Sunday, December 27, 2015

TIPS TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT COACHING INSTITUTE FOR JEE!!!

There are almost 1000 coaching institutes for IIT-JEE in India today and over 1.5 lac students enroll into various institutes for the 2-years program after Std.10. Just 20 years ago, there were hardly 10 classroom coaching institutes for IIT-JEE and barely 2000 students would benefit from JEE classroom coaching across India. In Maharashtra alone, there are over 50 coaching institutes for JEE catering to almost 15000 students per year. The increase in awareness of IIT-JEE is a positive change. However, due to proliferation of coaching institutes across India and multiple claims, there is also lot of confusion and dilemmas which students and parents face when it comes to deciding the right coaching institute. This note will provide crucial information which will enable you to make the right choice of a JEE coaching institute.
 
1.There are 2 headline parameters which parents and students must first check about a Coaching institute viz. Results & Feedback.
 
2. The analysis of Results has two aspects again namely the number of Ranks achieved in JEE & allied exams like BITSAT, CET, XII Boards etc. & Success Rate with respect to the number of students in the IIT focused batch. Most institutes have a concept of a Merit or Rankers Batch wherein they select a group of students who are likely to crack the IIT-JEE exam. Success Rate with respect to such a group of students must be checked. You must also speak to certain students who have got ranks to cross-check the claim of the institute. Several Institutes claim fake ranks or claim ranks of students who have only taken doubt sessions or 1-subject coaching or attended classes only briefly. Some have tie-ups with classes in other parts of the nation whose ranks they claim here in their home town. Honest Institutes will only claim ranks of those students who have completed the entire 2-years course with them for all the 3 subjects along with Test Series. You must demand phone numbers of random students claimed in the list published by the institute and talk to the students to crosscheck the credentials of any institute. But beware, some institutes publish phone numbers of SIMS bought by the institute only. So meeting such students personally is the best exercise.
 
3. As far as Feedback is concerned, talking to atleast 3-4 students currently studying in the Institute who are sincere in their studies is very important. If you talk to students who are not very sincere in their studies, you may get misleading feedback about the institute. To ascertain their sincerity levels, ask them their Rank or Percentile in their Institute. This shall give you a fair idea.
 
4. An objective criterion to gauge Feedback of the Institute is Retention Rate – which is the number of students that continue to study in the Institute after year 1 and year 2. Most JEE coaching institutes in Western & Southern India have a miserable Retention Rate of less than 50% in Year-1 itself. This means that more than 50% students quit the Institute after 1-year – this phenomenon may be partially due to the student’s insincerity but the teaching method and course design of the Institute is mostly responsible for this phenomenon.
 
5. A very crucial aspect of a world-class program for JEE is the concept of Batch Homogenisation. This concept is haphazardly practiced by most coaching institutes and in some not practiced at all. By Batch-homogenisation is meant that since students come from diverse academic backgrounds after Std.10, they need to be placed in different streams or batches wherein the teaching methodology is suited to their requirements. Batch Homogenisation is the primal principle to administer a complex program like JEE to a diverse student community.
 
6.  Another aspect of a good JEE institute is Testing System. There are 3 aspects of a Testing System viz. Classroom Tests, Take-Home Tests and Online Tests. Most coaching institutes in India do not provide detailed printed solutions to all questions of the Test – they merely provide Answer Key. Also, a systematic and effective method to analyse every Test performance must be given to the student.
 
7.  Another crucial aspect of the 2-years program is Counseling which again has 3 aspects viz. Academic Counselling, Emotional Counselling and Career Counselling. Very few coaching institutes have counseling as part of the program. Usually, institutes only urge students to study harder and no other counselling is given. A good coaching institute will keep students inspired by a variety of mechanisms and also provide clear study methods to study at home. These study methods change every 6 months and students need to be guided appropriately for the same from time to time.
 
8. Though most students join a JEE institute with an aim and ambition to get into the IITs, many realise over a period of time that their chances to get into the IITs are bleak. At an appropriate time, the institute must clearly guide such students for other allied exams like BITSAT, VITEE, State-level CETs and XII Boards to secure their admission in other A-grade colleges. The guidance must comprise of exam-oriented lectures, exam strategies and Tests as per the exam pattern. This guidance is very crucial which is unfortunately rarely given.
 
9.  Another aspect of the JEE Program is Accountability and Transparency. Parents need to be updated about the progress of the student and the program. The best mechanism to do so is an electronic system (ERP-based or SMS-based or App-based) of Attendance, Test marks and a dedicated Batch Co-ordinator with whom parents can converse. A general Parents Meeting must be organised to update parents on the latest educational scenario, about the progress in the Program and questions & grievances if any must be addressed transparently. 

10. There are about 22 topics in PCM syllabi which are NOT there in the syllabi of JEE ADVANCED and BITSAT but are present in syllabi of JEE MAINS, MHT-CET and also in XII Boards. Examples of such topics include Semiconductors, Damped & Forced Oscillations, Communications Theory, Linear Programming, Mathematical Logic, Statistics, f-Block Elements etc. Most JEE coaching institutes do not teach these topics and ask students to ignore the same. However, these topics must be taught and study material must be provided for the same too. About 5% weightage or more is allocated to these 22 topics in JEE MAINS etc.
 
