In a discussion thread at LinkedIn many months ago, I had argued for: (i) using the board marks for filtering out the top 5% or so of students who would be eligible to write the entrance test to the IITs (and by IITs, I also meant other top colleges like COEP); (ii) using a basic IQ test as the entrance test for the actual selection; (iii) deciding branches only after 3 or 4 semesters, if necessary by merit at the Institute, thereby making branch selection choices more realistic and easing pressure on a single test (for both the taker and the conductor of the test); and (iv) making programs more inter- and multi-disciplinary so that the education is more broad-based, and therefore, the branch/major is no longer a major issue in the first place.
Main benefits: (i) Students would have to take the XII board seriously. (ii) However, with the bar placed at 5% (for IITs), there wouldn’t be too much of pressure/stress on the student, and no sacrifice of a well-rounded growing-up—an actual sacrifice that is actually demanded by having to devote so much time to the JEE preparations (starting as early in the growing-up years as the VII standard). (iii) Subject competency would still be ensured by XII, as it should be. (iv) IQ tests cannot be mastered beyond a point, and preparation materials for letting anyone rise up to that point can be practically made available very easily at low cost to all, thereby also satisfactorily addressing the “denial of opportunity” issue, i.e., ensuring justice to the talented but rural and poor students who cannot avail of high-end coaching.
The main idiocy of the recent decision of the IIT Kanpur senate (chaired by a non-JPBTI Prof. Dhande) is this: They have continued the IITs’ misguided history/tradition of confusing the testing for certain narrow competencies in specific subject areas in an intensive and acute manner, as a “good” if not a “great” substitute in place of testing for the more basic (and therefore more broadly applicable, more reliable) intellectual abilities, i.e. testing in a mode that has been shown time and again to statistically correlate better with performance in future academics and life.
The reasons I call it an idiocy: These idiots are “educated,” traveled, paid (employed plus consulted) and respected (awarded with outstanding PhD thesis/gold-medal/swarnajayanti/Bhatnagar/Infosys/etc. awards) well enough for us to keep the expectation that they should have known better.
They should have been able to detect a primitive fallacy involved in taking a narrower-based conclusion and applying it to a much broader realm. This fallacy is like, for instance, confusing BJP’s development with India’s development—a milder version of uttering “Indira is India,” but involving exactly the same fallacy anyway.
Outstretching a conclusion is a very primitive fallacy, but with their obsession with deduction, and aversion to induction, it’s a very common fallacy with an overwhelming majority of intellectual Indians. Indians typically have no time or inclination for locating in reality the referents of concepts or ideas, and therefore delimiting the respective scopes of their ideas or conclusions. They not just frolic beyond the confines of specific scopes or meanings, intellectual Indians are fond of running amok across all boundaries of any meaning at all, oftentimes also gladly passing beyond into complete meaninglessness on principle. (That they do it on principle is the point.) Outstretching a conclusion, mistaking it to apply in contexts for which it had no scope, is, thus, a very common fallacy with Indians, esp. with the intelligent and intellectual type of Indians. (Not just Brahmins, but all of them, “nav-buddhas” included.) The fallacy involved in saying that JEE performance is the one, great, settler for everything is precisely the same! (The more sober among them say that it’s one, great, settler for the UG admissions to IITs. Quantitatively speaking, most of them aren’t so sober.)
JEE is a subject-intensive examination. No matter how hard it may be (or how fair its administration and evaluation processes), you cannot change the implications arising out of this basic nature of this examination. Just the fact that it is hard does not make it suitable as an admission criterion—not even at the top end. (In fact, in case you didn’t know it, JEE *is* so hard that even the topper typically has not been able to crack more than 70% of those problems—all of which can be easily solved by an assuredly JEE-failed ordinary MSc guy, or the JPBTI’s American MS classmate, just a few years later. That’s for the automatic geniuses that the JEE toppers are deemed to be. In contrast, your average snobbish JPBTI has been able to crack only about 30–35% of those problems. They snob around, all of them. Even to someone like me who didn’t take JEE out of choice and so, JEE cannot be taken as the common basis with respect to which to snob around. And, they snob around even after reading about my research results. But, yes, I know the fact that they couldn’t crack 2/3 of the problems (and most of the times, keep that fact only in mind, but that’s reality, anyway).)
The basic limitation of any subject-based examination is that it tests the skills developed only in those specific topics. It does not aim to test intellectual abilities, per se.
From the epistemological angle, the issue involved here is the content-vs-method issue.
Due to man’s metaphysical nature, it’s the method of using his mind that matters. That is the relevant philosophical observation in general.
Now, when it comes to engineering and technology programs, they comprise of far too many inhomogeneous, diverse and practically oriented sort of courses. The programs consists of courses that are far too disparate, inhomogeneous and composite, in a sense. They demand learning to use (and to switch at will) the mind from a deeply theoretical mode and to an immediate and direct, practical mode. You cannot make a subject-primary, even a subject-intensive examination a standard to determine suitability to such courses. You must have a test that emphasizes methods. Ditto, for professional courses like medicine. I don’t know about other courses like architecture and fine arts, where artistic abilities might be tested to a greater extent. For literature and all, there could be other test formats, I don’t know. But when it comes to science and engineering, that’s something I have studied, and I do know. Methods matter far more here.
