The announcement by the TN government (govt) that entrance exams are henceforth abolished is worth speculating over.
The good news as has been highlighted by the govt is that students will have less to study. Entrance exams and school boards have different syllabi. Given that students study the required stuff in high-school, it is in everyone's best interests that any extra 'junk' be swept off. This much, i guess, everyone likes.
Now comes the bad news. TN, like most (dunno if it is all) Indian states is troubled by multiple educational boards - CBSE, ICSE, State Board (SB)... - this was the first thing that came to mind because I myself was a CBSE student and know quite well that there is a huge difference in the grading policies, syllabi and general approach to teaching between CBSE and other boards. Traditionally, in TN, SB students have got higher scores than their CBSE and ICSE counterparts. This is where the trouble lies (I will ignore difference is standard for the moment). This differential grading patterns are enough to worry about. Students in the 'wrong' boards are screwed!
Bad news is in store even for the poor kids who chanced it by waiting out an extra year (in many case, more than a year) to improve their scores. What's to become of them? Are we to let them take an 'entrance' exam specially designed for them, or are we to consider just their high-school grades. The second option is unfair, because the students chose to wait another year crucially based on their being allowed to take another shot at the entrance exam.
There seems to be some sort of a solution for the kids from different boards. People have suggested adding 5 points to CBSE scores. This, in my opinion, is still not fair. Because it assumes that the range and distributions of the boards will be equated by this addition. For the sake of clarity let me take a hypothetical example.
highest score in SB 100
lowest score in SB 30
highest score in CBSE 95
lowest score in CBSE 25
This still doesn't mean that adding 5 points to a CBSE score is then mathematically fair. Because it is entirely possible (and in my opinion highly probably) that the bulk of the SB students score above 80, and the bulk of the CBSE student score above 70 - the difference being around 10 points then. In short, the highest and lowest values do not cater to needs of the ones in the middle of the distribution.
To be really fair, the different boards for the moment should be considered separately and the scores should be mapped to separate normal distribution curves. This is relatively simple (Something that I have done for my own classes). Once, the scores of each board (separately) are mapped to a normal-distribution curve, ranking the students will be fairly easy - it will depend on their position on the curve - then, considering the 'normally distributed scores' will be mathematically fair.
However, the kids who waited to take the exam again don't have any seriously fair options.
The real fault for this mess lies in two main facts. First, a 'change' in educational policy, especially one of this degree of consequence, needs to be announced well in advance, and is not to be implemented overnight. Second, the sequence of changes the govt. appears to have chosen is quite obviously wrong. It should have aimed at neutralising differences between boards/syllabi and then gone on to abolishing the entrance exams.
I always thought it was ridiculous that India had more than one educational board. It makes no sense. This is a problem we as a country need to sort out right away. Different states have different boards, different yardsticks for academic performance and so on. This cannot be the case if we are to harmonise the differences in the country. Yes, I agree with each state wanting to promote its own culture through the educational system. This should show up in the form of extra courses of history, geography and languages and so on. It should not affect the core courses which should be common to everyone across the country. This is especially important for the sciences and mathematics and courses like management, economics, civics and so on, to which local cultures or traditions have very little to add.
The educational system requires serious reworking. The troubles we see in TN today are so obviously the 'kickbacks' of an ill-designed system. I know, it is easy for me to sit hear and talk , but the fact remains that the changes needed are not very difficult to effect. It requires just a little political foresight.
For more info:
http://www.hindu.com/2005/06/07/stories/2005060705390100.htm (general view)
http://www.hindu.com/2005/06/07/stories/2005060713880600.htm (administration view)
http://www.hindu.com/2005/06/07/stories/2005060714080400.htm (SB and CBSE views)