11. A good coaching institute must provide comprehensive study material for JEE + CET + BITSAT + XII Boards as a part of the Program. Certain good books written by famous authors can be additionally recommended for students to buy from the market. But every coaching institute must provide their own customized study material which synchronizes well with their classroom program. The study material must have printed notes for XII Boards too besides JEE and CET.
 
We hope that the above points will be kept in mind by the parents and students before deciding to join a coaching institute for XII + JEE + MHT-CET. Many coaching institutes may claim tall things but in reality they fail to deliver on many counts listed above. You are advised to do your homework before making the vital decision to join a coaching institute.

ROLE OF NEET IN STATE OF MEDICAL SECTOR IN INDIA

The Medical sector in India is in a critical state. There are 3 major issues ailing the Medical sector viz. Quantity of Medical Professionals, Urban-Rural Imbalance in Medical facilities and Quality of Medical Professionals & Equipment.

1)Quantity :
As per MCI records, as on Dec-31, 2014, there are 9.36 lac registered (MBBS / MD / MS) doctors, 7.9 lac registered AYUSH practitioners, 16.73 lac registered nurses and 7.56 lac auxiliary nurses in the Medical sector in entire India. How many of them are active on the ground is not known yet ! India has 19 health workers per 10000 people when minimum number prescribed by World Health Organisation is 25 per 10000 people. As per another report by Indian Express published in 2013, India has only 1 working doctor per 1700 people whereas WHO prescribes a minimum of 1 working doctor per 1000 people !  Thus, there is clearly a shortage of qualified Medical Professionals across the nation.

2)Urban-Rural Imbalance :
The problem of quantity is not the only one ailing the Health sector. As per a National Health Profile Report 2013, 67% of the doctors are operating in urban areas thereby depriving the rural areas (where 70% of Indian population is) of essential Medical services. The Report stated that only about 30000 doctors of the 1.06 lac Government doctors serve in the rural areas. There is an estimated 82% shortage in rural areas in surgeons and specialist doctors like pediatricians, gynecologists etc.  Thus, the state of Medical sector in Rural India which feeds the entire nation via agriculture is in dire straits.

3)Quality of Doctors :
Though it is difficult to make general statements about the quality of doctors and surgeons in any society, it is a matter of fact that the level of faith that the layman had over doctors and surgeons has diminished considerably in the past decade owing to several incidents of malpractice, wrong diagnosis, high expenditure due to (often needless) multiple scanning Tests etc. There are of course very hardworking and dedicated doctors who are genuinely serving society. 

But there is a growing unhealthy trend which has emerged amongst certain groups of doctors especially in cash-rich urban areas, who recommend patients to undergo a variety of Medical Tests and consultations which enrich their colleagues but do not benefit the patient. This trend has originated from a desire to recover the expenses made by the doctor’s family in going through his/her Medical Education. Many practising doctors secured admission into a Medical college at the undergraduate or post-graduate level by paying a huge capitation fees (from 25 lacs to 2 crores INR) besides the regular tuition etc. fees.  This trend is particularly prevalent amongst those doctors whose parents who are also doctors run a hospital or a clinic. It is true that running a hospital / clinic is both a service to society and also a commercial business. The business instincts of such doctors eclipse the service instincts and society suffers as a consequence. The root cause of this malaise is therefore the erroneous procedure for admissions into Medical colleges in India and the lackluster role of the Government in regulating it.

India has the highest number of Medical colleges in the world. As in 2015, India has 381 Medical colleges which admit about 64000 students every year for undergraduate (MBBS) & postgraduate courses (MD/MS). Out of these, 188 Medical colleges are private colleges catering to 38715 Medical seats. There are about 90 different Entrance Exams conducted by these various colleges all having different syllabus and exam patterns. Many Private Medical Colleges form a group and conduct their own Entrance exam which is the hot-bed of malpractices. There is little transparency in the Admissions procedure and the system is designed to extract huge capitation fees from students. This is the principal source of the vicious sequence of events which is set forth whereby the student who pays capitation fees and secures admission into a Medical college waits for the earliest opportunity to recover the sum when he emerges as a doctor in society. And, the consequences of the actions of such a doctor is borne by common people in society for years. This is indeed unfortunate.

To nip this root cause in the bud, the Central Govt. had proposed a common National Medical Entrance Exam called NEET for all Medical colleges in India which took place in 2013. Unfortunately, due to a Supreme Court split verdict (2:1) in June 2013, the NEET was struck down in response to about 112 petitions (mostly by Private Medical Colleges).  The current Union Heath Ministry has initiated efforts to revive the NEET exam from 2017 and has already secured MCI approval for the same. An amendment in the MCI Constitution and approval by the Cabinet and Parliament is needed before NEET becomes a reality in 2017.  

