Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal has made it clear that there is no going back on the new entrance test format for all the engineering institutes including the IITs. In an interview with CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, he defended the new format saying it would help improve the declining school standards and will also help more girl students get into the IITs considering they do well in the Class 12 boards.
Following is the transcript of Sagarika Ghose's interview with Kapil Sibal on the new entrance test format:
Sagarika Ghose: Hi there. A warm welcome to this Face The Nation special. Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal sparked a controversy when he announced that there will be single entrance test for all the engineering institutes including the IITs. The IITs have come out strongly in opposition to this move. We have heard from the IITs so far. Let's now hear from the Union Minister himself, Mr Kapil Sibal. Thank you so much for joining us. Explain to us why you think this new exam is an improvement from the joint entrance exam.
Kapil Sibal: First of all two statements. Number one this is not my decision, this is the decision of IIT Council, which is a statutory authority under the IIT act. This is not the government's decision or a minister's decision. Number two, the IITs by and large have accepted this decision. The only opposition that is emerging at this point in time is from the senate of IIT Kanpur, and that opinion we also respect. Number three, I want to make it very clear that the last thing that the Council wishes to do is to dilute the quality of the IIT system. In fact, we are very jealous and want to protect the excellence of the IIT system. So nothing will be done to dilute their excellence. Now let me explain to you what this exam is. We feel that in India, children because they have to sit for the IIT don't bother about their class 12 board. So the school system and the standards of the school system is declining, that is number one. Number two that this has let to a plethora of coaching institutions. An IIT Bombay study shows that out of 476 students that were admitted, 300 came from coaching centres, which means that this exam has become urban centric. Those parents who can afford to send their children to coaching get admission into the IIT system. So this has resulted in diluting the school system and has resulting in a pro-urban approach and caters to the rich and powerful who are able to send their children. Number three, if you notice girls do best in the Class 12 exams. In fact any board in India the top students are girls and yet there are no girls in the IITs. Why, because parents can't send their young girls to Kota. And if they can't send their girls to Kota they can't compete.
Sagarika Ghose: Let me come to a point that is agitating a number of representatives of the IIT system, which is that this move severally intrudes the autonomy of IITs, the statutory autonomy of the IITs, that the government of India is violating the independence of the IITs.
Kapil Sibal: Well, first of all the admission process is controlled by the Council it is not controlled by individual IITs. There are audiences of all IITs saying that the Council will decide on the JEE, that is the old system that is continuing. So it is the Council that is holding the exam, which is under the Council.
Sagarika Ghose: If I could just say that many say that IIT Council itself is not representative of the IIT.
Kapil Sibal: Anybody can say anything. There is a statutory authority; there is a provision in the IIT act which says that the Council will advise on the admission process. So unless you change that law, unless you say that law is unconstitutional… this is something that the system has accepted. And no body is interfering with that system. So the final exam in this particular case is going to be set by IITs, it is not going to be set by anybody else. So that autonomy of IITs is not impacted at all.
Now what is the process? There is a two tier process and for IITs there is a separate process and for other technical institutes, funded by Center, the process is different. We have made this different for the IITs because of their objection, we have accepted their objection.
Sagarika Ghose: Well that is an important. So it is not a single exams for all engineering institute.
Kapil Sibal: No.
Sagarika Ghose: It is a two tier exams for the IITs.
Kapil Sibal: No, no, no. first of all for the centrally funded institutions which are not IITs. The NIITs and the IIITs and other centrally funded institutes, what is the exam - the class 12 board that weightage would be 40 per cent, 30 per cent for the main exam and 30 per cent for the advanced exam. The advance exam will be setup by the JAB that is Joint Admissions Board, which is an IIT. The main exam, majority will be IIT. So they will be setting the exam. So the ratio is 40:30:30. There will be an all India merit list and on the bases of this merit list children will choose their courses and institutions. That is for the centrally funded technical institutes. For the IIT, the board exam is not given weightage. For the IIT system the board exam will count for 50 per cent and the main exam will count for 50 per cent. Then the top 50,000 or whatever the limit is, their papers in the advanced will be judged. Their merit in the advanced examination alone will count for the admission to the IIT system, which is entirely under the control of IITs. So there is no impact on the autonomy of the IIT system.
Sagarika Ghose: So you are visualising a two tier exam. The board exam will count in the first tier, in the screening level. Then after that candidate will take advanced test, which will be set by IITs, that will determine his admission to the IITs. So even if his board exams count in the first tier, it will not count in the second tier.
Kapil Sibal: There is no weightage in the final exam because merit in the final advanced test will only be counted.
Sagarika Ghose: But the objection still is that this will hurt poor students or people who are from an inferior board.