Now it’s obvious that since content and method each is an inseparable attribute, you can’t have a test that tests only the method—or even only the content. There will always be some concrete content to any test that aims to test for method (or skills in using the mind). But the point is, the required content can be made only minimally relevant, it can be made highly independent of the concretes. Tests of mental abilities like the IQ tests precisely show how to do that. Also SAT. (BTW, as I had mentioned in that thread, in Indian context, due to diversity of mother-tongues and non-uniformity in the mastery of the English language, we will probably have no choice but to drop vocabulary based questions if in English, and will have to be careful about the essay-writing type of questions. However, questions related to reading comprehension etc. can of course be included; the test need not entirely do away with the verbal section.)
Given the entirety of the context, what we actually need is a test like that–the one that focuses on the method of using the mind, the one that measures the basic intellectual skills. Call it the “IQ” test if you wish. What we need is a test like that.
But, of course, the IIT Kanpur idiots think that since the Indian government has appointed them to their hallowed posts (“we admit students on the basis of *JEE*, you see!”), no considerations of reality need enter their self-confessedly high-caliber thought processes. After all, the senatorial idiots in Virginia, USA, too, hold their JPBTIs in high esteem, right? If so, then how do the demands made by the metaphysical nature of man, of knowledge, of S&T knowledge, matter when *they*, as a group, collectively decide that it must be a subject-based test like the JEE?
Don’t say that the suggestion is impractical. For years, a similar format used to be implemented for the National Talent Search Examination. The format was found to be quite successful. Even when the pressure was undue: selection of just 500. When you are going to select some 10,000 folks, the pressure is far far less. With the population increasing as we go highest merit to lower merit, test reliability at the cut-off can be far better.
Also, another very important point.
One wonders if people (possibly including the above-mentioned IIT Kanpur idiots) have not been deliberately confusing the government-enforced protection of the JEE coaching industry, with Capitalism. Don’t think that just because IITs are described (in the Times of India as well as all other gazettes) as islands of excellence, a deliberate confusion like that isn’t possible. Human nature can be far more degraded than that. (Check out the entries with tags like “ethics,” “misconduct/fraud,” “plagiarism” etc. at academic blogs like nanopolitan.)
The JEE coaching industry is worth thousands of crores annually—more than all the IITs budgets put together. I do often see a defense of coaching being offered where arguments are laced with terms from capitalism.
In this context of Capitalism and all, let me remind them of another one of my opinions (mentioned right in that LinkedIn thread—and, noticeably, not actively supported by a single JPBTI): First, IITs should be privatized. Second, as a consequence, each IIT should design its own education programs and conduct entrance tests appropriate to those programs. Third, if *I* were to be the decision maker at a privatized IIT, I would hold the above-mentioned two tier process: XII as filter + IQ for main selection + counseling for branch selection after 3–4 semesters. I think it would make my IIT better than the others—including more profitable. That’s why. (And when I mention profitable, I mean it in the proper hierarchical sense, not in the sense of putting the cart ahead of the horse: money would follows better standards, better products, provided that it’s a free market, but money wouldn’t by itself and automatically lead to better products, better standards—positive actions by productive men would.)
I regret that I share an alma mater with Prof. Dhande—an institution that had showed him the benefits of branch allocations after 2 semesters. His, therefore, is the most inexcusable error. But, of course, he is assuredly not alone. People (i.e. professors at IITs) prominently display their US-top-5 universities PhD/post-doc affiliations on their resumes and Web pages, and still behave (or perhaps even pretend) as if they have never known about how SAT delivers better results in the USA. It’s the same test that had selected the guides of these idiots’ PhD theses, and also these idiots’ junior research associates during their post-docs, and also these idiots’ collaborators. (Sometimes, there wasn’t even a SAT. But noticing such things is just far too much to expect from these hallowed bureaucrats. And bureaucrats is what IIT professors de facto are. (If you don’t believe me, take the Xerox of your mark-sheet and ask a Ratan Tata or a Mukesh Ambani to attest it for you. Then, go to any one of these IIT idiots.))
Idiotic. That’s what most all of their arguments, debates, and even conclusions are… Anyway, what better to expect from Indians—esp. those running the IITs?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Notice that even as these idiots (i.e. IIT professors) plan for yet another foreign trip (they are allowed one every two/three years, and once allowed, how can they say no?), yet another fully paid time-pass sabbatical (more than a year at a stretch, they are allowed one), and, far more importantly, eyeing yet another award (they *need* to feel good—there is no JEE after JEE, only awards are possible, so they need to get those awards to make them feel good), do remember, I go jobless.
I go jobless, despite all my achievements.
And, remember that not a single JPBTI has done anything about it—neither could one expect for these bastards do anything in the future either. Not unless some American (preferably a white one) does something to them by way of pushing them in that direction. Not until then. … And, now, if I factor in what I know about Americans….
But even if not with JPBTIs, I could get a job. Remember that. And do something about it.