Sibal wants to bring in changes in the IIT entrance process. He suggests a common entrance test for the IITs and the NITs, in a two-paper format which will include a main test and an advanced test. While this move can be debated, it still may bring some streamlining in the entrance process. But just when we start thinking that all may get well, we hear that class XII board examination scores will be given 50% weightage in the entrance procedures.
Different state boards have their own difficulty levels and marking schemes, changing which will mean changing the mindset of every teacher and student of the country. In schools where marks for practicals are driven by favoritism, deserving students will fail in IIT entrances. The importance of the entrance exams which are known for testing the mettle of the students will get diluted. The very purpose of having common entrance exams will suffer. Students will fight to get high board marks as well as do well in JEE exams. Coaching classes will not reduce but multiply. The stress levels of students will not fall but rise. The real difference will come only if more IIT like colleges come up and help IIT take up greater responsibilities. Government must create and facilitate more top-notch colleges, with strict quality control. IITs must be allowed to run with full autonomy. The fact that government in the past has interfered very little in the functioning of the IITs has helped them build their brand. IITs are reasonably democratic systems as far as academic functioning, selection of course content, grading, evaluation and student management are concerned.
The future of IITs do not depend on the selection process of undergraduates. The paradigm of engineering is rapidly shifting to MTech and PhD courses. BTechs comprise less than half of IIT graduates every year. The majority are MTech and PhD degree holders. They make a huge contribution to technological development in India. It is this group that needs constant improvement, encouragement and recognition. This will not happen unless IITs transform from mid-20th century, narrow-visioned technical institutions to modern, multidisciplinary research universities. Let the burden of IITs be taken by other engineering colleges, and IITs focus on innovative and curious students with broad perspectives, leading to path breaking work.