New Delhi: The government said on Wednesday that it will stick to its decision to hold a single entrance test for all engineering colleges, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), from next year.
It also ruled out any extension of deadline for implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act beyond next 31 March.
Human resource development (HRD) minister M.M. Pallam Raju emphasized that there would be no directional change in education policymaking after he took over the portfolio last month from Kapil Sibal.
His remarks put at rest speculation that the change of guard at the ministry may prompt a relook at Sibal’s formula of one nation-one test for admission to IITs and other engineering institutions The IIT Alumni Association said on Wednesday that it may move the courts against the move.
The government is ready “to implement it from 2013 academic year”, Raju said at his first press briefing after becoming HRD minister. “A lot of thought has gone into it. It’s in the larger interest of the student community. It would be unfair for me to question it.”
IIT Alumni Association members wrote to Raju soon after his appointment in the 28 October cabinet reshuffle. A delegation met him last week and said in a note that he promised to revisit issues involving the IITs, including the controversial changes in the joint entrance examination format by his predecessor.
“They had expressed their concerns and views, but I did not commit anything,” Raju said on Wednesday. He said the new format will save a lot of hassle and money for students who apply for multiple entrance tests held in various venues. “I think it’s a good system. There will be transitional hiccups, but it will be streamlined,” he said.
In the new format, all central government-funded technical institutes will give 40% weightage to students’ performance in their school board examinations and 60% to their scores in the common entrance test.
In the case of the IITs, the top 150,000 students in the common admission test will sit for another test to enable national ranking of candidates vying for selection to the elite institutes. A student will also have to finish among the top 20 percentile in the school-leaving examination to qualify for admission to the IITs.
Somnath Bharti, one of the members of the delegation that met Raju, said the statement by the minister was “discouraging”.
“If this is the response, then the next step (for us) is going to the court,” said Bharti, a Supreme Court lawyer and coordinator of IITians for IITs’ Autonomy, an alumni group.
He said the alumni association will soon meet and finalize “the next course of action”.
A.K. Mittal, secretary of the IIT Faculty Federation, said the teachers’ body was not opposed to the move. “We are not against implementation of the plan but we have a couple of concerns about whether a section of the students will miss out due to the new format.”
He said limiting admission to the top 20 percentile of students in school board exams may hinder the chances of some otherwise meritorious students.
The new HRD minister also said he wouldn’t extend the deadline for implementation of the RTE Act. RTE guarantees education to all students in the 6-14 age group.
As per the Act, all primary schools need to fulfil at least 11 parameters, including teachers’ appointments, playground facility and provision of drinking water, before 31 March. Many schools are struggling with deficient infrastructure. The draft 12th Five-Year Plan has underlined that less than 10% of all schools have complied with RTE norms. There are 1.3 million teachers’ vacancies in schools.
“We will move fast and not change the deadline. Else the purpose will be defeated,” Raju said.
Madhav Chavan, head of education think tank Pratham, said RTE was a “very ideal but complicated Act” and the government’s target now seems very “impractical”.