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Friday, June 8, 2012

JEE 2013: Will it revive the school system

The Directors of IITs have been telling us that the new JEE is a magic bullet. If we bite it, miraculously, our schools will improve.

What is the evidence?

Oh! We believe it. Our Minister believes it. Isn't our collective belief a good enough evidence? We are the Directors of the best institutes in India. We are smart people, much smarter than you are. If we collectively believe in something, that is evidence.

And I thought if they don't learn from me, that is ok, but they should at least learn from their boss, who is one of the finest lawyers, and what is law without evidence.

But I persisted. Belief is not evidence.

That is exactly why we are the Directors and you are a professor. Belief is evidence, if boss accepts this as evidence. The sooner you learn this, the better it will be for your career.

But, why not look at states which started using board marks for engineering admissions either fully or partially. Have we noticed the improvement in performance of students of those states in a quantifiable way. (For example, is there a study which shows that school education in Tamilnadu has improved in any significant way, since they started using the board marks for admission to engineering.)

One honourable member of the IIT Council from Tamilnadu told me that the school education has suffered tremendously since they started using board marks for admission to engineering. He told me that there are model question papers, question banks based on last 5 years question papers for each subject, and different coaching institutes will train you for answering all those questions, and one is reasonably sure that if one just remembered a few hundred questions and their answers in each subject, then one will get excellent scores. Since the "value" of board exam has increased tremendously, learning has suffered, and the students are only concerned about marks in the board.

I do not know whether to believe this or not. But what I find strange is that the same IIT Council member does not suggest to the Council that we go slow and do some study before repeating Tamilnadu experience in the entire country. When this happens, it is difficult not to think of motives.

But Directors are not impressed by these questions. Their belief is more important than any data, facts, and analysis.

In research, it happens many times that I have an idea, but I can't mathematically prove it. The system is too complex to come up with an equation. What do we do. We do some simulations. We make some simplifying assumptions and then try to analyse it. We learn about the system better, and then we make a more complex system. Basically, we go in steps.

But one of the IIT Directors have famously said that the methodology for deciding education policies of the country do not have to follow the methodology of doing research. He is essentially admitting that when one decides education policy, it is alright to be arbitrary and ad hoc, and one can play with the careers of millions of people, based on the "feelings" of a few smart Directors. No research is needed to decide education policy.

Most educationists tell us that schools will not improve unless they have teachers, unless there are class rooms, unless there are black boards and chalk, and so on. But our Directors believe that if 12th class marks are considered for admission, this will improve the schools. I find it hard to believe, and hence am asking for scientific validation of this belief.


Shishir said...

May I have to remind them (The Directors and their bosses) that till around 30-35 years ago, the admission to Engg colleges (except IIT and Roorkee)was made on the basis of Intermediate or Higher Secondary marks (Yes, they didn't follow percentile, but not much of the difference)
Only when the difficulties were faced by these Colleges to distinguish students on the basis of marks ( which was caused by the system being made 'liberal' to ease the students of 'tension' of passing and getting good marks, resulting in very poor correlation between Boards marks and their performance in B.Tech/B.E courses in the college).[ Just check the data of UP Board. Earlier , the pass percentage of Class 12th used to be 17-20%, and this year it is 89%]
So, with no attempts to set the board education right, what's being sought to be established? Beats me.

Ankit Bhutani said...

Dear Sir,

Unfortunately I am not in India right now else I would have surely tried to meet you regarding this. We had heard that Faculty and Alumni of IITs are planning to file a PIL before 6th June but since then, there has been no news on any such action. Could you please tell if any update on this has been brought to your notice ?

Ankit (Convener, Students Senate)

Hari said...

Dear Sir,

I have been hoping that you will become the Director of one of the IITs in near future! But by being rational and scientific in policy making, you are reducing your chances!! :-)

I really admire you for your work as Head, CC, SUGC, at LNM and now Dean.


Jacob Antony said...

check this out

Anonymous said...

Piyush P Kurur said...

Dear Dheeraj,

There is another serious problem with the whole assumtion that tinkering the selection process for a few engineering universities are going to fix class 12/Pre-University. What the ministry is effectively saying is that class 12 is about and only about Engineering and that too JEE and IIT. Tinker JEE and it magically cures the class 12/Pre-University setup for after all what is class 12, yeah you guessed it right, a waiting room for Engineering and that too in the IIT.

It is only dumb people like me and you who think that there is more to education that engineering.

Piyush P Kurur

AK said...

How do you know that it was directors' idea which is coincidentally similar to that of the minister and his babus? I mean even if only the minister and his babus had this idea, does it really matter what directors think individually? When was the last time IIT directors had a major difference with the ministry on a policy?

Jacob Antony said...

Good to know that IIT kanpur is conducting own entrance test next year.

Jacob Antony said...

I completed 12th in 2012 with 84% and am not satisfied with my jee rank.I am willing to drop a year and try again.Is it advisable to drop or join a college this year itself in view of the changes brought in by Kapil Sibal?What do you think, will the the IIT JEE be reinstated?

Anonymous said...

Can BoG overrule the Senate's Decision?

Gautam Barua is telling in the media that resolution of Senate has no value.

I sincerely hope that he's wrong.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Myself, As per the Act, BoG can review any decision of the Senate. I don't know whether that review means a request to reconsider, or overrule. But it does not matter. We are in touch with some of the BoG members. We want to hold a Board meeting at the earliest so that the students of 12th class in this country know what will happen in 2013 as far as IITK is concerned. And based on our discussion with some of the board members, I am convinced that Board will not overrule this decision of the Senate.

Our board also wants to maintain excellence of IIT Kanpur, particularly when we are agreeing with the goals of the government, and are willing to try their process. Our only request is that the change should be a gradual change over the next 3-4 years, and we calibrate that change with data every year.

We are agreeing with pretty much everything that the Minister is talking about, with the sole exception of doing this change on such a large scale overnight.

I think this is a pretty reasonable position, and at least our board will not overrule such a position and demand that we change to new system without any data and without any analysis.

L said...

I don't know the figures, but surely "school system" is far far greater than the few lakh students who write the JEE-at a wild guess,less than 25% of school leaving students may be appearing for the JEE.
I find very often, when we think "we, the people", we think "I, my kids, my neighbours, cousins and friends".

decorr said...

I understand that the IITs are backing a subjective exam based on - mathematics/biology, physics, chemistry and few questions on reasoning, pattern matching etc [1]. On the other hand, it's implied that an objective exam leads to people learning to crack MCQ's and hence, a subjective exam is a better evaluator. I have a query on this particular point.

Why would a subjective examination based on PCM be a good evaluator of the candidate for an entrance into an IIT? Lets say you want to know whether a candidate is a good fit for CS seat at IIT Bombay. How can you by this exam determine that he is the best candidate? Can a PCM "subjective" exam do so? If yes, I would like to see a few studies regarding the same across the world. I don't want data from IITs as there's an inherent bias.