Implementation of the NEET in India at UG and PG levels of admission to Medical colleges shall not only set a uniform standard across the nation but shall end all types of malpractices in admission to Medical colleges which constitutes the root cause of poor quality of doctors or the unethical breed of doctors in society. The NEET exam tests conceptual understanding of the Sciences too besides information unlike some State-level exams like MH-CET. Thus, NEET shall ensure better selection of the candidates for Medical education in India.

In summary, the reinstatement of NEET exam across India shall usher in an age of better quality of doctors both in terms of their ethics and also technical abilities.

The solution to the first 2 issues i.e. Quantity and Urban-Rural Imbalance are quite complex and would need strong political will from the Government and infusion of funds by innovative public-private partnership (PPP) models.  Revamping the Health Insurance policies and subsidizing Medical Education in all Medical colleges with Government & Corporate efforts would comprise two of the major steps towards addressing the issues. The Health Insurance scheme launched in conjunction with the Jan Dhan Yojana by PM Modi is one step towards making Medical treatment affordable for the poor man and thus helps in solving some aspect of these issues.  But a number of coherent steps will be needed for any significant difference to be felt by the common man especially in rural India.

Let’s hope that with right governance, all the 3 major issues ailing the Medical sector in India will get resolved. Let’s also hope that sanity prevails upon our law makers and they make NEET exam a reality in India as soon as possible !!! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dilemma on IIT JEE Entrance Exam Pattern

In 2005, the then HRD Minister Arjun Singh urged the IIT Council (Apex Body of all IITs) to make changes in the revered Entrance Exam for the IITs called IIT-JEE so that stress on students would be reduced and coaching classes would have to shut shop. 
IIT-JEE was a wonderful system of Subjective Tests which stood the test of time from 1960-2005 and was a key instrument in selecting the best of the best for admission to the hallowed portals of the IITs and catapulting the IITs into world-class educational institutions.
 
The IIT-JEE underwent a drastic change from 2006 onwards with mixed pattern of Objective questions replacing the Subjective Test. What happened since 2006 ?
Number of IIT aspirants suddenly grew 3-5 fold and so stress on the student increased likewise. You see a student gets stressed more from competitive pressures rather than the difficulty level of the subject. This is my observation having counselled thousands of students in the past 15 years.
According to IIT Professors, quality of students (especially beyond AIR 2000) deteriorated with the new system from 2006-15.
And most interestingly, the coaching industry boomed with enrollments and fees increasing 3-5 times too.
The Govt. and IIT Council tweaked the system almost every 2 years from 2006 to 2015 to arrest or reverse these repercussions which were diametrically opposite to stated objectives of the Govt. in 2005. But to no avail !
History is repeating itself. In the IIT Council meeting which took place yesterday (Oct-6), IIT Council at the behest of the HRD Ministry has formed a committee yet again to devise an Entrance system which will de-necessitate coaching.
I ask unless you make the JEE ridiculously easy or you create a corrupt system of political recommendations by removing any exam for the seats in the IITs, is it possible to stop dependence on coaching ?
Honestly, there is no way to eliminate coaching classes. But there is a way to reduce their sway without diluting the admitted quality of students vis-a-vis IITs.
"Restart the Subjective Test for the IITs. Tougher the exam, lesser the number of aspirants, tougher to coach (so lesser classes) and better the quality of the students admitted in the IITs and lesser the cases of depression, suicides and academic renunciates inside the IITs."
This same system worked so marvellously from 1960-2005. Why not from 2016 onwards as all other systems have failed to deliver ?
Lastly, the real hidden reason for the Govt. to change the system from 2006 was none of their stated objectives !!! The real reason was something else. More on this later....i

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Engineering Aspirant's Plight Today

"I need to prepare for CET and JEE.
My college does not teach that.
My college teaches for XII Boards only.
But XII Boards marks have zero weightage.
Despite all this, Govt has made it compulsory for me to attend college.
For CET + JEE coaching, I need to join private classes too which advises me to study for atleast 6 hours daily at home without compromising on sleep.
Honestly, I don't need to attend college besides Practicals as I don't learn anything new in college since my classes cover everything.
Why is the Government making college attendance compulsory ? "

Is the Government listening ? Do they understand the plight of a student ?
Making policies based on pseudo-socialistic ideologies leads only to the suffocation of the student. Instead of talking only about student-centric education, Govt better do a reality check and make amends.
Either improve the quality of education in junior colleges drastically OR get out of the way and grant students freedom to attend at will. Compulsory attendance borders on cruelty to students.

NB: 80% of Junior Science college students in India happen to be Engineering aspirants !!!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Time to do is now! Happy Teachers Day!

On the occasion of Teachers Day, I guess it is appropriate to ask what the new Government plans to do to revamp the Education sector in India. We hear of plans to unveil a New Education Policy for India whose first draft is likely to be released in December 2015. But no public debate yet in media or elsewhere on what should be the way forward.

Almost everyone has an opinion when the matter is Education. But it is high time that the Union HRD Ministry constitutes a smart central team of accomplished people with proven track record to build educational institutions and solve real-world problems in Education sector who could advise the HRD Ministry and lead the way forward.

