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‘Becoming flexible like the West’: Colleges, institutes happy as AICTE makes PCM optional

AICTE has given list of 14 subjects, apart from Physics, Chemistry & Maths, which students can opt for. These include computer science, electronics, IT, biology, entrepreneurship.

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New Delhi: With the All Indian Council For Technical Education (AICTE) announcing last week that Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) are now optional and not mandatory subjects for pursuing engineering, the move has given hope to many, who perhaps for the fear of these subjects, were wary of pursuing engineering.

Announcing the changes through its approval handbook, the council gave a list of 14 subjects, including PCM, that students can opt for to get admission in engineering colleges. The subjects include computer science, electronics, information technology, biology, informatics practices, biotechnology, technical vocational subject, engineering graphics, business studies, entrepreneurship. 

To be eligible for entry into a four-year undergraduate B.Tech or B.E. programme, a candidate must have cleared any of these three subjects with at least 45 per cent marks, according to the rules. 

“More choices mean more opportunities for students. If I want to study textile engineering, my conventional PCM will not teach me about fabric types but with these changes it is an option I can pursue,” Rithvik Thota, a Class 11 student and engineering aspirant.

Refuting some media reports earlier this week that said PCM are no longer needed for engineering, AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe told ThePrint: “It (physics, chemistry, maths) is not needed is not correct. All these are in the list of subjects students can take in class XI, XII. If a student has already taken PCM then he will study normal engineering curriculum whereas if has studied any non-PCMB subject, he can study that in the college as a bridge course.”  

The Approval Process Handbook issued by AICTE reads: “Universities will offer suitable bridge courses such as Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Drawing, for students coming from diverse backgrounds to achieve the desired learning outcome of the programme.”

These bridge courses, formulated by universities, aim to ensure students have relevant subject understanding of PCM subjects for their further education. 

The AICTE statement also indicated that the pattern of Joint entrance Examination (JEE) could change in coming times, given that they have added more options in the list of subjects that students can choose. 

It is also imperative to mention that it is an option given by the Council which is not binding on the States or Universities and for various entrance exams such as JEE, CET etc. They may continue to hold the entrance exams in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as is being done now and gradually decide to conduct exams in other subjects later after discussing and taking decisions in the University Senates/ Academic Councils and State Level Committees,” read a statement released by the council Friday. 

In future, when the National Education Policy (NEP) will be implemented in totality, “this option can be implemented in its letter and spirit”, the council said.

Also read: Physics, Chemistry and Maths continue to be important subjects for engineering, says AICTE

‘Step in right direction’

Dheeraj Sanghi, Director of Punjab Engineering College, is of the opinion that the latest provision provides flexibility to students and gives them more choice. 

“The Indian education system is becoming flexible like that of the West. This gives students a greater chance to explore more subjects at school level. Courses on subjects like artificial intelligence, agrotech and biotechnology will find more takers in colleges once schools start offering these subjects early on for engineering aspirants,” he said.

On the likelihood of the JEE pattern changing in future, Sanghi said: “It will not make a lot of difference to students and institutes. IITs are rigid in their approach and most likely will not permit the structure of JEE to change.”

He added: “Interesting courses will come into play once this change is implemented. Bridge courses, since they will be basic level school curriculum subjects of study, I don’t think will add much to the cost.”

Kishore Kumar, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus in Delhi who has been coaching JEE and NEET aspirants for the last 11 years, said coaching institutes would adapt to these changes quickly. 

“Even today, if the National Testing Agency puts out a new subject to be included in the JEE, within months coaching institutes will come up with courses for that subject. They don’t really care about the subjects being taught,” he said.

On the change in qualification criteria, Kumar said, “This is a step in the right direction. Internationally reputed colleges like MIT and Stanford do not have mandatory subjects or courses that high school students need to go through.”

Speaking from the perspective of students, he added, “This has been a long standing demand among students that they be permitted to study other subjects as well. I have a student deeply interested in origami, a creative subject which can help with visualisation of engineering concepts. With such provisions, students get not just exposure but a chance to bring out their creativity.” 

Some ‘practical problems’ will be there, though

Commenting on the changes, Anna University Vice-Chancellor Dr M.K. Surappa suggested that mathematics as a subject is now integral in all fields of study right from humanities to science, and making it optional would be counter-productive. 

“The field of engineering is evolving rapidly, and mathematics is fast becoming an essential part of not just engineering but also for the study of sociology, psychology, fine arts, biotechnology etc. Now is the time to bring mathematics to all fields of education and not eliminating it by making it optional,” he told ThePrint. 

On the implementation of bridge courses, he said, “There will be practical problems for institutes to implement these bridge courses. Setting up a schedule, getting faculty and physical infrastructure for additional courses will be problematic for institutes.” 

Sanghi, meanwhile, pondered on how technical colleges will set up an even selection criteria for admission. “It will be challenging for technical colleges to select students for admissions since not all students will then come with a standard set of courses. (But) Until the admission process is not impacted negatively, the change holds no threat to the education system.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Amitava Datta, Dean of Faculty of Engineering at Jadavpur University, expressed his concerns regarding the bridge courses. “Within the ambit of the present engineering curriculum, it is difficult to bring in the provision of bridge courses. Unless the student has knowledge of Mathematics or Physics, which they learn in Plus 2 (Class 11 & 12), they will not be able to cope with the first year subjects. Students in the first year have tight schedules leaving no room for additional courses.”

