The union government has discontinued the aptitude test for the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVYP) and merged the fellowship scheme with another programme. However, this will not affect the number of fellowships that were offered every year under KVYP, a senior official of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) told The Indian Express.
According to sources, the DST used to offer anywhere between 250 to 300 KVYP fellowships each year and this number will be protected even though the scheme has been merged with the INSPIRE programme. “There is no discontinuation of the fellowship, only the exam has been stopped. The fellowships still be offered, but under another programme,” the DST official said. Instituted in 1999, KVPY aimed to encourage students to study basic and natural science subjects at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and pursue research as a career by providing fellowships to interested and deserving students. The aptitude exam to select deserving students was conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and was followed by an interview. Sources said the decision to scrap the aptitude test, which is taken by nearly two lakh students each year, was made at a “high-level meeting” held on June 1 to review KVPY. The officer pointed out that the review on June 1 showed that the operational cost of the exam was too high. “It actually cost us more to conduct the exam than the value of the fellowships that were being awarded. So we decided to drop the exam and use the saved money towards awarding more number of fellowships. So in future we will start awarding more than 300 such fellowships,” the officer said. Last year, a case was filed in the Madurai High Court in which an applicant had demanded that the exam be conducted, not just in English and Hindi, but in Tamil as well. In its observations in the case, the Madurai High Court had directed DST to conduct the exam in all scheduled languages under the Constitution. According to officials, conducting the exam in more languages would have further increased the operational cost of conducting the examination. The exam was postponed twice last year, due to the Madurai High Court’s directions. “In any case, while a large number of students were taking the exam, not many were opting for basic sciences after. Students were using this national level test as a rehearsal for the IITs, for example. So the purpose of the exam was not being fulfilled. The exam should have been stopped earlier, but since INSPIRE (started in 2007) was still new, that was not done. There is no need for this exam, which will be a duplication of other exams that students take. So we decided to scrap the exam and subsume the scheme under INSPIRE,’’ said the officer.
The Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (or INSPIRE), with which the KVPY has been merged, is also managed and sponsored by DST and was started in 2007. Like KVPY, it also aims to encourage students to pursue science by offering fellowships and scholarships. However, the government does not conduct an exam to identify talent for INSPIRE. It relies on the “efficacy of the existing educational structure”, which includes performance in Class 12 Board exams, entrance tests like JEE (Main) and NEET and talent search tests like NTSE.
Following this ‘INSPIRE’ philosophy, the government has decided to scrap the aptitude test for KVPY. “Meritorious students who have performed well in other national entrance examinations including JEE (Main) and NEET and figure in the top 10,000 ranks are eligible to get this fellowship now. The eligibility criteria will be the same as it is for the Scholarship for Higher Education (or SHE) component under the INSPIRE programme. Students can check that eligibility criteria online,” the officer said. Fellowships and scholarships given under the SHE component of the INSPIRE programme are given out in two modes. In the direct mode, students in the top 1% of the Class XII Board exam can avail scholarships from the SHE component. In the institute mode, students enrolled in IITs, IISERs, NIISERs, among others, can apply for the scholarship provided they are in the top 10,000 rank of the entrance test they qualified. The KVPY programme which has been subsumed under INSPIRE will be given through the institute mode.