Since Education is a concurrent subject, the Union HRD Ministry must work out a seamless consulting mechanism to take State Governments on board while framing the New Educational policy. Revenues earned in Education sector must be shared with States. Often the main reason to oppose Union Govt policy is losing State revenues to Center.

Some recommendations often voiced by many experts for the past 3 decades are as under :

Separation of Union HRD Ministry into Ministry of School Education and Ministry of Higher Education is essential.

Subjects like Maths, Science and even Geography and English must have a common curriculum for all the 30+ Boards of the nation from Std.1-12.

Have a Single National ENTRANCE exam for any professional course administered online by a single National exams Authority.

Have a Single National EXIT exam for all undergraduate degrees as there are over 700 Universities and over 35000 colleges in India. Online EXIT exams shall ensure quality delivered in various colleges.

A National Ranking system of Schools and Colleges is very essential. Besides other quality parameters, cut-offs from Entrance exams in various colleges and percentage of students cleared in EXIT exams can become key parameters. Rankings will help students to make informed choices and colleges would strive to maintain standards too. This would increase employability of our graduates.
Govt must upload FREE VIDEO LECTURES of charismatic teachers in all subjects from Std.1-12 and also for key subjects in higher education. These could be made available in the form of flash drives and tablets too. This is the only short-term solution to the grave and central issue of poor teachers in schools and colleges in India. Today PM has requested people to contribute 100 hours a year to teach in nearby schools : a recipe unlikely to materialize though Times Group's TEACH FOR INDIA campaign has yielded fair response in the past 5 years.

India's education market size in 2014-15 is around $100 Billion of which coaching classes and private tuitions comprise 40%. However, Govt has no clear policy or rules for smooth functioning of coaching classes. Govt often looks upon classes as a necessary evil and nothing more. Amazing synergies are possible if Govt gives coaching systems their rightful place in the educational sector. It could influence learning outcomes positively.

Lastly, we need a talented Union HRD Minister who understands the grassroots reality of India's Education sector and could lead the revamp exercise. Revamping India's education sector is a supra-major surgery. Only a seasoned surgeon can execute the job.

If right steps are taken, India can harness the demographic dividend and would catapult her into the next league. Else, we are staring at a demographic disaster with millions of potential unemployables who would wreck chaos in society.

Time to do is now!

Happy Teachers Day!

Friday, August 7, 2015

IITs : From Educational to Research Institutions


The IITs were formed by an Act of Parliament in 1950 on the recommendations of the SARKAR Committee Report. The objective of the IITs was to produce highly-skilled technocrats, researchers and innovators who would spearhead the technological developments of our nation. By 1961, 5 IITs were established at Kharagpur, Mumbai, Chennai, Kanpur and Delhi and admissions were granted on the basis of an Entrance exam called IIT-JEE from 1960. By 2015, there are 19 IITs in India.

The IITs have an alumni base of over 2 lacs as in 2015 whose impact on the nation and the globe is momentous. Though a majority of IITians have secured a stable career path with a good job in a large private or Govt. company, a remarkable number of IITians have excelled as Entrepreneurs, Innovators, Researchers, Civil Servants and change agents.

The Pan-IIT Alumni report 2008 prepared by Zinnov Management Consulting suggests that IITians have been involved in the creation of 2 crore new jobs globally which means almost 100 new jobs creation per IITian.  For every rupee invested by the Govt. of India on an IITian, the payback has been Rs.15. The Report further discovered that 7 out of every 10 IITians are working in India, that 54% of the Top 500 Indian companies have at least one IITian on their Board of Directors, and 4 out of every 10 IITians are in top leadership roles in organizations across various fields. The Report also estimated that Rs.20 lakh crore of incremental economic value creation has been effected by IITians till 2008 across the globe.  No other college in India can boast of having such a profound impact on society at large.

However, it is also true that most of the best brains amongst IIT alumni (especially Top 300 IIT-JEE Rankers) are not in India. Brain-drain has been a matter of concern for long but has been blindsided by successive governments.

Though the economic and social impact of IITians is immense, the research output of the IITs and IITians working in India is far from satisfactory. In the period between 2001-2014, the number of patent applications assigned to IITs were 127 as against 2155 to MIT-US. IITs do not figure even in the Top 200 in the global rankings of Universities published by Times & QS every year mainly due to its dismal research record. Brain drain is not the only reason for this phenomenon though.  The IITs are lagging behind premier Western universities in terms of funding available from the Government for research, the enabling atmosphere for Research & Innovation and the performance-oriented system for faculties.

Thus, IITs have been immensely successful as educational institutions though not so much as research institutions till date. 

It must be clearly understood however why IITs have been successful as educational institutions. The open secret is the Entrance exam viz. JEE. It is because of the high quality of students that enter the IITs that has made the IITs world-famous. The JEE is the toughest Entrance exam in the world with barely 2% selection ratio and challenging questions which test the problems solving ability of the candidate. Thus, Brand IIT is simply due to Brand JEE.

