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CM’s nod to common test

Mamata Banerjee has agreed to Delhi’s proposal to have a single entrance examination for engineering from 2014 rather than a year later, Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said on Thursday.

“Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has told me that Bengal will join the all-India single entrance test for engineering from 2014,” Sibal said at a news conference in the city.

The Union minister had met Mamata at Writers’ Buildings earlier in the day. The chief minister’s office didn’t make any statement about what she and Sibal discussed.

Some states like Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra have already accepted the proposal to have a common entrance test from 2014. “We hope the other states will gradually follow the new system and the country will slowly move towards a new era,” Sibal said.

The all-India common entrance test will do away with separate joint entrance exams for entry into engineering institutions in individual states. Delhi had originally planned to shift to a single entrance test by 2013.

The deadline was extended because several state boards, including the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, have yet to establish parity in curriculum with the all-India boards like the Central Board of Secondary Education and the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations.

Mamata’s consent to the 2014 switch, as announced by Sibal, has raised questions in academic circles about whether the state government is sure about what it needs to do.

Higher education secretary Satish Tiwary had recently written to the Union human resource development ministry that Bengal would be able to switch to the all-India common entrance test only in 2015. He said Bengal would need to first align the Higher Secondary syllabus with that of ISC and CBSE Class XII.

The Higher Secondary curriculum is set to undergo changes in 2013 and the first batch studying the revised syllabus will write their exams in 2015.

Sibal said one of the primary objectives of adopting the single-test formula was to reduce the number of entrance exams a student needed to take to pursue a course in engineering.

“There are plenty of entrance exams and students are often required to sit for more than one test. We want to stop this practice,” he added.

Another objective of introducing the common entrance test is to give more weightage to the Class XII board exams and discourage students from enrolling for “entrance coaching” in preparation for multiple tests.

A common test would also stop private engineering colleges from charging capitation fees, Sibal said.