Kapil Sibal: Let me deal with that. You know, when we confronted this issue and this issue was raised in the Council itself. Then several committees were set up, there was the Acharya Committee, there was Kakodkar Committee on autonomy, there is the Ramasami Committee on these issues that you are talking about. And then the Indian Statistical Institute was asked, I there a formula through which we can equalise the results of all boards. So the Indian Statistical Institute, which is the top most institute, worked on a formula through which a student in a Jharkhand board gets 70 per cent and student in a Tamil Nadu board who get 89 per cent, the 70 per cent will be equated with 89 per cent. In other words there will be no comparison of marks. Nobody will get an advantage; the student in Tamil Nadu will not get an advantage. The equation will be done on a percentile bases.
Sagarika Ghose: Why will the better student not get an advantage.
Kapil Sibal: It is not better. The marking is different. There is no question of better or worse. Some boards may mark strictly some board may mark liberally. So the top percentile, the top 1 or 2 per cent will be taken. They will be equalised and the Indian Statistical Institute has tested this formula on the basis of four board results for the past four years and applied those formula to those results and realised thee is complete equalisations.
Sagarika Ghose: So if one state wants its students to get into IIT and therefore over marks its students, they can't do that because it will equalise on the percentile.
Kapil Sibal: And difference in marks in any case is 5. So he wouldn't be able to do in the main exam and then in the advanced exam.
Sagarika Ghose: But the other objection to this is that the coaching institutes will continue because advance test continues, the board exams continues. Competition continues to be as cutthroat as it always is, so coaching will only increase.
Kapil Sibal: It is speculative whether the coaching will continue or not continue, I don't know. But one thing will be clear that today when children don't bother about their boards after class 10 run to Kota and for 2 years, you know, get into coaching institutions, at least they will now care about their board results. You see, when I'm living in a house, a large mansion, and I look outside and I see shanty huts outside my house, right, either I close my eyes and say that I live in my own world or I say look I have a responsibility towards other people. I think the IITs have a responsibility to strengthen the school system., and I think they must join in this national effort.
Sagarika Ghose: So what you are basically saying is that you will not sacrifice the standards of school system in order that the IITs are satisfied about their demands of excellence.
Kapil Sibal: No that demand of excellence is maintained. If there was any dilution of excellence, I would have not allowed this to happen. I would have requested the IIT system Council to relook at it. But as I said the formula so devised, it takes care of the IIT excellence and improves the quality of school system. And then takes away the tension which is the most important thing. All exams are meant for children, all admissions are meant for children so when you device a system you must look at children and not at faculty. And what is the future of children, the future of children depend on what they do in class 12 board.
Sagarika Ghose: So this is your way of bringing emphases to the class 12 board. To address the urban bias of students who are getting into IITs. And take away tension and to address the coaching industry. You believe that the coaching industry is far too powerful.
Kapil Sibal: There is a study done in IIT Bombay, by a professor of IIT Bombay saying that of the 476 students admitted, 300 came from the coaching industry, that is a 2006 study.
Sagarika Ghose: And is this going to be the format for 2013?
Kapil Sibal: Well the Council has decided, you keep on saying you have. It's not me, it is the Council.
Sagarika Ghose: So if I'm an IIT aspirant and I want to take the exam in 2013 this is the exam I would take.
Kapil Sibal: Yes.
Sagarika Ghose: There is no going back on this.
Kapil Sibal: There is no going back on this. It is a Council decision and the Council has to decide.
Sagarika Ghose: What if some of the representative challenge you in the court?
Kapil Sibal: Sagarika, any decision of the government can be challenged. The decision of the President of Indian can also be challenged. I mean, there is no issue. People have a constitutional right to go to court and vindicate their rights. So nobody can object to that.
Sagarika Ghose: The feeling is that it is too much in a hurry.
Kapil Sibal: Two and a half years is a hurry? Two and a half years of application of mind by committee after committee, Indian Statistical Institute, putting things on the website, getting comments from people, having full discussions. People went throughout the country. Ramaswamy went other people when to IITs to discuss all of these issues. It is not as if two and a half years… if two and a half years is not enough then the government should not take decisions.
Sagarika Ghose: So why do you think there are so many vocal members of the IIT system who are speaking against this.
Kapil Sibal: Sagarika, the IIT senate in Madras says it is fine. How is it any worse than the IIT senate in Kanpur?
Sagarika Ghose: But the fact is that IIT Kanpur is now going to have its own entrance exam.
Kapil Sibal: Whether who does what is something… who does what, what those procedures…
Sagarika Ghose: Will you reach out to IIT Kanpur?
Kapil Sibal: I reach out to all of them. I talk to them. And first time in the history of this country I had a personal interaction with the faculty of all the IITs. The only one objection is coming from the senate of IIT Kanpur and the argument is that no the rest is all rubbish. But IIT Kanpur represents the wisdom of community. I'm not saying no, it may, but I'm sorry democracy involves discussion. But democracy doesn't involve one section saying either you are with us or you are against us.
