In an earlier post on de-stressing higher education, I had argued about the irrelevance of the JEE / AIEEE as instruments of selection for entrance to higher education and the Damodar Acharya committee has recommended that the JEE should be scrapped. This is good. But the proposal to replace the same with a SAT style aptitude test is not a good solution either.
These aptitude tests -- earlier referred to as IQ tests -- have been found to be rather flawed because they seem to measure one aspect of what is known as "intelligence" or "aptitude" and would again be another strain on the students. Instead, let us focus on one examination and let that be the CBSE XII.
Why do I say this ? Because the cost and effort involved in managing the logistics of two nationwide examinations is better utilised in making sure that one examination is managed better. Second, by making the process more broad based, we will be able to iron out the vagaries and uncertainties of performance delivered by a student on just one day.
Of course it may be argued that students who appear in non-CBSE boards would be at a disadvantage but strictly speaking they are already inconvenienced by having to take their own board examination plus the SAT-style aptitude test. However the CBSE XII would be closer in syllabus to any other board examination than any new SAT style aptitude test. So yes, CBSE students may be at an advantage but no, the advantage would not be any worse than the present situation where students are forced to take JEE / AIEEE / VITEE / State JEE / BITSAT and a whole slew of other examinations.
Ideally speaking all students should take just one examination at the end of class XII but given the diversity of opinion in India and the argumentative nature of the population this may take some time but the CBSE XII could be a good first step in this direction.
Looking ahead, a possible and feasible road map could be as follows
1. The percentile marks in the CBSE XII should be selection criteria for all Central universities like IIT, NIT etc. All students will have to take at best one and at worst two examinations for all central colleges
2. At some point in time, State government and private engineering colleges will see the benefit of using CBSE XII as an entrance examination.
3. After some more time -- and subject to some honest political soul searching -- state level boards may agree to merge their XII exam with the CBSE XII. This may be facilitated if states can be given a position of authority within the CBSE hierarchy.
4. This road map will be greatly facilitated if the CBSE XII can be conducted multiple times in the same year so that students can take the examination at leisure and in comfort. Calculation of percentile in the CBSE XII can be done on the basis of multi year population -- this has been done successfully in GRE / GMAT for years -- and this will ensure greater reliability and stability of scores.
The only resistance to this approach would be from those who administer this plethora of tests. There is significant money that is spent in conducing these national level examinations and a good part of the money that is spent ends up -- legitimately or otherwise -- in people's pockets. A slowdown in this money flow may be unfortunate reason why a single CBSE XII may opposed by the nation's education system.