As institutes of higher learning go, the IITs occupy an exalted space in the Indian imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that all developments related to the administration of the IITs, one of the few truly world-class institutions in the country, are avidly scrutinised. Witness the ongoing brouhaha over attempts to modify the joint entrance examination (JEE)—with the revamped JEE meeting with criticism from parents and students, the Union ministry of human resource development is reviewing the current two-stage structure of the test. A final decision on whether the current structure will be retained or if the JEE will revert to the earlier format will only be taken later this year. Yet an internal analysis of the 2012 JEE by the IITs reveals that the concerns that prompted a reconsideration of the old format remain.
According to the study, students from urban areas comprised a large share of both registered and successful JEE candidates. More than half the candidates who qualified came from 11 cities. And 57% of selected students graduated from schools affiliated to the CBSE. The study also indicated that students from high income families had a better chance of clearing the notoriously difficult JEE, with students in the highest income bracket registering a success rate of 10.3%, almost 8 points higher than those from families in the lowest income slab. These results suggest that access to coaching remains a significant factor in determining a student’s chances of JEE success, which places students from poor families at a disadvantage. When the HRD ministry moved to revamp the JEE, it was ostensibly to prevent students from gaming the test and to make the IITs more inclusive and diverse. The analysis appears to suggest that the government has more work to do on both fronts.