Sagarika Ghose: So for the moment 2013, this new common entrance test will apply.
Kapil Sibal: For the moment. The IIT Council has decided it.
Sagarika Ghose: And there is no going back?
Kapil Sibal: I don't know the IIT Council, it is the Council's decision. If the Council goes back it is the Council's decision.
Sagarika Ghose: Tell us exactly what your objections were to the existing system, to the old system.
Kapil Sibal: The existing system didn't bother about school results. The existing system made children and their parents go through mental tension. It made children go through 30 separate exams and go from institution to institution. The existing system brought about the coaching industry, which means only the urban rich or those who can afford to send their children… and the existing system didn't bother about the girl students. It didn't allow the girl students to compete; they are the best students in the country. So the existing system has a lot of flaws and I tell the IITs even today, you give me a solution, I will request the Council to look at it.
Sagarika Ghose: But they are saying that in the last 40 years we have created excellence precisely because of the controlled nature of the admissions.
Kapil Sibal: The excellence of this system is because of the excellence of the quality of the students and I also give great credit to the faculty. But it is the quality of the students because the best students come to the IITs and the best students will still come. So there is no dilution of that quality. But there are certain ills in the implementations of the present system which need to be addressed. The IITs themselves should have come up with solutions in the last 40 years.
Sagarika Ghose: What would you tell the student who is today faced with some uncertainty because he doesn't know what kind of exam he would have to take.
Kapil Sibal: You take care of your class 12 board you will have many opportunities. Because at the moment after class 10 if you run to the coaching industry you don't do well in the class 12 exam, you don't get into IIT and then you don't get to any institute. So if you really take care of your class 12 your fundamentals will be much better. And I tell the IIT system to open your windows and look at the ordinary student who doesn't necessary get into the IIT system.
Sagarika Ghose: But they will have to however now have the double burden the board exam as well as the IIT advance exam.
Kapil Sibal: Well, you know, Sagarika there is a flaw in your question, the moment you say that the board exam is a burden that destroys the argument. A board exam is not a burden it is the foundation of future knowledge.
Sagarika Ghose: Just a small technical question. How will they repeat the exam?
Kapil Sibal: They can repeat. If they are happy with their board exams they can sit for the IIT exam next year.
Sagarika Ghose: But how can you repeat the final school leaving exam that will create chaos?
Kapil Sibal: Why. You can improve your board exams. We also want two, three exams for IITs every year. Then the IITs will decide.
Sagarika Ghose: We are coming to the end of the interview but let me ask about the vision of education. You have come across with the lot of reform measures, the RTE, the standard board exams. Do you feel it is difficult to push reforms in the education sector because the stakeholders have to be persuaded, point number one. And point number two what is your vision of education because many say that you are in your quest to reduce elitism you are also reducing excellence.
Kapil Sibal: Please tell me in what manner any single decision I have taken reduced excellence. In fact all my reform measures address two issues - access and quality. And both go hand in hand, without them you cant have an appropriate school system. And you can't have a knowledge society. So children must be empowered by their school system and through the class 12 board. We must not dilute excellence and if anybody has a better solution I will embrace it.
Sagarika Ghose: So if the IITs even today come up with a better solution… are you willing to IIT faculty members.
Kapil Sibal: See anything which is better we must be open to it.
Sagarika Ghose: But for the moment these exams stand but if there is an even better exam, even better formulation.
Kapil Sibal: They may come up with something and say look this is even better let's achieve these very objectives which you have talked about in this particular manner. I'm sure the Council will embrace it.
Sagarika Ghose: Last question. Would you like to reassure the IITs that you don't want to dilute the excellence that they are so committed to?
Kapil Sibal: Absolutely. Not only… we are protective about the quality and excellence of the IIT system and its autonomy. Now we will continue to protect it because they are our premier institutions. We very much respect the faculty. Even if they have voice their opinion against us we don't think that opinion can be just brushed aside. We have issues that need to be addressed and as we move along there will be changes in this system also. We will accept those changes because ultimately that's what we are looking at.
Sagarika Ghose: So you will keep changing till you arrive to a perfect formula.
Kapil Sibal: There is never a perfect system, till we arrive at the best possible formula.
Sagarika Ghose: For the moment that joint entrance exam, the old exam is not to your liking. We need to change that. On that you are unbending.
Kapil Sibal: Even they know that. They want a different kind of change. You know, if they wanted all that why did they wait for so many years. Suddenly when I'm moving forward they are saying no that is not right, this is right. But they should have come up with these solutions because they are more concerned for the future of their children.
Sagarika Ghose: Kapil Sibal thank you very much for joining us.
Kapil Sibal: Thank you.