The last decade has been a decade of changes and reforms. You can also include the entrance or competitive examinations to that fold. In this post I’ll discuss some changes as well as existing gaps in various competitive examinations.
There was an era when three posts were considered to be the most prestigious in the Indian set up. They were the PM (prime minister), the CM (chief minister) and the DM (district magistrate). When it comes to competitive examinations, three of them stand out for their rigor. They are IIT-JEE (for entry into the IITs), CAT (for entry into the IIMs) and civil services exams conducted by the UPSC. Let’s consider the changes in the formats of respective examinations one by one and consider the likely fallouts.
Civil Services Examinations (UPSC): UPSC has decided to go for “UPSC Aptitude Test" instead of UPSC Prelims Test for year 2010. Recently while reading the Hindi daily “Dainik Jagaran”, I came across an article by a very senior bureaucrat where he mentions that the change was necessitated as despite its claims, UPSC could not come with the “scaling” methodology. “Scaling” was used by UPSC to ensure that no particular stream of students have an unfair advantage or are at a disadvantage (hail RTI). So the new change is aimed at creating a common ground. Sounds sensible, isn’t it? But the problem is “the English language comprehension Skills” section. Civil services exam is replete with success stories with students from modest backgrounds making it to the coveted post. Even the past data shows that non-English speaking students have been equally successful in the prelims as well as finals exams. The job requirement too doesn’t necessarily call for fluency in English.
With the mandatory “English language comprehension Skills” section (even if class X level), the non-English speaking population is bound to be at a disadvantage. After all given the level of competition, even a fraction of a mark can make a difference. So whether UPSC was better off devising the “scaling” methodology or coming up with the proposed changes, the aspirants would be the best ones to answer. But given the state of English education especially in government schools, I have my doubts.
Common Admission Test (CAT): CAT recently went online. The first one did have its share of problems though mainly operational but the second edition has been quite professionally managed. Some have criticized the step and they back their arguments using the dwindling number of applications. They feel that it might be exclusionary. But as an MBA student, I can say for myself that one needs much higher computer proficiency than an online CAT demands. So someone struggling to appear for the online CAT would find it even harder to survive MBA. Thus considering the benefits i.e. faster processing of results, less paper wastage etc. it’s a visionary decision.
But, I still feel that CAT needs to be more inclusive and shouldn’t forget the term local in the often repeated term “Glocal”. Mismanagement at various levels has done our image as a country no good be it in the government sector or in the private one. So, it’s important that we go beyond the English speaking population to look for potential managers. We need managers who, after training, are willing to join rural arena or sectors that are critical but not necessarily most sought after during the placement season. That’s why CAT should be conducted in languages apart from English be it Hindi, Telugu or other common languages. A country can benefit from globalization only if it has its own house in order. Else it would be akin to “Sankritisation” or “Westernisation” of the past era.
IIT-JEE: Not too long ago IITs limited the number of attempts that student can take to clear the IIT-JEE. Their rationale behind doing that was to decrease dependence on coaching institutes, improving the quality of intake for M.Tech. programmes (they felt that a young guy or gal was more likely to go for higher degree than an old one) as well as to ensure that students who can’t make it to the IITs should move on in life. If one goes by the results, it doesn’t look like having the desired impact. The coaching institutes have become smarter. Now they have offerings as early as class VIII (catch ‘em young) for JEE aspirants. According to the report - ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN INDIA (2008) - a case study on IITs, it has been estimated that only about 1% of the graduating B.Tech class (from IIT) opt for an M.Tech from IITs. Wasn’t it expected considering the research opportunities available abroad? In fact, at the receiving end of this change are the students from rural areas. A few of them could achieve their "IIT dreams" even if they started preparing late (considering the ignorance in the rural set-up).
My aim behind considering this topic was to see whether the changes that have been made, address the concerns that they were supposed to or are they changes just for the sake of it. Would love to hear from you all.