‘Difficult’; that is the only term, that is a common factor to most students from both urban or rural areas attempting the JEE Mains. Though the students from an English medium background seem to have an upper hand, the CBSE has been contemplating all possible ways to reduce the disparity and make it an even platform for students from a vernacular background as well. The JEE is currently being conducted in English, Hindi, and 3 other regional languages- Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu. But the demand has been on the rise for this examination to be conducted in other recognised regional languages as well. This doesn’t seem like a feasible option for the CBSE given the large scale efforts. 

For those who come from vernacular backgrounds, they might stand a better chance at clearing these papers in their regional language. “I will be appearing for my 12th standard exam in Tamil medium, but for JEE I have to learn these concepts in English. It is not an easy task since Hindi for me out of the question and, English also is difficult,” said Selvam C, a student from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.This disability seems to affect the aspirations to even attempt the exam itself in Tamil Nadu. Among the 451 candidates from Tamil Nadu who qualified in JEE Advanced this year (from a total of 26,456 candidates across the country), only 33 were from a background of Tamil Nadu state board system “Tamil Nadu State board syllabus for 12th standard and the JEE syllabus is very different. I cannot handle both together, and besides IIT there are other good engineering colleges in the state itself which also have their own entrance exam. It is easier to prepare for them, which is why I and few other friends of mine decided to not appear for the JEE next year.” says Prathima Jairam, a student in Chennai, who will attempt VITEEE, the entrance exam of Vellore Institute of Technology. 

“As such the syllabus of the JEE is very difficult, besides the language constraint. How should we students from a vernacular background score marks?” asked Samartha Gowda of Mysuru, Karnataka. He also questioned why the regional languages included only Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu and Hindi. Another student Shreyas Raju said, “IIT for many students is a dream, and we work very hard for accomplishing this dream. But because we lack in English and Hindi it becomes a major setback. How fair is it to us?” If they can’t clear the JEE (M) itself, JEE (Advanced) is out of question, which is the qualifying exam for the IITs. But by making the JEE (M) accessible, it gives the qualifying students the option of studying at the other national institutes like the NITs, IIITs and GFTIs. In the current scenario, admission to national institutes only seems like a distant dream only because of the language barrier.

It is good enough that the JEE is being conducted in Hindi apart from English, but most students who are from a vernacular background face a disadvantage. But the CBSE too seems to be having a problem in addressing this issue simply because of the enormity of efforts it will have to put in. PaGaLGuY spoke to the Prof. Adrijit Goswami, who was in-charge of the JoSAA for the year 2015. “It is really ambitious, but operationally a very difficult task to implement. It’s tough to translate the questions and have so many sets of question papers in so many different languages. Besides what if there are students who don’t opt to attempt the JEE in a particular language, then again it’s a waste of effort.” Although he does add that it could be of immense benefit for students across the country especially with vernacular backgrounds.

There is, however, a catch in this solution. The medium of instruction at the IITs is English. It is already being conducted in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu. This is good enough because there are takers for these languages, and previously regional languages were not even considered. But how much more can the level reduce, only to be increased once the students clear their JEE (M) and finally get into the IIT or any other national institute? Besides it is not enough to just make the JEE easy if ultimately the IITs are going to be tough to get admission in. Also, the CBSE needs to get to the root cause of the problem and address it. They will have to take a call regarding reducing the difficulty level in the entrance exams, and ultimately the standard of the IITs itself, or stick to the current structure.   

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