IIT faculty agreed to the recent changeover to an objective-type exam but not without a fight. Some members of the faculty now say that the new system is forcing students to undergo coaching from as early as Class 6. “It is ideal to get raw talent from any part of the country, rather than urban students who go through the grueling coaching process to eliminate answers,” said T S Natarajan, organizing chairman for JEE 2010 who has been an IIT faculty for around 40 years. “It is my opinion that a subjective paper is the right way to test students. With an objective paper you don’t know if the student has chosen the right answer by fluke or by reasoning.” To see how a student’s mind works you must know how he arrives at the answer, he said.
But, many who earlier voiced similar views have accepted the current system because of the large number of aspirants. “It’s a compromise. Faculty members would love to have a subjective paper, but that could also mean subjective evaluation. And, in a world of RTI activism we cannot have that,” said S K Das, IIT-Madras academic research dean. He said that one of the reason she has accepted the current system is that even faculty who are willing to evaluate subjective papers may not be willing to take the risk in today’s world where a mistake would become big news. “It will be trending on social media if one mistake is made,” he said.
Others are not so sure the type of testing matters. V G Idichandy, professor emeritus at IIT-Madras, who as dean of students spoke out against the quality of students that the coaching system was pushing into the IITs in 2008, said, “Regardless of whether the test is objective or subjective,the toppers will be the same.But,the selection process need not stop with just a test. It could involve other facets of a student’s life, like what kind of social work the student has been involved in, or other curricular and co-curricular activities,” Idichandy said.
Many in IIT feel that the current selection process is filtering out some bright minds while giving seats to some others who cannot keep up with the academic rigour. A more holistic process may be needed, they say.