The Tarzan-influenced wall-climbing episode in broad daylight in Bihar to help students appearing for school exams stormed the social media last month. Such crowdsourcing talent converging for the Class X board exams is not an isolated case of exam-related malpractice. Within a few days, four teachers from Hosur in Tamil Nadu were arrested for leaking Class XII question papers through WhatsApp. On the other hand, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is finding a way out to put an end to the student problems raised by the mythical maths problems in the recently concluded CBSE Class XII exams. While the issue of CBSE is a case of consistency and uniformity for a larger good, the other two instances are issues of grave concern. Caught between the ancient Tarzanic acrobat and the modern tech-savvy Netizen is the stakeholders’ confidence on high school examination system. It is shuddering to think about the quality of engineers and doctors coming out of a system that perfects exam-related malpractices. States like Tamil Nadu using only high school marks for admissions to professional colleges is tightening the examination system and no doubt, they are doing their best. But there are other options to explore and improvise.
The National Policy on Education 1986 and the Programme of Action Plan of 1992 clearly laid the visionary map towards entrance tests for admission to institutions of higher education and urged the University Grants Commission (UGC) and state governments to promote a National Testing Facility. The UGC has failed to understand the 1981 Supreme Court Constitution Bench judgment and 1984 Madras High Court judgment of Justice S Natarajan that support a national entrance test as an instrumentality for comparative assessment of students from diverse backgrounds. This does not mean that high school students are trained to become Common Entrance Test (CET) humanoids at the cost of high school Class XI and XII education. A mixed-bag approach is essential and is available in a national asset called the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).
The JEE is currently used for admission to IITs and along with normalised Class XII marks for admissions to NITs, Centrally funded technical institutions and progressive deemed universities. States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Nagaland have also adopted JEE-Main (with local language option also). At a time, especially in Tamil Nadu, where the Class XII state topper is repeatedly a non-metro student dispelling the rural-student syndrome, an approach with a predetermined ratio of JEE Main and Class XII score ensures the much-needed balance that takes care of student diversity. For Tamil Nadu, this formula is a second coming of its first nature as it was following this system from the late 80s till mid-2000 after which the Anandakrishnan Committee scrapped the CET to link professional college admission with Class XII marks only.
The existing admission chaos is infested with multiple symptoms—many deemed universities harvesting student aspirations with their own entrance tests to promote application sales, some states using their own models, management quota seats traded to the highest bidder, etc. There is one prescriptive pill that must be jointly administered in this age of cooperative federalism that promotes the spirit of interdependent independence: A uniform syllabus for JEE-Main accepted by all states, decentralised round-the-year conduct of JEE-Main and admission to professional colleges based on a combination of Class XII and JEE-Main scores. To begin, deemed universities must be mandated to adopt JEE-Main and Class XII combination, and it’s time to chart a thee-year plan for all other states to follow. This is the best antidote to counter the lethal Tarzan-Netizen combo. email@example.com