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.
‘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)