Students preparing for JEE have a far superior grip on basic concepts of Maths and Science as compared to those students who simply study for XII Boards only or State-level CETs. After studying for JEE, even if the student does not get admission into the IITs but enters a local Engineering college, he finds Engineering studies easy and sails smoothly to complete his degree and greatly increases his employability. This is not the case with a student who merely studies for XII Boards exams which is mostly based on rote learning and thus such a student struggles in throughout his Engineering studies. So, right selection of students has been the key to success of the IITs as educational institutes.

It is true that a number of steps must be taken up by the IITs and the Govt. to boost the research output of the IITs. The following steps may be recommended :

1)      Make the JEE exam Subjective-pattern type with pre-exam declared cut-offs for all categories as was the case from 1960 till 2005 so that only the most deserving students get in.

2)      Choice of branch of Engineering must be done after 2-years of B.Tech. program and not merely on the basis of JEE Ranks. The first 2-years course must be inter-disciplinary which helps the student to know about various fields. Only choice of IITs must be based on JEE Ranks.

3)      A Tenure system for faculties as in US universities must be introduced wherein faculties are evaluated every 7 years by peers in academia on basis of their performance in teaching, research and service to the field. At the same time, the salaries of IIT Faculty must be increased to match those of premier US universities. Faculties must be given a fair stake in the revenue generated for IITs via consultation projects with industry.

4)      Launch an 8-years (B.Tech. + Direct Ph.D.) program with no exit option in between. The choice of this program should be done after 2-years when branch selection has to be done. Once, faculty are assured that students are committed with them for longer period, the faculty-student duo can do serious research work. Those students who are not keen on pursuing Research may opt for the regular 4-years B.Tech. or 5-years Dual Degree M.Tech. program. Such students can be encouraged to take up entrepreneurship towards which the IITs have already set up incubation cells.  IIT Faculty may however be stingy in giving recommendation letters to students who wish to do M.S. abroad.  

5)      Funding and autonomy both must be given amply to the IITs by the Govt. to create a healthy research atmosphere in the IITs.

6)      Increased partnership with industry must be fostered.

 
If the above steps are implemented, IITs will emerge as premier colleges on the global stage fostering world-class research and education both.

- Durgesh C.Mangeshkar
(Director, IITian’s Prashikshan Kendra, Pune)

Friday, May 29, 2015

 ENGINEERING ADMISSIONS GENERAL GUIDANCE
 
As results of different Engineering Entrance Exams are declared, students and parents start getting anxious and try to grapple with the usual dilemmas about which are the better colleges, scope of branches of Engineering and what are the likely prospects of getting admission in different colleges. This article tries to address the frequently asked questions and typical dilemmas that students face during this crucial phase.
 
Firstly, Engineering must be taken up for undergraduate studies by any student who has above average logical & mathematical intelligence and has either genuine passion for a particular field of Engineering or is perhaps confused about his career prospects. Over a period of few years (typically 4th year of Engg.), the student shall discover his or her career path which may or may not be related to the Engineering field of his undergraduate studies. However, Engineering education fosters logical thinking, analytical skills and a practical sense which proves invaluable for many other careers like Corporate Management, Civil Services, Entrepreneurship etc. Therefore, Engineering for undergraduate studies in India must be pursued with this broad mind-set.
 
Secondly, it must be appreciated that there are only 2 fundamental branches of Engineering viz. MECHANICAL Engg and ELECTRICAL Engg. All other branches of Engineering are derivatives of these 2 fundamental branches of Engineering. The branches of Civil Engg, Production Engg., Chemical Engg, Metallurgical Engg, Industrial Engg are all sub-branches of Mechanical Engineering. Likewise, Power Engineering, Electronics Engg, Telecommunications Engg, Computers Engg. are all sub-branches of Electrical Engineering.
 
It must be noted that Computers Science is a mathematical field and is taught rigorously only in the IITs & BITS PILANI and not in other colleges in India. All other Engg. colleges teach a mix of Computers Engineering (hardware) and Information Technology (software programs, packages, internet, apps etc.) under the guise of Computers Department. So be clear that Computer Science, Computers Engineering and Information Technology are 3 different departments but are presented by different colleges with interchangeable nomenclatures.
 
There are some branches of Engineering which have come up by combining two or more departments. For example, Mechatronics Engineering is combination of Design aspect of Mechanical Engineering and Microelectronics aspect of Electronics Engineering. Again, Aerospace Engg. is formed by combining Fluids & Design aspect of Mechanical Engg., Materials aspect of Metallurgical Engg. and Microelectronics aspect of Electronics Engg.
 
Again, Petroleum Engg. is a sub-branch of Chemical Engg. And Environmental Engg. is formed by combining aspects of Civil and Chemical Engg.
 
Thirdly, the choice of branch of Engineering must be as broad-based as possible. It is better to choose a specialization for post-graduate studies rather than committing oneself to a narrow field at an undergraduate level. This is also due to the fact that most students truly do not know what exactly lies in the different Engineering branches and express their interest based on vague ideas which may often be flawed.
 
Fourthly, knowledge about computer programming is needed for all branches of Engineering and Science today and hence shall have to be learnt by every Engg. student. This is due to the fact that in every field there are computational tools of analysis (simulation) which are widely used currently. Hence, knowledge of IT is indispensable for every Engineer today. No wonder, many students after Engineering diversify into software field as they find it lucrative and/or more interesting.
 
