By Nirant Kasliwal:
It is June and the admission season heat is on students and their parents. The heat has begun to burn out some of the brightest minds of the nation, especially those who plan to pursue an engineering degree. The summer outdoor sun is a cool relief to many of these students from their closed-room relationship with books and endless hours of mental-sweat.
“It has been months now, I am tired. I just want the exams to end. I need a break.”, says Shruti in despair, and she is not alone. Each aspirant gives around 5-6 important exams in three months. Of these career determining exams, the greatest prestige is held by the JEE Mains (admission into colleges that previously gave admission via AIEEE), the State Entrance (for admission into state government run colleges) and JEE Advanced (for admission into colleges that previously gave admission via IIT-JEE).
In addition to these, each aspirant targets one or more of the other universities such as, BITS Pilani, SRM University, VIT, Manipal, Annamalai University, UPES, DAIICT etc. You have to pay anything above Rupees 1000 for each of these forms i.e. unless you are a girl, or from SC, ST or OBC for which government exam forms are subsidised. From these, the student appears for one or more entrances outside town too. This increases the cost and makes the lower income strata struggle to fulfill the dreams of their children. The huge number and cost of exams is not the only concern, the entrance world is painted with some more errors, such as the controversial inclusion of Board marks in the merit list preparation.
Much to the students’ dismay, the performance in board exams would account for 40% weightage in the JEE Mains merit list. A formula would be used to ‘normalize’ these marks across different boards such as CISCE, CBSE and State Boards. While the UPSC shuns the troubles of normalization, CBSE strives towards it. The Board marks count for just one entrance, the JEE Advanced (for admission into IITs) and BITSAT use it as a cut-off parameter while most of the other universities disregard it completely. A better alternative would have been to restore the credibility of Board examinations and convince the innumerable universities to do away with their entrances and screen students on the basis of performance in Board Exams.
What do these entrances actually ask? What does it take to become one of those brilliant minds of the nation? Physics, Chemistry and Maths are all that these ask. It doesn’t matter if you’ve built a small robot for your class XII project or excel in Mathematical proofs. All that matters is your problem solving skills in PCM. The aptitude for engineering is not gauged in any manner. You want to become an Electrical Engineer? You will not only need to ‘mug up’ the fundamentals of Physics and Maths but also remember the names of all kinds of plastics and polymers. No wonder Narayana Murthy, the Chairman Infosys and himself an IIT alumnus, publicly mocked the quality of the 80 per cent of students who qualify for the IIT-JEE.
The entrance universe is riddled with innumerable exams, high costs, the expected discrepancies of normalisation, disregard to one important and expensive exam (the boards), and needless to say inherent prejudice against those who have studied in vernacular languages. The lack of transparency in many of these exams by not declaring the answer key, tie-breakers, or other statistics deserves detailed attention and analysis beyond the scope of this piece. The entrance exhausts both the victorious and the defeated. In the end, it is the nation that loses its precious youth in chasing dreams riddled with nightmares.