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Sunday, May 15, 2016

JEE used to be student friendly

I am surprised by looking at this news item today. All sorts of restrictions on the students sitting for JEE Advanced next Sunday. I must thank my stars that JEE used to be so student friendly in my times.

It now appears that JEE wants to put the students through extreme stress (as if the stress of JEE was not bad enough) and the selection criteria is not who knows Physics, Chemistry and Maths, but who can handle stress. Obviously, anyone who can handle this kind of stress, is less likely to feel stressed once at IIT, and IIT Guwahaty should prefer that.

Reporting 90 minutes before the exam. Not everyone lives near the centers. Someone traveling long distance, of course, would have to come to town the evening before. But now you are insisting that even people coming from 50-100 KM distance check into a hotel near the center the previous evening. That will allow the candidates to have a proper sleep in the night, get up at a reasonable time and still reach 90 minutes before the exam. May be the hotels near JEE centers should have a special JEE offer. We will drop you at the center in the morning, keep your mobile and other things, bring you back for a quick lunch, and so on.

Does frisking take that much time. At the airports, we see lines moving rather quickly and they handle a huge amount of traffic under quite stressful conditions. Why can't we plan to have multiple frisking points at each center. I also understand that collecting biometric data for each candidate takes time, but is it necessary to ask everyone to report 90 minutes before the exam. Of course, an easier solution would have been to do the biometric data collection during the exam. Increase the time of the exam by 2 minutes, and every candidate will be disturbed once for 2 minutes during the exam for biometric. But that would be student friendly.

No watches. Of course, Samsung watch can communicate with the outside world, and you can't differentiate between one kind of watch and the other. But I won't be able to give an exam with this condition. When I am under stress, I need to have the time in front of me continuously. Even 1 minute is important. Announcing the time every 30 minutes is quite useless. (Wouldn't it be better for IITs to insist that there be wall clocks in every room, may be more than one, where exams are being held. But that would be student friendly.)

No shoes. I guess, you could hide a bluetooth device in the shoes. But how would one use that device without the invigilator noticing it. Wouldn't it be better to ensure better invigilation than to put such kinds of restrictions.

No full sleeves shirts or . I guess the idea is to bare more of your flesh since the hidden parts of the body could be carrying small communication devices. But where do we stop. May be force shorts instead of pants. And frankly, if someone wants to put a small communication device inside the clothes, even small size clothes are good enough for that. The rules also say that large buttons are not allowed. Apparently, large buttons could be the communication devices. Now, who decides what is large. And what happens if the size of the button is slightly larger than the normal. There is a disagreement between the student and the invigilator on what constitutes large. Would that person be allowed to sit in the exam without a shirt.

No metal. Many girl candidates are unlikely to realize that ear rings are made of a metal. What happens - you put away that gold ear ring outside and we are not responsible for its safety? Would my spectacles be allowed. Or would I have to buy a new pair made of plastic. Would the bracelet worn by Sikhs be allowed. Why no metal. I am sure IITs want to make sure that those with various superstitions about some rings doing wonders for them are not selected. Only those who have a strong belief in rationality and scientific processes should study in IITs.

The primary reason to do all this is to avoid cheating, which can normally be done by good invigilation. But instead of seeing how invigilation can be improved, we will put all the burden on the students. I recall when IITs had moved to 2-stage process in 1998. It was said that it is impossible to be fool proof about security when 10 lakh students are taking the exam. So in the second stage in which a much smaller number will be allowed, we can have a much tighter security and invigilation. So you can't do a tight invigilation when there are 2 lakh candidates. But what was the need to shortlist 2 lakh candidates. Why can't we trust JEE Mains a bit more and shortlist say only 1 lakh or even less.

If you look at the recent history of IIT JEE, the thought process is not "will this give us better students" "is this going to be student-friendly" but only "how can we organize JEE in a way that courts don't intervene and its reputation remains intact."