New IIT admission system good: Shashi Tharoor

Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said the new system for admission to IITs which takes into account school board exam marks is a “good system” for fair comparison of different school boards.

“Percentiles are a good basis of comparing different boards and they are non-discriminatory,” Tharoor said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

“They take into account the variations in examinations conducted by different boards. Based on this year’s examination data, the cut-off percentile score for top 20 percentile varies from one board to another. Since different boards evaluate differently, percentiles have been used to ensure a fair comparison of students belonging to different boards,” he said.

Explaining the new system of admission to the IITs, the minister said in the new scheme of the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) (Advanced), only the top 1.5 lakh candidates (including all categories) based on their performance in the JEE (Main) qualify to appear in the JEE (Advanced) examination.

The admissions to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are based only on their category-wise all India rank in JEE (Advanced), subject to the condition that such candidates are in the top 20 percentile of successful candidates in class 12 examinations conducted by their respective boards in applicable categories.

The admission to the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) are based on combined merit list created by giving 40 percent weightage for performance in class 12 Board marks normalized on percentile basis with the remainder 60 percent weightage for performance in the JEE (Main).

This system has been applied uniformly to all the candidates, and, therefore, the chances of students getting affected does not arise, he said.

National talent search examination on November 17


The National Talent Search Examination (NTSE) conducted by the National Council of Education Research and Training ( NCERT) will be held on November 17 across the state. The purpose of the scheme is to identify talented students and nurture them.

The examination is for students of standard X. The stage one of the exam is scheduled on November 17 and stage II will be held on May 11, 2014.

A total of 1,000 scholarships, each carrying Rs 500 per month will be given to students. Of the total scholarships, 15% will be reserved for students belonging to the scheduled caste category, 7.5% for students belonging to scheduled tribe category and 3% for physically challenged students.

The exam will be based on mental ability and scholastic aptitude test which will include language-based questions.

A Report on Higher Education and Technology

The contrast between the private sector and the state sector in Universities is stark when you look at the investments in technology. A large proportion of university classrooms look as they have for decades – large rooms, with seating arranged in traditional rows and columns, lit by a few bulbs and tube lights and a blackboard at the front. Yes, of course, they have been ‘computerised’ and many do have projectors in their classrooms. At least some classrooms. Students, in many of them have access to computers, though often it it is rationed access. Contrast this with the investments of the private sector in their universities who use these amenities to attract students to their campuses. Classroom conditions are better – acoustics, climate control, lighting, net access and of course projectors and microphones.
 Using technology in education is not just about bringing Mahomet to the mountain, it is also about the mountain moving to come to Mahomet. Both, educators and technology need to move closer to each other to work effectively. Education technology has now, just about, come of age and become accessible in more ways than one. Not only has the cost gone down, both in absolute terms and relative to average income levels, but also technology has become more user friendly.
 I clearly remember the first computer to be allocated or purchased by our school, that year a Kendriya Vidyalaya. Decades ago. It came in a box, mysterious processes that we did not see had conspired to send this magical box to the school. No instructions. No support systems. No training. Well, at least not before the box arrived. It was a PC. The youngest teacher in the school, the yoga instructor was handed the box – the others too old or ‘experienced’ to deal with these new fangled ideas. He plugged it in. Spent hours figuring out how to connect the keyboard, monitor and ‘box’. Switched it on. A green dot blinked. He pressed a key on the keyboard. The cursor.. well still called a dot/line since nobody knew any more.. moved down. And blinked. I was called to help. Why me? Because I lived on a campus where they had been using a mainframe computer for years, and I had visited the grand rooms (airconditioned) where the mammoth machines were kept. And had handled punch cards (anyone remember those?). 
 We have come a long way from those days. Sugato Mitra’s hole in the wall experiment, years ago, surely offered more than a blinking screen to the slum kids – which enabled their learning. A new device today offers so much more in terms of usability – it has walked a few steps towards the educator. The educators too have moved on from a phobia of computers to grudging acceptance of its usefulness, especially after the internet proved that access and communications were much more effective than earlier methods. Even so, many professors in higher education do little more than email or create their papers and presentations on the computer. Despite having so much at their disposal. Often, even simple tasks like printing out a paper (why print at all??) or sending out an email are delegated to a younger assistant. 
 One of the biggest challenges in India today is helping educators get on to the technology bandwagon. Many use sophisticated smartphones, have access to good technology, are and badgered by vendors offering them customised products and services. Some, indeed many, have their own websites. At the same time it is also true that higher education institutions have been unable to build and use systems that make learning seamless and effortless. Having a website, or offering a static list of information is not really using the potential of technology to its fullest. A step forward is to use it for marketing the institution – both for potential students and as an ambassadorial tool. Some offer learning materials online, including lesson videos. It is time to do that and far more to create a vibrant learning habit. For the mountain to go to Mahomet.

