"You cannot take the coaching culture out of the Indian education system. Indians send their children for coaching from a very young age. Coaching is a necessary evil," said an IIT director, on condition of anonymity.
This was in the wake of suggestions by the Ashok Misra committee on revamping of the IITs' joint entrance examination (JEE) for entry. Ashok Misra is an ex-director of IIT-Bombay.
The committee has suggested a single entrance examination for both the IITs and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs), with no weightage to school board marks and doing away with the JEE (Main).
The current system of admission through a two-stage entrance was reviewed by the IIT Council last month. It was decided the system would be examined in depth by a group of eminent persons, to see if it needed modifying.
If the Misra suggestions are accepted, those aspiring to get admission in the premier engineering institutes will have to take an aptitude test that will evaluate their scientific mettle and innovative thinking ability. The online test might be offered twice or more times a year. A National Testing Service (NTS) will be set up to conduct the test.
A member of the Committee of Eminent Persons said the purpose of the test was to discourage students from 'mugging' (the common term for blind memorising) or joining coaching classes, as is now the norm. The government will keep the committee's recommendations in the public domain, for consultation with stakeholders.
"Coaching institutes are omnipresent. Be it IAS, CA, engineering or MBA, you find coaching in every field. Till India addresses its education system, the coaching culture will dominate. The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has to look at making the sector better. In my view, the coaching centres are doing a brilliant job of teaching children what schools have failed to do," said an IIT director, on condition of anonymity.
Another director said if the school system was good, a parallel coaching system is not needed.
Students would get admission to the 19 IITs based on the test conducted by NTS, the report has said. A committee member said the inspiration was the SAT in America, which students there have to take for getting admission into colleges. SAT tests high school students in literacy and writing skills.
When the aptitude test is introduced, the JEE (Mains) - the first round of tests for admission to IITs - would be done away. Those qualifying the aptitude test would take the JEE (Advanced).
"The details will have to be worked out. There will be a cut-off to qualify for the JEE (Advanced)," said a committee member. He added these were recommendations and MHRD would have to look at how to implement these.
To discourage students from enrolling in coaching institutes, the government had got the format of the JEE changed in 2012, dividing it into the Mains and the Advanced. This was done on the recommendation of a committee chaired by Idi Chandy, a senior professor at IIT-Madras.
The change, claim coaching centre owners, has failed to stem the flow of students to their doors. They have since seen a 25 per cent increase in admissions.
The MHRD ministry is keen to implement the recommended changes. In a statement on Saturday, it said the entrance exam would follow the pattern of the current JEE (Advanced), and would test the knowledge of students in physics, chemistry and mathematics. The IITs would conduct it and they'd been requested to set up a system for developing mock-JEEs, to help students prepare, weaning them away from the "coaching industry".
The ministry says it will also take measures to improve school education and the pattern of examinations conducted by different school boards, so that students develop a scientific mettle by the time they are in Class XII, without depending on coaching institutes.
Till 2016-17, when the aptitude test could be introduced, the two-level JEE would continue. The top 200,000 students from JEE (Main) would be allowed to take the JEE (Advanced). About 40,000 students will qualify JEE (Advanced) and joint counselling for the IITs and the NITs would continue, as was done last year.