‘We are not fixing the IIT system. We are fixing an aberration that has children sitting for 30 different exams’
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In this Idea Exchange moderated by Deputy Editor Pranab Dhal Samanta, HRD and telecom minister Kapil Sibal speaks about the reforms in the education sector, the move towards a single exam for entry into engineering colleges and the investment sentiment in the country
Kapil Sibal: Over the years, we have taken substantive steps both in the education and telecom sectors. In education, the school sector has seen the beginning of an enormous reform. In the higher education sector, we are trying to get the semester system. That is the only way we can give mobility to our children. Let me now come to the IIT system. If two-and-a-half years of consultation is not enough, then I would like to know how long should we consult before we bring about reforms? Remember, to have a single test was part of the education policy of 1986. What are the four issues we are concerned with? One, that children should not be made to sit for 20 to 30 tests to get into any institution of higher education. The second point is that girls are the best performers in the school system, yet, no girl student finds herself in the IITs. Why? Because girls are not sent to Kota. Our third concern is that this has become urban-centric. I'll give you studies done by an IIT professor in Mumbai, a 2006 study, which says that of the 476 seats in IIT, 300 are from the coaching industry. The most important of all, and this is also part of that study, is that children don't bother about their class 12 Boards. After class 10, they go to Kota or Hyderabad or wherever, and start preparing. And most of them don't get into IIT and they don't do well in their Boards either so they can't get an appropriate course. They lose a lot of self-esteem in the process. This is damaging the youth of this country. These were concerns which were raised by the IIT Council back in February 2010 and we then set up several committees—an Acharya committee, a Ramaswamy committee. For autonomy of IITs, we set up a Kakodkar committee. Then we involved the Indian Statistical Institute because there are different Boards in the country, how do we normalise the scores of various Boards? Dr T Ramaswamy and various other people went in batches to IITs, discussions took place, all this was put up on the website. Then ultimately, we came to the conclusion that the best way forward is to give weightage to schools and we have a 40-30-30 formula: 40 per cent for school Boards, 30 per cent for the main exam and 30 per cent for the advanced exam. The school boards will get an advantage because anybody getting 89 per cent will be equalised on a percentile basis over someone who gets a 57 per cent in another Board. The IIT Senates and faculty objected to this decision and they said there has not been enough consultation. I called a meeting at Vigyan Bhawan this year and asked them for their objections and they said no weightage should be given to the board exams; if at all, the Board exam should be a filtering process and merit should only be given to an IIT exam. I accepted that. So we said okay to 50 per cent for Board exam and 50 per cent for main exam.