More rural, women students have cleared JEE this time, claims CBSE

Faced with widespread criticism of the normalization method in JEE Mains, CBSE has now claimed that due to the new pattern, representation of students from rural backgrounds as well as of girl students has shown remarkable improvement.

In 2013, there were 136 students with rural background among the top thousand rankers. In 2012, there were only 90 students from rural India. Urban student representation went down to 864 this year from 910 in 2012. Rural representation also showed gradual growth among first two, three and four thousand rank holders. Among the top 5,000 rankers, there were 861 students from rural background. In percentage terms, 17.22% students among the top 5,000 were from rural India compared to 13.4% last year. Urban representation among the top 5000 came down to 82.78% in 2013 from 86.6% last year.

Female students, CBSE figures showed, increased their presence among the toppers. This year, among the top thousand rankers, there were 136 female students, and 749 among the top 5,000 rankers. Male representation among the top thousand rankers came down to 864 (86.4%) in 2013 compared to 904 (90.4%) last year and 924 (92.4%) in 2011.

Students from government schools are also beginning to make a slow but steady presence among the top rankers. But the rate is slower. Last year, 89 government school students were in the first one thousand. In 2013, it went up to 117. In the top 5,000, there were 624 students from government school background, up from last year’s 545. Private school students continue to dominate. This year, of the first one thousand rankers, 883 students were from private schools, a marginal decline from last year’s 911.

Meanwhile, the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, which had put out a detailed story about the evolution of normalization method, removed the link from its website under pressure from the HRD ministry. But the damage was done as the link has been downloaded and is all over social media sites.

IIT-M faculty may play truant, officially

Faculty members at IIT-Madras focusing on research projects may soon be able to forego classroom duties. Teachers at the institution, proposing various solutions to promote research and deal with increasing workload on faculty members, suggested that researchers be spared from spending long hours in classrooms if they are working on intensive projects.

They also said the number of courses that faculty members take should be divided among two or more teachers.

They made the suggestions to an expert panel following the recruitment of 22 teachers last month. Some departments have already adopted individual models to focus more on research . IIT-M estimates that a faculty member spends a minimum of six hours in classrooms a week and teaches three courses each semester. Every faculty member has five research scholars to guide. But faculty members usually spend much more time than in just guidance of research scholars as they have related work like evaluation as well as administrative duties.

Similar suggestions in the past could not be implemented because of staff shortage. IIT-M has 530 faculty members and 7,800 students. It has a sanctioned strength of 800 faculty members. The institution decided to enroll more students in 2010, resulting in a 54% increase in admissions, but faculty strength remained at 450, roughly the same as previously.

“If a department has more than one faculty member for a specialisation, one can be spared from classroom duties in the first semester and another can be given the same opportunity the next semester,” a professor said.

IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi indicated that the proposals may only be implemented as a stop-gap arrangement and said the institution did not plan to introduce them at the policy level.