Fifthly, every branch of Engineering has scope in terms of job opportunities, further studies opportunities and research if the student has genuine passion for the field. It is unreasonable to suggest that the hot branch is E&TC and some other branch is a poor branch. Every field has its charm and beauty and there is no hierarchy of fields as such. So a student should choose a branch based on passion and not simply the perceived scope as such. This is also suggested as perceived scope keeps changing every year as per global economic market conditions and hence cannot be relied upon to prevail after 4 years.
 
Sixthly, students suffer from a dilemma of whether to give college more preference or branch of Engineering. The resolution of the dilemma lies in the medium-term aspirations of the student i.e. what the student intends to do after graduation. If the thrust is towards a Job, MBA, UPSC, then college must be given preference over branch of Engg. However, if further studies in India or abroad or Research / Academia is the thrust, then branch must be chosen over the college.
 
Seventhly, students have a question if Maharashtra colleges of Engineering are as good as non-IIT National-level colleges like NITs, IIITs, DA-IICT, VIT-Vellore, MANIPAL, SRM etc. The interesting fact is that though in terms of curriculum and quality of education, Maharashtra colleges of Engineering are considerably inferior to national level colleges, the A-grade Engineering colleges of Maharashtra (about 40 in number) have excellent future scope in terms of job, further studies options and even overall brand equity. However, what a student gains by going into a National college is the vibrant campus life there wherein students from across India come together unlike State colleges. This exposure is much desired and recommended in today’s globalised world wherein EQ counts equal or more than IQ (or professional quotient (PQ) or degree as some call it).
 
 
Eighthly, admissions to Maharashtra Engineering colleges happen through 3 types of quotas viz. 65% State quota, 15% All India quota and 20% Management quota. The admissions to 65% of the seats in unaided colleges is on the basis of the 50-50 Rule wherein 50% weightage is given to XII Boards PCM Percentile (not marks) and 50% weightage is given to JEE MAINS Percentile (not marks). It must be noted that a score of about 75% in XII PCM corresponds to about 90 Percentile points. And a score of 100+ in JEE MAINS out of 360 marks corresponds to about 90 Percentile points. Also note that a score of 50 marks in JEE MAINS would correspond to 45 Percentile points. So JEE  MAINS is the deciding factor for admissions and not XII Boards so much.
 
However, admissions via the 15% All India quota is on the basis of JEE MAINS marks only. Please note that autonomous colleges do not have Management quota and usually take most of their admissions on the basis of 50-50 Rule only.
 
Ninethly, marks scored in XII Boards PCM are important for admissions to Maharashtra colleges. And Aggregate marks (5 subjects) scored in XII Boards PCM have relevance for NIT / IIIT admissions.
 
Tenthly, from 2015 onwards admission to 88 National-level colleges which includes the 17 IITs, 30 NITs, 4 IIITs etc. shall be via a joint counseling mechanism from June end onwards. It shall be co-ordinated by a joint team from IITs and NITs as per Court and HRD directives.
 
Similarly, admissions to Maharashtra colleges shall be through a CAP mechanism instituted by DTE, Maharashtra. It normally happens in 2 phases viz. First phase is for admissions into the 12+ Autonomous colleges of Maharashtra and then the second phase is for 350+ Private Colleges of Maharashtra. There are multiple rounds in each phase and the rules change every year. Students and parents must read the rules properly from the official websites of the Govt.
 
The admissions of private National level colleges like BITS, VIT-Vellore, Manipal and SRM shall all happen separately online by a separate process altogether. Students must read their individual websites to understand their admission rules and procedures.
 
The above points must be kept in mind by students, parents and other stake-holders during this crucial phase of Engineering admissions.
 
-          Durgesh C. Mangeshkar

Saturday, May 23, 2015


JEE ADVANCED 2015 : LAST MINUTE TIPS

The JEE ADVANCED Exam will be conducted on May-24 and is the exam for admission into the prestigious 17 IITs. A Rank within the Top 6000 in Common Merit List is required for an OPEN category student to secure admission into some branch in the IITs. The IITs offer 4-years B.Tech., 5-years Dual Degree M.Tech., 5-years M.Sc. programs besides B.Arch. & B.Des. programs. About 5000 seats are available for OPEN category and about 5000 seats are available for Reserved category students in the 17 IITs. The results shall be declared on June-18. Here are a few last-minute tips for the JEE ADVANCED aspirant :

 
1.         Be Grounded in Fundamentals and seek comfort in them – it helps to neutralize the stress due to competition and the general pressure of the JEE.

2.         Revise the formulae and important results across the syllabi. Also go through all the important Reactions and information charts in Organic & Inorganic Chemistry especially from NCERT books in the next 2 days.

3.         A day before JEE, simply relax, be with yourself and do gentle revision and spend time with family. Sleep early on May-23 so that you are well rested and energised to face the JEE ADVANCED exam on May-24.

