Mumbai: The results of the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) continue to show a picture of disparity, as male candidates from the general category dominate the list of toppers, while girls and students from the marginalised sections find much lower representation.
There's not a single female student among the first 20 toppers who scored 100 percentile in the engineering paper of the first session of JEE Mains 2023, for which the results were declared by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on Tuesday. The list of toppers includes only one student from Scheduled Caste (SC) category, one from the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) - General, and four students from Other Backward Castes - Non-Creamy Layer (OBC-NCL). Candidates belonging to Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Persons with Disabilities (PwD) have also failed to make it to the top 20.
These figures are much lower compared to the actual share of students from these categories at the national-level test. Data released by NTA shows that around 29.8% of all candidates were girls, while the share of OBC, EWS, SC and ST candidates was 37%, 11.7%, 9.6% and 3.4%, respectively.
The first session of JEE Main 2023, which is the gateway to engineering institutes including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), was conducted between January 24 and February 1. Around 8.6 lakh students from across India had registered for the engineering paper, of which 95.8% took the test. Those scoring above a certain threshold in the test, qualify for JEE Advanced, whose scores form the basis of IIT admissions.
The previous JEE Main exams also suffered from a lack of female and marginalised representation. Of 24 candidates scoring 100 percentile during both the JEE Main last year, 18 belonged to the general category, with only two female, two EWS and four OBC-NCL candidates finding space in the ranker list.
According to Amit Singh, an assistant professor at IIT Bombay's department of mechanical engineering, parental and social conditioning is the main reason for the relatively poor participation and performance of girls in the entrance test. "Girls are not encouraged to choose engineering as a career. While this trend is changing, many parents still prefer other professions such as medicine, law and journalism for girls. Even within engineering, girls largely prefer streams such as computer science, as opposed to core engineering branches like civil and mechanical. While there are some biological and gender factors that are also at play, social conditioning is the main reason for these results," he said.
The educationists have blamed the coaching culture among engineering aspirants for low representation of marginalised students. "In India, higher education is, at its roots, biased towards urban, rich, male and English-speaking, with most of the youths outside these categories. Those who aspire for engineering, mainly depend on coaching, which the majority can't afford. The entrance exams are an exclusive mechanism," said Govardhan Wankhede, former dean of the education department at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
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