It's not we versus them: IIT-Madras

The summer heat is still unsparing on Chennaiites, but the vast, woody Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) campus here is deep and lovely to absorb any shock waves of controversy raging outside over the Centre’s ‘one-nation-one-test’ plan from 2013 for admitting students to all undergraduate (UG) engineering courses across India.

“There is nothing like IIT-M supporting the proposal or not supporting,” counters Prof K Ramamurthy, Dean, Academic Courses, IIT-M and a Senate member, speaking to Deccan Herald.

Giving the genesis of IIT-M’s decision on the issue, Ramamurthy said the IIT-M, like others, was asked by the Union HRD Ministry to consider a matrix of issues. The IIT-M Senate which met on May 3 last had a “thorough discussion”, based on which “two options for ranking candidates for admission to IITs” were sent to the Central Government, he said, quoting his boss, the IIT-Madras Director, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthy, who is abroad.

Subsequently, the IIT-Council in New Delhi adopted one of the recommendations of IIT-M “with minor modifications”, that in effect “we are in tune with them (IIT-Council)”, the Dean said.

The IIT-JEE with multiple choice questions which came into force from 2006 is also a two-part exam, one taken in the morning and another in the afternoon, both testing IIT-aspirants in Maths, Physics and Chemistry, ‘MPC’ as it is popularly known.

The new proposal sent by IIT-M is wider in its scope. The test could be administered to not just IIT-aspirants, but all students seeking engineering and related UG disciplines in various ‘Centre Funded Institutions’ like the National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, etc. It, thus, “considerably brings down stress levels” among students, explained the IIT-M Dean.

Weightage to Boards

Giving due consideration for the examinee’s respective Board Exam was aimed at mitigating the harmful effects of ‘IIT-JEE coaching class syndrome’ so that students were able to devote attention to their ‘Plus Two exam also,” said another academic at IIT-Madras, who did not want to be quoted.

Students differ

The new exam scheme has not gone down well with several IIT-M students. “On the plus side, the common test may stem the proliferation of coaching classes; but the JEE is part of a rich heritage the IITs have built over the years and that should not suffer,” cautions Pushkal, pursuing a Masters in Humanities at IIT-M. The students’ core apprehension about the proposed common entrance test (CET) boils down to this: When various State Boards evaluate ‘Plus Two’ answer-sheets differently, assigning a big 40 per cent weightage to that in the CET could be “unfair” to CBSE and other Pan-Indian Boards’ students under which evaluation is ‘more tougher’.

“With different states having different evaluation patterns at ‘Plus Two’ level, they will face a tough problem standardising them; unless they have a satisfactory, common system for normalising the marks, it will not be fair to all students, particularly for very good students from other Boards that are not so liberal in their markings,” mused Bangalore-based girl student, Preethi Shandur, at IIT-M. Her views were echoed by several other students, including Rangadurai who is doing an MS in Computer Science.

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