4.         After giving several Mock Tests in the past few weeks, you should have arrived at an adaptive Attempt Strategy to face the JEE ADVANCED exam. Remember, it is important not to miss out any easy questions in the Test and it is equally important not to get stuck for too much time on some tricky questions. The decision to attempt or not to attempt a particular question is an important factor which eventually decides your JEE ADVANCED Rank. Be aware of the same.      

5.         Better early than never.

Reach your test center at least 30 minutes before the start of the test for check-in procedures. If you’re late, you may not be admitted. Bring your ID card along with the Admit Card.

6.         Spend the time between Paper-1 and Paper-2 (12-2pm) wisely. Do not eat a heavy lunch and take rest in a nearby hotel or a friend’s house as the summer heat is scorching and can sap you of your energies if you stay out in the sun. Do not discuss about Paper-1 with anyone during the break either.

7.         Time Management is crucial during the examination. The ideal time distribution in a 3-hour paper is 40 minutes for Chemistry, 60 minutes for Physics & 75 minutes for Mathematics. The remaining 5 minutes is meant for a go-over to check whether you have filled up the details properly, not done any block-shifts etc.

8.         Do not waste time on questions in the paper which appear tough and challenge your ego but actually waste your time. Instead, hunt out the easy questions and gain marks.

9.         Be prepared for surprises

You should be mentally ready for some surprises in the paper. Whatever it is, remember that everyone is in the same boat.  There is no point in getting mentally worked up over it. e.g. the JEE 2015 paper may turn out to be entirely Subjective or may be a little tough or even be ridiculously easy for a change !

10.       Pray – Prayer is the Supreme Power and you must invoke it in a reverent manner. Prayer arises out of gratefulness and a sense of surrender to the Almighty ! Seek Blessings from your parents, teachers and seniors.

 

-          Durgesh C. Mangeshkar

 (Director, IITian’s Prashikshan Kendra Pvt. Ltd.)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

JEE v/s MHT-CET debate is about Excellence v/s Mediocrity (Special Article on Engineering Entrance Exams Scenario)

In the past 11 years since 2004, the criterion for admissions into the Engineering colleges of Maharashtra has been a field of constant change and experimentation by the decision makers in Maharashtra Government. Every State Education Minister and Government has been changing the rules of the game at whim often with vague or short notice thereby creating an air of nervous uncertainty leaving lacs of students, parents and also teachers in a state of perpetual confusion and chaos. This article delves deeply into the various elements of educational philosophy, academic content & objectives, economics and broad political ideologies which are at play due to which this matter remains unsettled so far. However, all these issues can be settled if the political leadership has will and strength to implement a comprehensive vision for delivering quality education along with access and equity.

Before getting into the nuances of the elements at play, let us first examine the changes in rules of admission to Engineering colleges in Maharashtra in the past 11 years since 2004. Please note that for every Unaided Engineering college of Maharashtra, admission is granted via 3 different quotas viz. 65% State quota, 15% All India JEE MAINS (or AIEEE) quota & 20% Management quota. There have been no changes in the latter 2 quotas since 2002. However, significant changes in admissions criteria via 65% quota have been witnessed as mentioned below :

65% STATE QUOTA ADMISSIONS CRITERION

  • 1977-2003 : Admission on basis of Std.12 PCM marks only
  • 2004 : Admission on basis of 50% weightage each to Std. 12 PCM marks & MHT-CET marks
  • 2005 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2006 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2007 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2008 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2009 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2010 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2011 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2012 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2013 : Admission on basis of MHT-CET marks only. No weightage to Std.12 marks
  • 2014 : Admission on basis of 50% weightage each to JEE MAINS & Std.12 PCM percentiles
  • 2015 : Admission on basis of 50% weightage each to JEE MAINS & Std.12 PCM percentiles
  • 2016 onwards :  ?????

NB: Most aided or autonomous Engineering colleges like GCOEP take their admission for all their seats by the rules mentioned. They don’t have 15% All India quota or 20% Management quota. Also, note that less than 15 out of 365+ Engg. colleges are aided.

There were hardly 12 Engineering colleges in Maharashtra in 1984 the same year when the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Private Engineering Colleges bill which allowed formation of Private Engineering colleges. As on 2015, the number of Engineering colleges in Maharashtra is 365+ and total number of seats in all these colleges stands at around 1.6 lacs. Since the past few years, almost 50-60000 seats remain vacant every year due to which many private Engineering colleges find it difficult to sustain themselves. Thus, hardly 1 lac students secure admission into some branch and into some Engineering college in Maharashtra every year.

It is shocking to note that till 2011, the number of first year Engineering (FE) students out of these 1 lac students who would pass all the 10 subjects of FE stood at under 20%. From 2012-13 academic year, all the Universities of Maharashtra resolved to make the first year Engineering exams drastically easy by introducing Online Objective exams thereby increasing the passing percentage to over 75%. It is unfortunate that technical educationists of Maharashtra have indulged in gross sub-standardisation of evaluation process to increase the passing percentage of students. Nobody seems to be bothered that Online Objective exams at Engineering level do not serve the purpose of building quality Engineers. None in the Education Ministry or the bureaucracy or the Engineering Education community is concerned about the fact that the employability of such students is reduced drastically. Who cares if students don’t gain confidence or jobs or skills ? As long as more and more students join and pass the Engineering colleges and fill the cash coffers of Engineering colleges, it is business as usual.

