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Govt plans Q&A bank for entrance tests

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The government plans an online Q&A bank for students preparing for all-India entrance tests, and hopes it will encourage them to skip private coaching. But experts are sceptical.

A sum of Rs 100 crore has been earmarked under the 12th Plan (2012-17) for the Q&A bank, which will initially cover the all-India engineering, medical and management entrance tests.

No timetable has been set yet for the Q&A bank’s launch. The Union human resource development ministry will seek help from the IITs, top medical colleges and B-schools to prepare the questions and answers to be made available on the ministry’s Sakshat education portal, sources said.

“We will involve experts to prepare as many questions and answers as they can on each subject. We hope the question bank will discourage students from going to private coaching institutes,” a senior ministry official said.

An IIT professor said certain foreign universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had their own Q&A banks but Indian students largely eschewed these and depended on private coaching. No Indian institute now offers Q&A banks to admission seekers, he said.

The professor, who did not wish to be quoted, doubted that the ministry’s Q&A bank would be able to wean students away from private coaching.

“Private coaching centres claim to give personal attention to the students. Besides, these centres provide tips on how to score more in the entrance tests. I don’t think their business would be affected,” he said.

Anand Kumar, whose Super-30 institute in Patna provides free coaching to poor students for engineering entrance tests, said “this lip service” by the government would not be able to check the private coaching industry.

He said the quality of education in government schools was so poor that parents were forced to send their children to private tutors.

“Unless you improve the quality of school education by revising content and motivating the teachers, students will continue to go to private coaching centres,” he said.

Kumar agreed that the proposed Q&A bank could “supplement the preparation of students” but said it would not be of much help to rural students who lack access to computers and Internet connectivity.

“I shall urge the government to prepare the question bank in the form of booklets and supply them to the villages,” he said.

Kushal Sen, an IIT Delhi professor, said the success of the Q&A bank would depend heavily on the quality of the questions.

“I think students will follow the (Q&A) bank if they find that the questions (and answers) cover all the subjects and are of a good standard. A lot of effort will be needed to prepare such a question bank,” Sen said.

A survey this year by industry body Assocham suggests that the private coaching industry in India is worth about $23.7 billion (Rs 1.46 lakh crore) a year.

According to a report by former IIT Kharagpur director Damodar Acharya, nearly 25 lakh students take multiple entrance tests every year to qualify for undergraduate engineering courses. Some 12 lakh appear in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) for MTech and PhD courses in engineering.

About 10 lakh candidates appear in the five national-level management entrance tests and another 10 lakh take the Central Board of Secondary Education’s all-India pre-medical test.