalised Boards marks + Aptitude and ended up with percentile Boards ranking + main + advanced.
As far as taking inputs from the Senates formally is concerned, that cannot be done as a higher body (the Council) has already taken a decision.
I hope we will all agree to disagree and move forward with this proposal.

ratan said...

I think IIT Council is anadvisory body. It is not a body which can possibly usurp the power of Senate of IITs.

ved prakash said...

In whole of the discussion basic issue is getting diverted

1) Is the proposed system (iseet) indirectly promotes state wise quota in IIT.?
Taking percentile across 30 odd boards(most of the bds are state wise only) will push the doctrine of state wise quota in it assumes that all boards are equal.small board eg assam or H P may gain and large bd eg CBSE may loose.However damage will be known only much later.
If decision maker want state wise quota in IIT as a hidden agenda ,,My self being obedient govt servant have no problem.It seems same is the case with other also.I can understand their constraints.

Thanks dheeraj, at least you have courage to speak on these keep writing .i hope decision maker read your blog and take corrective action.

2) I fail to understand as why decision maker plan to take input from a system (boards marks in this case)which is full of leakage at all level.How IIT directors can close their eye on malpractices in bds. Malpractices in board can not be taken care of by any normalization or percentile formulae.

3)If lack of general knowledge of IIT student is concerned, a paper in general studies may be included.(as is being done by UPSC).if lack of English knowledge is concerned than any way aptitude is being planned. Taking bd marks will create more problems in view problems highlighted above

Vedprakash btech iit k (82-86) chief engineer central railway mumbai.

Mee said...

We can all understand the haste, election year is around the corner and it has to be done now or never, but the people paying the price for it will be the students planning to write the 2013 exam. Why should they have to be the ones suffering to provide whatever advantage the HRD and cronies are gaining out of this hasty mess? Why should they agree to "move on" ? Because might is right and the HRD will do what it pleases? Why should they agree to any report invented by Damodar Acharya, the man indicted for corruption by the CBI and who is still clinging to his kursi thanks to the benevolence of Mr Kapil Sibal? Why indeed should they agree to become the sacrificial goats?
This alternative proposed by the Government does not solve any issue which it projects to solve. Its obvious to all that a system cannot be improved by dismantling what works
It is increasing the stress and creating a fertile ground for coaching classes to flourish as well as opening a back door via the malpractice ridden board marks route for entry into the IITs why should anyone agree to this arbitrary mess so a few can gain?

Mee said...

Why the T.Ramsamy report cannot and should not form a basis for making ANY changes in the JEE.
1. A sample of 2063 people can hardly be considered adequate for making such momentous decision. (incl 400 (imaginary?) respondents on a facebook page!)
2. While there is some mention of multiple exam being a burden on students, the fact that the JEE is brand and is of far higher caliber than the AIEEE and other exams has not been given any consideration.
3. It does not give any numerical statistics to prove that the influence of coaching classes will be minimized or by what percentage it will be minimized by the proposed changes. (In fact there is enough evidence to the contrary that coaching will only go up now)
4. It says “Urban-rural and gender bias has to be eliminated” again no study or data to show that the proposed system will achieve this.
5. Again it gives no statistics and shows no evidence of any study done to show the reduction of stress on students by this new pattern.
6. Most importantly while the ISI was assigned the task of “developing methods for normalization” of board marks, most of their recommendations were ignored and only those parts which were favorable to the Ramasamy committee were highlighted. Ramasamy chose to hide major conclusions drawn by the statistical experts that “subject scores do not appear to be comparable, the question of combining them for comparability of aggregate scores across the boards does not arise,”
7. The report seems confused while addressing some problem that exists regarding multiple choice pattern of the JEE. It does not address the specific issue but recommends making unrelated arbitrary and sweeping changes that are in no way related to this specific problem.
This is actually the most important thing. There is no satisfactory explanation as to what is wrong with the idea of using the board marks as a qualifier as it is being done now. The report has simply assumed and stated weightage should be given to board marks.
Again while it talks of non-uniformity of board exam, the issue of malpractice in board exams has not been taken into consideration.
The “report” looks like a project report submitted by a high school student with irrelevant pie charts and bar graphs on percentages and percentile when there is no sign of any justification to complicate things with the weightage issue. Whereas there is no date at all to support the main two claims of bringing down the stress and reducing the coaching classes. In fact it’s not a report at all but just a bunch of opinions and hypotheses.

Mee said...

I disagree with Mr Gautam the “members of society” were consulted. Nothing of that sort happened. Till today students are preparing for the JEE 2013 with no idea at all that things are being changed. There was never any formal announcement about it or opinions invited from the public via any major National newspaper or even any major News channel. Just some information floating on the net cannot be called as informing the members of the society. Not all have access to the internet and taking into consideration the options of net accessed people is elitist. Also seeing the number of groups and people on the net objecting to proposal itself shows that this argument is false. This is being done in a clandestine manner and everyone will agree to it.