“Departments come up with internal arrangements so teaching and research are not compromised,” he said. “Teaching and research should go hand in hand. We had 600 doctoral scholars in 2007 and the number had now gone up to 1,800. Our PhD and MS students make up 30% of the student strength. Increasing enrolment has also resulted in IIT-M acquiring more faculty members and PhD students.”

Not all faculty members support the proposal to reduce classroom hours. A senior professor said IIT-M’s academic freedom allowed teachers to start new programmes in specialised fields.

“The rationale is to give students the opportunity to work on projects with their teachers while also attending classes,” the professor said. “If an ambitious professor doesn’t want to teach students, it will be a loss to the student community. Unlike institutions like Defence Research Development Organisation , IITs are part of the public education system.”

Trained Teachers Should Get Pension as per their Grade: Bombay HC

The Bombay high court has ruled that trained teachers should be given pension applicable to employees in their grade as it would be illegal and unjustified to give them pension of untrained teachers.

Accordingly, justices SJ Vajifdar and MS Sonak recently directed the civic body in Mumbai to pay pension to an assistant trained teacher, who retired from the same post after 27 years of service in a municipal school, on the basis of the pension applicable to a trained teacher.

Charumathi Kannappa Mudaliar, right from the date of her appointment and up to the date of her retirement, i.e. upto October 31, 2009, was paid salary and other benefits payable to an assistant trained teacher.

There is no dispute that the service conditions of Mudaliar entitled her to draw pension upon superannuation. However, for a period of about two years, no pension was paid to her. Ultimately, pension payments commenced on the basis that she had superannuated as an assistant untrained teacher.

There is a difference in the pay scales of Assistant trained teachers and assistant untrained ueachers. This difference naturally persists in the pensionary benefits as well.

After hearing the arguments, the court ruled that she is entitled to pension applicable to trained teachers and hence asked the municipal authorities to pay pension accordingly.

They have been asked to pay her the difference in the pension amounts of trained and untrained teachers and also pay interest of 12 per cent on these arrears by September 2015.

The impugned action was defended, saying Mudaliar’s initial appointment as an assistant trained teacher was defective. The qualifications for appointment of assistant trained teacher was SSC/HSC with Diploma in Education (D.Ed), while she had B.A. and B.Ed (Physical Education and History) degrees.

Mudaliar’s qualifications were not only valid in the relevant field, but were higher than requisite qualification. Despite the same, her initial appointment 27 years prior to the date of her superannuation was not only virtually annulled, but the respondents even sought recovery of the difference in pay between trained and untrained teachers.

They also resisted payment of pensionary benefits commensurate to the post of a trained teacher.

The high court quashed and set aside the impugned communication of December 29, 2011, which directed recoveries from the petitioner as regards her salary and other benefits.

“In our judgment, the action of respondents is totally unreasonable, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”, said the judges.

“There is no dispute that the petitioner possessed qualifications of B.A. and B.Ed, which are higher than the minimum prescribed qualifications of SSC/HSC with D.Ed. It is not the respondent’s case that holding higher qualifications disqualifies a candidate from occupying the post,” they said.

“Nor has it been contended that the qualifications possessed by the petitioner are either not appropriate or have no nexus with the post held by her for almost 27 years. The petitioner’s appointment was duly approved and the petitioner throughout her service period was treated as an Assistant Trained Teacher, which clearly she was,” observed the bench.

The petitioner during her entire service period has been paid salary of an assistant trained teacher. “In these circumstances, we find absolutely no justification on the part of the respondents even to suggest that the petitioner’s initial appointment, made 27 years prior to the date of her superannuation, was in any manner defective,” the judges said.

The judges said they found no justification in permitting the respondents to recover any alleged arrears or to deny pension or pensionary benefits commensurate to the post of the assistant trained teachers to the petitioner.

Any attempt to recover the difference from the petitioner, on the basis that she should have been appointed only as assistant untrained teacher is ex facie illegal and unjustified, the judges held.

