Students who did their Plus Two exams under as many as 40 different examination boards are appearing for this year's entrance examinations which began on April 18
For the first time this year the performance of candidates in the Plus Two examinations would not just be a footnote in their academic record, but will decide their course of study in a professional college.
For nearly three decades now the entrance examinations for engineering and medical examinations have been an annual jamboree in Kerala's academic life. No other examination has perhaps triggered this kind of interest or generated this kind of anxiety in society.
What started off as a single examination for medical and engineering courses got bifurcated in the year 2000. Today the professional education scenario looks nothing like what it did when the first batch of students in Kerala wrote the entrance examinations. This year's entrance examinations themselves are landmark events.
At the beginning of its tenure when the present government first spoke about effecting changes in the entrance examination there were many, including in the academic community, who said such changes would never happen. When the entrance reforms committee submitted its interim report in 2006, changes seemed imminent. That was not to be. Even when Kerala sent to the Centre a draft Bill allowing for 50 per cent weight for Plus Two marks for preparing the engineering and medical rank-lists, scepticism was the reigning mood in the State.
As late as 2010 when Education Minister M. A. Baby announced one evening that the marks scored in the Plus Two examinations would be given ‘weight' in the preparation of the engineering rank-list, there was a sense of disbelief even among officials of the Education Department.
However, amidst all the tumult of the ‘self-financing imbroglio' (as it came to be called in certain sections of the media), the scepticism about various reform initiatives and the seemingly endless delays in course correction, changes did come to the entrance examinations. For the first time in 2011 the performance of candidates in the Plus Two examinations would not just be a footnote in their academic record. It could decide whether they find a seat in a professional college or not.
For the first time, a statistical formula would be used to prepare a rank-list using the scores of candidates across the examinations of many boards in India and abroad. As per the formula suggested by the ‘normalisation committee', the scores of candidates in diverse examinations boards including the ICSE and the CBSE would be mapped to the scores of the State higher secondary examinations.
This year's entrance examinations which began on April 18 would include students who did their Plus Two examinations under as many as 40 different examination boards. Once the entrance examinations are over the Commissioner for Entrance Examinations has to get the data relating to all these boards before his office can begin the process of normalising the scores and prepare the engineering rank-list.
This change in the engineering entrance examination has had its ripples in the higher secondary examinations too. Even as the entrance examinations are on, the Directorate of Higher Secondary Education is overseeing the evaluation of the Plus Two answer-sheets in 53 camps across Kerala. No less than 20,000 teachers are involved in this exercise. What makes the higher secondary examinations special this year is that the answer-sheets of physics, chemistry and mathematics would be subjected to double valuation.
The Director of Public Instruction Mohammed Hanish, who now holds additional charge as director, higher secondary, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that close to 7,000 teachers would be deployed at 14 camps for double valuation. “We hope to finish the double valuation by the second week of May and in any case not later than May 20. As soon as the double valuation of these three papers is over, we would immediately send the scores to the CEE,” he explained.
Once these scores are received, the office of the CEE would require about a month to publish the engineering rank-list. First, the CEE has to receive the scores of other examination boards from the students and his office has to verify those scores through official channels. Once this is done the scores would be subjected to normalisation using the software already developed for this by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
The only potential problem is the possible non-availability of examination-related data from any board in the country or abroad. There is no chance of this happening to any major board such as the CBSE or the ICSE, officials associated with the normalisation process told The Hindu-EducationPlus. “The problem may come, say, from a State in the north-east which may not have computerised data relating to its Plus Two examination. The normalisation committee would then have to take a call on normalising the score of candidates from that board.
All positives about Kerala entrance reforms said, the process is by no means complete. Important recommendations of the reforms committee like the setting up of a question bank complete with online tutorials, for instance, still remains unimplemented. The next Education Minister has his task clearly cut out.