JEE aspirant Aditya Kulkarni (18), a science student from Aurangabad, said he believed the move could be of help only to a certain number of students. “For students like me who are still not clear on what branch of engineering to pursue, the traditional PCM will be the most preferred choice. Additional subjects like entrepreneurship, biotechnology etc stand to help those students who have clarity and a branch preference early on.”

With inputs from Kritika Sharma

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)

Also read: 44% engineering students want to be taught in mother tongue, Tamil tops list: AICTE survey


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  1. It is disaster for engineering education if maths. , Physics are made optional. How do ever meet world standards with such a move. As such most of our engineering graduates are not employable. We should not play with the lives of our youth!

  2. The best of course is the syllabus for the “Masters in Entire Political Science”. NO SUBJECTS REQUIRED.

  3. I am in class 12 having sub. PCB and kannada as language and in 10th std. I had computer science .
    Now i want to know that , can I have an opportunity get computer science , electronics engineering .please clarify my question.

  4. This decision is wrong. Engineering is essentially applied science. A knowledge of MPC is essential for learning any branch of engineering.

  5. Think the packages will fall down drastically in all IITs and NITs cause even medical and commerce student will show interest in joining the premium engineering colleges

  6. When PCM is mandatory for engineering course then then there will be no question of quality and standerd. Just like distance education without any practical knowledge.

  7. I think student of class 11/12 should have a choice at school level to study just 2 pure science subjects (out of phy, chem, maths) and 2-3 applied subjects (like CS, IT, engg graphics, electronics etc) . Depending on the college degree they get admitted for they can make it up in college with bridge courses.

    But unfortunately in most private schools they do not offer applied subjects in their courses for class 11 and 12. Maybe it is due to lack of skilled teachers. Also is there really a need to push the study of regional languages and English for those taking up science – it is mandatory to study languages in some states.

  8. Ya , I think this is a very good step .
    Students can choose subjects based on in which field they want to make their career . For e.g : Students who want to Pursue degree in C.S.E can choose Maths , CS and IT , because to make a career in field of Computer Science , there is no need to study Physics or Chemistry . AICTE made a good decision .

  9. Already , we engineers have to sit with bcom, ba grads and compete with them in workplace, worst, we have to report to them. These breeds are new engineers now, specially in IT companies. I think this is to bring down the cost of employees for IT companies, this has been done.

  10. I don’t think JEE is going to change.
    So how will admissions to engg branches like biotech or textiles happen is not clear. Especially for central govt institutions.

  11. For core branches like mech, electrical you simply cannot ignore physics and maths at school level.

    Chemistry cannot be ignored for branches like chemical or petroleum.

    It is pointless for a CS (software) student to study physics or chemistry. Even exposure to calculus is not required to be a software engineer!

    They should give out more details about the prerequisites for each branch of engineering.

    • All Software Engineers are not equal, the kind of work some do will be different from the kind of work others do, for some advanced mathematics is a must and for some it may not be required. Some may do some testing job, some may do maintenance job, some do installation job, some networking jobs., some develop Operating systems, some work on Embedded systems, so skills and technical knowledge required varies from one profile to other.

  12. Some Colleges will be happy because they are not able to fill seats in some branches of Engineering, some students who just want a Engineering degree may take up some seats now. Colleges will also come up with new branches so that they can admit some more students. Already a student with above average marks in Maths/Physics is finding it difficult to complete Engineering with good marks, most of them are not getting jobs.

  13. If subjects like information technology, computer science, Informatics practices are choosen in 11th and 12th, will that be a challenge again to a student to pursue engineering? Can we go with all computer graded courses?

  14. A move in the right direction, remember the famous PUSHPAKAVIMAN was made without mathemetics !!!

  15. Engineering simply means maths and physics. Even an arts graduate like me recognize that if you are going to study textile engineering you must know about the machines work.

  16. This won’t affect Students who are academically very good …. Aiming at IITs and other premier institutes ….have to go for PCM …because of JEE, CET exam pattern .
    But for average highschool student and someone with clarity what he wants to study further this can be great … Eg .student wants to do comp science …. he can choose physics, maths , comp science as main subject in xI , XII th and drops chemistry .
    This gives him to study exact sub needed for his further studies .

  17. I am respect to say, I am Meet Vaghamshi and I am from Gujarat. I was worried about PCM subject field. I want to learn Computer Science subject like operating system, AI, ML, DL, Cloud computing and Programming. On Lockdown 2.o, I have learn a python programming and I also worry about Chemistry (like in PCM) Subject is not like a Computer Science. I love my subject Maths , Physics, Computer Science, IT Technology, Software etc, but I don’t like chemistry subject. Golden statements : “More choices mean more opportunities for students. “Thanks you and share it.

    • Chemistry is not needed for software development. But if you become a hardware design engineer, knowledge of chemistry will be useful.

  18. Flexibility like west actually isn’t contributing to anything beneficial because these old systems actually the reason for the demand of Indian Engineers world wide.

  19. It is a joke..All Engineering studies need Physiscs & Maths. How come some one not interested in Physics and Maths can pursue Engineering. Just for the sake of getting engineering degree.This is going to compromise quality of Engineering Education. It is as good as citizen journalism.

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