“So also, the denial of pension and pensionary benefits commensurate to the post of assistant trained teacher, in which post she has actually discharged the duties for a period of 27 years prior to her superannuation, is also arbitrary, illegal and unjustified,” the judges ruled.

CBSE Plans to Train Teachers for Online Labs

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is pushing its teachers to train for online laboratories, known officially as ‘OLabs’. TOI had reported in 2011 that CBSE is promoting the use of online laboratories for students because it provides a safe environment and 24×7 access.

Students can log on to and conduct almost any experiment online without worrying about accidents happening. ERNET, an autonomous scientific body, is helping CBSE train teachers. ERNET is under the administrative control of department of information technology, Government of India having one of the largest nationwide terrestrial and satellite network with 15 points of presence located at the premier academic and research institutions in major cities of the country. According to ERNET’s website it is serving more than 1,300 institutions in various sectors viz. health, agriculture, higher education, schools and science & technology.

Director (academics, research, training and innovation) Sadhana Parashar wrote to affiliated schools announcing a training programme for teachers in the OLabs initiative. Parashar wrote that to understand these OLabs (Online Labs-Virtual Experiments) a third party “will provide one day training free of cost to teachers of all the CBSE affiliated schools (region wise) in two phases. In the first phase, ERNET will train master trainers (around 1,250) who will give training to other teachers in second phase. Two teachers per school will be trained and a total of 30,000 teachers will be trained”.

The date and venue of training sessions will be declared at a later date after schools confirm their participation.

Students can log on to and conduct almost any experiment online without worrying about accidents happening. ERNET India is an autonomous scientific society under the administrative control of department of information technology, Government of India having one of the largest nationwide terrestrial and satellite network with 15 points of presence located at the premier academic and research institutions in major cities of the country. According to ERNET’s website it is serving more than 1,300 institutions in various sectors, namely, health, agriculture, higher education, schools and science & technology.

This entire OLabs initiative was started in Kerala-based Amrita University and CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi was given a final presentation last year during educational conference. The International Conference of Technology Enhanced Education (ICTEE) was held from January 3-5 at Amritapuri, Kerala and the event showcased a futuristic vision for classrooms. Speaking to TOI during that event, the programme’s coordinator Prof Raghu Raman said that the workshop will be almost like looking into the future. “A few months ago we were discussing with the CBSE chairman on how workshops are currently focusing only on problems. We need to take a peek into the future and see what is out there, say 10 years from now. And it is from this that the idea for ICTEE came about,” he had said.

HRD Ministry Wants NET to be Outsourced

The HRD ministry wants UGC’s prestigious National Eligibility Test (NET) — in the news for wrong reasons ranging from mismanagement to asking sexist questions — for lecturer’s job to be outsourced.

On Wednesday, the UGC would consider the ministry’s proposal in its full commission meeting. Sources said, “The ministry wants a serious review of NET. Every year more and more complaints are coming. Moreover, there is a need to review the entire system and outsource the test to a professional body.” The UGC has already constituted a two-member panel to carry out a comprehensive review of the NET, including formatting of examination and support system.

But what could turn acrimonious in the UGC meeting is Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) and possibility of it being adopted by other universities from the next academic year. “FYUP is not only about DU. It’s a big policy intervention and cannot be extended to other universities without proper discussion,” one member said.

At least three UGC members told TOI they would ask as to why the Commission did not let members raise the issue in the last meeting but within a few days later appointed a panel to oversee FYUP in DU. What has irked one member is that despite his written request to consider FYUP the minutes of Commission’s meeting did not reflect it.

The member had protested to UGC chairperson Ved Prakash, asking him as to why his request was not placed before the commission. “Is it appropriate?” he asked, adding that in case the UGC decided not to accede to the request should that not been made part of the minutes. He had also asked what purpose setting up of a committee by the UGC would serve.

Another member M M Ansari had also written a letter to Prakash stating that setting up of a committee “tantamounts to interfering in the internal functioning of the university.” He had also said UGC’s action of setting up a committee could be interpreted that in future the Commission without due deliberation can approve the launch of degree/diploma programmes of any duration.

