Tuesday, September 08, 2015

JEE Nationalisation is Key to Admission Transformation

Two advertisements for admissions on the same day caught my attention. One was for admission to IIMs for the year 2016 and the other was a desperate call by an institution to fill its seats for the current academic year 2015-16. The state of admissions to engineering colleges is no different. On one hand, plans for JEE 2016 have started and on the other, some private colleges are still pushing their ‘agents’ one last time or deploying all sorts of ‘marketing techniques’ to complete the admission process for 2015-16. That admission process cannot go beyond August 15 is law of the land laid down by the Supreme Court in December 2012 in Parshavanath Charitable Trust vs AICTE and no authority has the power to change the admissions schedule finalised by the court. It is also hard to blame the institutions as they are confronted with an equally culpable students and parents community who are trivialising professional college admission to that of hotel or travel booking. With multiple admission offers in students’ hands and decision-making stretched till the last minute, colleges are also in a state of suspended animation in this emerging saga of democratic choice, and in some worse cases, students treat denial of admission to waiting genuine students as their fundamental right. Reward for multiple success! Can the system get better as we move forward? Yes. It can.
Kudos to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) for successfully completing the Joint Counselling for admission to IITs and NITs as directed by the Delhi High Court for the admission year 2015-16. Though there were initial hiccups and some vacant seats, the overall objective of the Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JoSAA) to ensure that the 34,074 seats across 610 degree programmes in 87 institutions was achieved with reasonable success. The number of students who appeared for JEE Main 2015 was more than 13 lakh, and those who got admitted through the JoSAA forms a diminutive 0.25 per cent. While states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, etc have adopted JEE Main for their state admission counselling, the contribution margin of JEE to India’s professional college admission system still needs to be increased. Can a system that examines the aptitude of over 13 lakh students every year afford to be under-utilised in the guise of individual entrance exams or admission procedure by individual institutions or states? Definitely not.
The way forward: There is a growing sentiment among parents and students on the torturous task of facing multiple entrance exams for admission to professional courses. Every exam seeks to test a student’s general mental ability and fundamental knowledge in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. It is difficult to substantiate that a particular university’s or institution’s entrance exam is unique. The law of thermodynamics or trigonometry or periodic table or human anatomy remains unchanged, whether it is tested for JEE or for any entrance exam. This being so, why allow institutions to conduct own entrance exams and allow it to be an instrument for record application sales? The recent success of JoSAA needs to be sustained and expanded. 
The time has come for a national test facility, and the MHRD-appointed committee to review AICTE is right in its recommendation for a single admission test for engineering and MBA. Students will be eternally thankful to the MHRD if JEE is nationalised beginning with deemed universities in 2016 mandated to use JEE scores, and this will in no way affect their admission rights. Moving forward, if other states are covered, the admission scene in the country will undergo a transformational change. Let the dialogue begin.  vaidhya@sastra.edu
The writer is Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University

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