A Critique Of The IIT JEE Mania

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By Vignesh Aiyer:

The Indian Institutes of Technology- Joint Entrance Exam (IIT-JEE) is one of the most prestigious exams across the nation and around the world, with an intake rate of less than 8%, it is the dream of many students. The ‘IIT’ brand tag creates such craze that once you get into any of these institutes, people believe that your life is going to be full of fat wallets. Companies too love to recruit students from these institutes as they believe that students from these institutes have a certain standard. Getting into one of these institutes itself is a very big job. It involves a lot of hard work and commitment and an urge by the student to get into one of these institutes. Parents also go crazy for the brand tag in order to carve out a name for themselves in this seemingly chaotic society. So tough is this exam that IIT is now also synonymous with “Institutes of Infinite tension”.

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Such is the pressure and prestige associated with the IIT’s in India that parents start sending their kids to coaching as early as sixth grade. The craze for these premier institutes has hit such a high that there are dedicated so called ‘IIT cracking’ centers that have developed across the nation. Kota is one such example. From being a dusty town in Rajasthan, it has transformed into the capital for competitive exam coaching. Coaching centers like Bansal, Resonance, Brilliant tutorials, FIITJEE, Career point and so on, train students in the name of making their career. Students live a monotonous and “decked” up life. Such is the madness that these coaching centers are actually factories holding up to 9000 students at a time with teachers spoon feeding and making all of them gobble up facts. Before even stepping into college, these students study college material. What is the use of college if they are already studying it beforehand?

Another notable center for such ‘coaching’ is Andhra Pradesh where every parent from a farmer to a businessman wants his/her son/daughter to be an IITian. What they fail to realize is that they’re ruining their kids’ childhood by sending them off to coaching centers in the hope of getting a seat. Students in Andhra Pradesh do not know basic languages when they finally turn up in college. One cannot blame them for their plight. When they were supposed to be studying English literature in 8th grade, they were busy reading 11th grade PCM books. The fact that they do not have basic communication skills creates great problems when they actually need a job, the very purpose they worked so hard for. In both of the aforementioned places, suicide rates are also high. Either it is due to the inability to cope up with pressure or with the fear of failure. Being away from home, most students feel homesick and lonely too, bad habits in this case work out as an escape to cope up with the loneliness and also the pressure and tension. Students as young as 16 end up pursuing cigarettes and bottles instead of life as such.

Big cities like Delhi and Mumbai also share the same story of the so called ‘IIT infection’ and the subsequent cure through ‘coaching centers’. What used to be genuine help for the students to focus on their weak areas before has now turned to a million dollar industry with all big players capitalizing on the students’ future. The craze for coaching has boomed only in the recent years. Back in the 80’s, the entrance exam for the IIT’s used to be just held to test basic abilities of the student. Students who got into the IIT’s were ones who were intellectually sound and loved engineering as a subject. With increasing population and demand, the IIT administration was forced to increase the toughness and standard of the exam to squeeze out the so called ‘deserving’ students through ability of mental memory alone. The earlier pattern used to be of subjective type, akin to the ones asked at the International Olympiads. Blame it on the population or whatever, that pattern was replaced with the easier Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) examination and now the candidate has to just pick the right choice similar to picking up the sweet grape(s) amongst sour ones. The exam which used to be known for its amazing toughness that required just cleverness has turned into nothing more than a mug up exam with all formulae and derivations. Students who don’t get through in the first year drop a year out in the hope of getting through in the next year. The trend is such that 61.9% of students appearing for JEE are repeaters. The pressure on these repeaters is much more as they’ve spent one more year of their life trying to just make a career for themselves.

