June 6: What Tamil Nadu thinks today, India may think tomorrow, if at all.
Chief minister Jayalalithaa abolished the common entrance examination a day before the Central Advisory Board for Education meets in Delhi to consider such a proposal and on the day Bengal announced results of the equivalent test (JEE) in the state.
As in Bengal with the joint entrance examination and in other states, the Tamil Nadu test was the passport for students there to professional institutes.
The Tamil Nadu Professional Colleges Entrance Examination, introduced in 1984-85, was a “traumatic experience for parents and children as it appears to determine at one stroke the future of the child,” the chief minister said while announcing the decision to abolish the tests from this academic year (2005-06) itself.
Under the “new system”, the admissions will be “purely on the basis of the marks obtained in the plus two (board) examination” and the “rule of reservation”, or the quotas for the backward class and scheduled castes and tribes.
The pressure for the change came from the Opposition which had threatened to hit the streets on the argument that under the system that has existed so far rural students suffered because they could not afford the private tuition required to prepare for the entrance test.
Jayalalithaa moved fast in an election year and votes are, obviously, many more in rural areas than in cities.
The “rural” student was also in focus in Bengal where the JEE results showed a dramatic rise in the number of students from the districts on the merit list.
Nearly 50 per cent of the students on the merit list for engineering, medical and architecture are from state-aided institutions in the districts. “Till last year, prominent city schools had dominated the JEE merit lists. We are happy to see this time that schools in the districts are not lagging behind,” said N.R. Banerjea, chairman of the JEE board.
Avik Kumar Layek, a boy from Bankura Zilla School, topped the medical list. Bankura, one of Bengal’s poorest districts, is proving to be the surprise package this year, having recently cornered Madhyamik glory too.
Sushri Kundu, a girl from Saidabad Manindrachandra Vidyapith in Murshidabad, headed the architecture list and Sanchayan Sen, of Vivekananda Institution in Howrah, led the engineering rankings.
Banerjea explained that the board had drawn up a comprehensive action plan ' change of syllabus, pattern of questions, replacing questions that require long answers with multiple-choice questions ' to ensure district schools do better. “The current year’s results show that we have been successful in our endeavour to help the district schools to do well,” he said.
Would Bengal follow in Tamil Nadu’s footsteps and scrap JEE altogether so that rural students can do even better'
“This is a debatable issue. I don’t know why the Tamil Nadu government has felt the necessity to do away with joint entrance examinations,” Banerjea said.
He revealed that the college principals’ council in Bengal had raised a similar demand a few years ago, but the state government decided after some debate that JEE should continue.
But the thinking in Delhi is more like the one in Tamil Nadu with the emphasis being on cutting the workload on students at all levels. Tomorrow’s meeting will show which way the Centre tilts.
Having been one of the first to introduce JEE, Bengal could well be the last to abolish it, if at all.