Archive for December 12th, 2003

What can we learn from CAT exam paper leak?

December 12, 2003

It is unfortunate that CAT (Common Admission Test for MBA Admission to IIM’s
and other Institutions) examination paper leakage caused the cancellation of
the All India examination that would have to be re-taken by 150,000 students
all over again. Any such over-centralization has this attendant problem,
particularly when the skewness between the demand and supply is rather high
(1,500 seats in IIM’s nd 150,000 appicants). What we need is to defuse the
pressure through a multi-pronged strategy

1. Dramatically increase supply – we need 100 IIM’s in place of just seven
today; of course, Government should play an enabling role and not a stifling
role that it plays today. In the process good organizations, individuals and
corporations that have plenty of money do NOT come forward to start
institutions and street corner shops are mushrooming all over. Good
organizatins get turned off by the control raj; bad guys just use money power
to buy the controlling authority. By controlling the inputs and leaving out
the output quality, Government guarantees quantity (and the resulting money to
the fly-by-night institutions) but no quality. This was exactly what Gvernment
did in auto industry; controlled steel and power supply that was input and not
controlling output quality; once it stopped controlling input and moved to
output control, such as emission norms, quality improved and the size of the
industry dramatically grew from 45,000 to 450,000 over a decade! Can we not do
the same in higher education? Just as Toyota, GM, Ford, Honda and Hyuandei
came to India, MIT, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge will come to India on our
terms. We can become the education capital of the world and not
degree-printing shop of the world.

2. We should move to a more transparent system – scores that can be revealed
to students, examinations that can be taken up 12 tims a year and not just
once a year – with so much IT outsourcing happening in India we can even plan
an “examination on demand”. Who knows ETS will find it cost effective to
outsurce the GRE, GMAT, SAT & TOEFL examination processing to India over the
next 5-10 years.

These are definitely “out of the box” ideas that need extensive debate and
action; but the time has come to look at such alternatives rather than a
“blame game” that is going around these days.

We should start thinking in those terms and NOT in taking CAT out of IIMs and
create one central examination that is far more vulnerable and a sure
invitation to disaster