There is also this undue imbalance in male female ratio, suggesting that the entrance exam is becoming increasingly male oriented, with girls being barely a handful. Though the reason for this is unknown

Now, from this year, there is another twist to this already tough and twisted exam. Kapil Sibal, our education minister and the IIT council, in an attempt to make life easier for us students, eradicate the ‘coaching culture’ and to also enable students to focus on their school studies has split the exam into two parts along with a ‘conditions apply’ tag. The new pattern for the IIT-JEE examination, to be put into practice next year, makes it essential for students to figure in the top 20 percentile bracket of the Class XII Boards. The formula devised by the IIT Council stipulates that the top 1.5 lakh students, across all categories in the JEE Mains, would be eligible to appear for the JEE Advanced Test. While all eligible students will be allowed to write the Main Advanced exams, the final rank will be subject to being in the 20 percentile of their boards. Also, colleges that take admission based on AIEEE will now take the same using JEE Main, almost effectively making it as a ‘single’ exam for engineering entrances. The main cause of concern here is to ensure equal standards in evaluation considering there are over 40 school boards across the country.

Different boards also have different evaluation methods; subsequently the 20 percentile benchmark also varies board by board. Consider for example Tamil Nadu. A student scoring around 75% would not even make it to the 40 percentile mark whereas a student in neighboring Karnataka would have no issues crossing the 20% benchmark with 85%. The other cause of concern is the pressure this form of examination will actually put on the students. Many feel that the point of a single examination will actually increase the pressure on the students. Also, conducting such a big exam through a single point of control might lead to mismanagement and subsequent delay in results. What if the student falls ill or doesn’t do his exam well due to varying circumstances? It might actually lead to the end of their aspiration to get into a good engineering college.

What this new system holds for the students in reality is still a complete mystery. Will the new system actually eradicate the ‘coaching culture’ or not remains to be seen. Will be it a success or not? Only time will tell. As for the IIT-JEE itself, there must be an alternate system that ranks students as an overall being in the world rather than just by their ability to mug. The ‘coaching’ fashion must be abolished so that children may enjoy their childhood playing in the parks rather than sitting at a desk and mugging up for over 8 hours every day. Parents must also realize that there is life outside the IIT’s and must nurture and allow their children to pursue what they like. I hope to see Indian students not being cooked inside a pressure cooker and follow their dreams to their hearts content.

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3 comments

  1. Really spot on on the problems of the new JEE pattern!
    However, I differ on a few counts here – most importantly on how the article really stresses on the fact that cracking the Joint Entrance Exam has somehow become a lot more about mugging formulae and facts, as evident here – (quoting)
    “now the candidate has to just pick the right choice similar to picking up the sweet grape(s) amongst sour ones. The exam which used to be known for its amazing toughness that required just cleverness has turned into nothing more than a mug up exam with all formulae and derivations.”

    With the number of candidates more than quadrupling in the past decade or so, it is practically impossible to conduct purely subjective entrance examinations. However, the JEE has maintained its status of ensuring that major part of the examination needs impeccable logic and concepts, which is the prime reason why the examination standard is so much tougher than other entrance examinations, or the CBSE Board examinations. The really few questions that involve facts are almost mandatory – since they are a part of the education system after all, the the JEE board ensures that the boundaries set up by giving students the syllabus for the exam are never violated.
    As far as the jibe on the MCQ pattern is concerned – I think over a question paper of 400-480 marks, any luck you may have in being able to pick the “sweet grape (s)” is probably going to be nullified/largely neutralised and considering the fact that in a multiple answer correct system (where you may have 1/2/3/4 correct options, anyone who can get the combination of answers correct, has something special anyway. Add to this my point about the number of candidates, and thus the enormous task of correcting all subjective answer sheets in the event you have a subjective examination (the professors who correct these sheets belong to these very IITs. They are a part of the extremely overworked faculty – and already have hundreds of students of their own), I think any blame on the JEE system as far as the examination system is concerned, is more than unreasonable.

  2. Thank you. I was an aspirant last year myself. So I do understand the pain one has to go through. This year has not been any better as I hear. I’m glad that you liked my article.

  3. Neha Jha

    Awesome! You have actually summed up beautifully with adequate facts what I wanted to say for a long time. It is so sickening to see parents and students alike participating in this mad rush for IITs. My brother is going to go through all this trauma and I’m very worried for him. Parents and elders don’t seem to understand any of it. I do know they want our future to be better..but, the path which they choose actuallyleads students to doom

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