Scientific adviser asks PM for one national exam system

Recommends An Immediate Halt To The Ongoing System Of Multiple Tests; Suggests Adapting The American Method
Bangalore/Mumbai: In the thick of the entrance exam season, a furious dispatch to the Prime Minister from his own scientific adviser has termed such tests as one big menace.

Strongly recommending an immediate halt to the system of sitting for a pile of exams, CNR Rao, who heads the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SACPM), said in a letter sent last week that the American method of holding one national exam before joining university is the way.

Putting it bluntly, Rao told the PM that India is said to “have an examination system but not an education system... When will young people stop taking exams and do something worthwhile?”

Referring to the exam overdrive, Rao briefed Manmohan Singh on the various flavours of examinations that dot a student’s life: “It is important to relook at the entire examination system including the system of final examinations, entrance examinations, qualifying examinations, selection examinations, and so on. Now one hears of a proposal to have a qualifying or accreditation examination for medical graduates and post-graduates.”

Students who groan under the pressure of multiple entrance exams will cheer this advice. Citing the example of Joint Entrance Examination conducted by IIT, he said: “IIT entrance exams have the reputation of being difficult and purposeful, but they have also had a negative effect on young minds. Young people suffer so much to succeed in these entrance exams, and in the process lose excitement in education itself.’’ The lakhs who don’t make it across the IIT gates, Rao told the PM, get exhausted and can’t perform as well as young people with fresh minds.

Talking about the agony that the Indian higher education sector is in, the SACPM, in a brief document sent to the PM recently — accessed by TOI — noted: “Today there is not a single educational institution in India which is equal to the best institution in the advanced countries’’.

In view of the growing number of aspirants for higher education, the SACPM has readied a 10-point checklist of key problems and challenges. It has asked the human resources development ministry to set up a taskforce to come up with an action-oriented document within a year.

“We should seriously consider a possible scenario wherein the young India advantage enables India to emerge as the provider of trained manpower for the entire world in the next 20-30 years. This could be a worthwhile national objective,’’ he told the PM.

CHECKLIST FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
Raising the bar: Provide all required support to 10 educational institutions to enable them to compete with the best in advanced countries
Look ahead: There’s a manpower mismatch in many countries with too many professionals in some subjects. Prepare a vision document which foresees the problems 20 years hence
Inclusivity: Increase the number of fully residential schools up to higher secondary level in rural India to nurture rural talent.
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