The recent announcement by NASSCOM on the likelihood of a common entrance test for all those who wish to enter the top 20 IT and ITES firms has elicited mixed reactions.
NASSCOM officials say the test would be conducted in two forms, the NACTECH (NASSCOM Assessment Compliance Technology Test) for students of final-year engineering, technology, Master of Computer Applications, M.Sc. Software and M.Sc. Information Technology students, while arts and science students will have to take the NAC (NASSCOM Assessment Compliance Test).
The test will have no negative marking, and will have only objective-type questions. Students will be graded based on their performance. “Now that most companies are streamlining their training processes, there is no use training huge batches the same way. This test will help us know who can be put into what kind of position,” says Rohan Kejriwala, an HR consultant.
“Employers often have complaints about certain students not equipped with basic skills. This will help the competent and competitive students surge ahead of others,” he adds.
“We are five million now, and we hope to grow up to 250 million by 2020. The focus is shifting to attracting huge investments, and engaging employees to understand the customer's customer. From becoming employable we are moving towards being deployable,” says K. Purushottaman, regional director, NASSCOM.
Companies including HCL, Infosys, TCS, CTS, Wipro, Accenture, and Patni are among the IT companies who will recognise this test. The tests are not restricted to students of particular institutions as any final-year student, irrespective of the institution he or she studies in, can attend the test, said the officials.
These tests were introduced about three years ago but were not made mandatory. Nearly two lakh students wrote it in 2010.
“The common test is likely to be held from this academic year. Discussions are going on, and we would come out with details soon,” said Sandhya Chintala, senior director, Nasscom Education Initiative.
The exam will test the student's ability in mathematics, etiquette, communication, analytical thinking and logical reasoning, besides his knowledge in the engineering discipline he has specialised in.
While many laud this initiative as it would help set standards for a common evaluation and professionalise the industries, college authorities feel there is a need to look at the bigger picture.
Though observers are not expecting the recruitment numbers to come down especially with companies such as TCS already announcing over 60,000 as their planned intake for this year, speculations persist on how these tests, when made mandatory, would affect teaching in colleges.
“There is a possibility that engineering colleges would soon become the coaching centres for NACTECH, whereby teaching the engineering curriculum would soon fade out,” says S.Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean, Sastra University.
“It is a retrograde step. The quality of engineers will come down further,” he adds. Also, it will deny the student the multiple opportunities to get employed, for if he/she is graded misfit in the test he/she won't be recruited by any top firm, says Mr. Subramanian. Educational institutions should also be allowed to have a say in this, and NASSCOM should facilitate the test, not mandate it, he adds.
“While it is very good idea to standardise evaluation and recruitment procedure, it is not right just to consider the ‘demand' and ignore the fact that for such good employability, we need good teachers,” says Prof.C. Thangaraj, vice-chancellor, Anna University of Technology, Chennai, adding, “What we need is an effective support system for a good teaching structure that can supply good engineers the market needs.”
The emphasis on communication skills might affect people hailing from rural areas largely, say experts. “After over 12 years spent in focusing on mathematics, physics and chemistry, when language communication suddenly becomes very important, it is not fair to expect everyone to be adept at it,” says Mr. Thangaraj.
“The tests can be one of the parameters for judging the capabilities of the new recruits and not the only one,” says Shashikant Albal, director, SSN College of Advanced Computer Engineering.
“Many students have a research bent of mind, or are excellent managers. Comprehensive test patterns should be evolved where deserving students get their due, even if they fail these objective tests,” he says.