115 More Seats in IIMs up for Grabs

Indian Institutes of Management are expecting an increased number of registrations for the Common Admission Test 2013 (CAT 2013) due to increase in the number of seats. 115 seats have been added taking the total seats across 13 IIMs to 3,335. The organizers are also expecting a bigger participation by women candidates as IIMs have started giving extra point during admissions to women candidates.

From this year, CAT has introduced e-vouchers. However, sale of physical vouchers will also continue. Moreover, four more cities have been added to the list of 36 where CAT 2013 is to be conducted.

After gradual decline in the number of CAT takers for over five years, last year the number of registration increased marginally with a total registration of 2,14,068. Due to increase in number of seats as well as the gradual increase in interest for MBA, IIMs are expecting a 10% increase in registration. “The Indian Institutes of Management is preparing for more students to appear for CAT 2013 as students will have greater chances for admission into the IIMs,” said Rohit Kapoor, CAT 2013 convenor.

Going by the trend and IIMs initiative to give extra points to women candidates, their number is also expected to increase this year. The number of women appearing for CAT has been steadily increasing — from 53,700 in 2010 to 56,000 in 2011. For 2012, more than 60,800 women appeared for the CAT.

The registration window for CAT 2013 would start from August 5. “New to this year’s CAT is the option to purchase vouchers electronically. Details about payment of fees online will be made available on CAT 2013 website from 5 pm on August 3, 2013. Candidates can also purchase traditional vouchers for registration and scheduling from designated Axis Bank branches from August 5 to September 24,” said Kapoor. The results will be declared on January 14, 2014. Similar to last year’s exam, CAT 2013 will have two sections. The first will focus on quantitative ability and data interpretation and the second on verbal ability and logical reasoning.

These two sections will be implemented sequentially with separate time limits. The examination will be for 140 minutes. Candidates will have 70 minutes to answer 30 questions within each section, which will have an on-screen countdown timer.

IIT-Kharagpur to Hold Global Semesters in Term Breaks

With a director finally at its helm, IIT-Kharagpur is all set to adopt global academic practices. The premier institute plans to have international semesters on the lines of summer and winter semesters at top foreign universities.

The programme will be held during the summer or winter breaks and won’t clash with IIT-Kharagpur’s academic calendar, director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti said. BTech and MTech students may earn credit points from such programmes conducted in collaboration with foreign institutes. The credits will be added to the students’ final scores when they pass out.

The institute has already signed several MoUs with varsities in Japan, Germany, Canada, Russia, Taiwan and Columbia to facilitate collaborative programmes, revealed Chakrabarti’s predecessor Shankar Kumar Som. Holding summer semesters is integral to the grand plan that is expected to fetch handsome funds. Many corporate heavyweights are interested in sponsoring the programme.

“We may be in a position to start the international semester programme from next summer,” said a faculty member. The director prefers to keep the details under wraps. “I can’t divulge the plan before I share it with the faculty members and get it through,” Chakrabarti said.

Chakrabarti, a teacher of computer science, joined office on Saturday after a year-long controversy over his appointment. The new director, however, isn’t shifting his focus from the medical education programme under consideration.

“We hope to start the MBBS course from the 2016-17 session. We have to get affiliation from the Medical Council of India,” Chakrabarti said. The proposal is awaiting Cabinet nod, former director Som revealed.

IIT-Kgp is in talks with Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US, Imperial College in London and with Tata Cancer Research Centre in Kolkata for joint projects.

“My aim is to groom the medical college into an ideal research and innovation-based institute. The intake of doctoral students will gradually go up to 30% from 10% at the moment,” the director said.

The effort will also allow IIT graduates to take up medical engineering.

At the 59th convocation on Saturday, Utsav Banerjee got the President’s gold medal and Mayank Shrivastav the Prime Minister’s gold medal.