In the past 3 years, the job placements of Engineering graduates has hit an all-time low. Out of about 1 lac students who come out of Engineering colleges every year, less than one-third of them get job placements on campus. The rest remain unemployed. The HR executives of corporates of all hues have unanimously denounced the poor quality of skills, knowledge and confidence that candidates exhibit due to which they can’t hire despite having vacancies. There are only a handful of A-grade Engineering colleges in Maharashtra like GCOEP, VJTI, ICT, PICT etc. where this trend is not witnessed. It is interesting to discover that ground level feedback from students about faculty in these so-called A-grade colleges is not satisfactory either. But students somehow manage to study themselves and gain fundamentals. This is simply due to the fact that these A-grade colleges attract brighter students most of whom have been exposed to IIT-JEE studies in Std.11 & 12 in their JEE coaching classes due to which their basic concepts in PCM and thinking abilities have been sharpened.  This phenomenon does not take place in students of B-grade & C-grade Engineering colleges as their basics are weak and they have not developed sound logical thinking skills in Std.11 & 12 as they were exposed to only Std. 12 level college studies or sub-standard MHT-CET studies.

A natural question arises then.
What is the key differentiator between an employable Engineering graduate and a non-employable Engineering graduate ?

My analysis clearly states that the key differentiator is the strength of fundamentals of Science and Maths along with problem solving abilities of the student developed till Std.12.  The aspect of quality of faculty in Engineering colleges is secondary and not the primary determinant of the quality of the Engineering graduate. The Government of the day, the bureaucrats in the Technical Education Departments and educationists in various colleges and Universities either fail to grasp or choose to ignore this key aspect which determines the quality of the Engineering graduate which in turn decides his employability as well as research, innovation & entrepreneurial scope.

The secret of Brand IIT is not the campus, the faculty, the labs and other resources which IITs provide. Those are secondary factors. The primary factor for the prestige and global appeal of Brand IIT is undoubtedly the Entrance Exam called IIT-JEE now renamed as JEE ADVANCED since 2013. The lofty level of difficulty IIT-JEE (arguably the toughest Entrance exam in the world) ensured that only the most brilliant and accomplished students got admission into the prestigious IITs since 1960. The quality of the incoming raw material was so rich that regardless of the quality of education imparted per se within the IIT campuses, the output was marvelous 90% of the times. Needless to mention, India’s finest entrepreneurs, researchers, innovators, corporate professionals, bureaucrats, social activists, media persons etc. are alumni of the IITs.

The same thesis holds true for other elite Engineering colleges in India like the BITS-PILANI, NITs, IIITs, DCE, VIT-Vellore etc. The quality (read difficulty level) of the Entrance Exam decides the quality of admitted students in an Engineering college. Dilution of the level of difficulty or syllabi or pattern of the Entrance Exam is sacrilegious from the point of view of quality education and brand equity of the college. Unfortunately, these time-tested principles have held no traction in the minds of the decision-makers of technical Education of Maharashtra till date who profess about quality education but address the cause of quantity education instead.

The normal narrative which the Education Ministers of Maharashtra read out is that by making the Entrance Exam easier, we are relieving the stress of students. The other narrative often doled out is that if Entrance Exams become tougher, then students depend more on commercial coaching classes who mint inordinate amounts of money. Hence, by making the Entrance Exam easier, we intend to reduce the dependence of students on coaching classes. Nothing is more ridiculous than both these arguments.

To rebut the latter argument, every student joins a coaching class even for Std.12 college studies since nothing worthwhile is being taught in junior colleges today. As far as Entrance Exams is concerned, every student joins some coaching class or the other irrespective of whether the Entrance Exam is easier or tougher. On the contrary, if the Entrance exam is easier, more coaching classes proliferate as there are more service providers. And competitive edge is the selling point for bagging admissions in both cases. So such decisions have little impact on the sway of coaching classes which have become the de facto standard in Indian education system.
And fees and sustenance of coaching classes is subject to market dynamics and it is said that the market is a great leveler. Then, why should the Government base its decisions on Education on what happens in the market space? The market is clever enough to take care of itself.

To rebut the former argument, it suffices to appreciate that Engineering studies is not a piece of cake which a casual student who spends more time watching cricket on TV or sharing Whatsapp jokes than studying can ever fathom. Engineering studies requires a student of above average intelligence quotient (IQ) and someone who can study for long hours. The subjects of Maths, Physics and Chemistry (PCM) which constitutes the base of all Engineering studies are profound yet fascinating subjects. Only an intelligent and hardworking student can grasp the deep fundamentals of PCM and it is clearly not the domain of the average student. Therefore, to state that the Entrance Exam must be made easier in order to ease the stress of Engineering aspirants is equivalent to saying that we will train our athletes to run only 4 km as running the complete stretch of 35 km would be very stressful for him. But we shall still train him to be a marathon runner. This is a confused and self-contradictory paradigm. An Engineering aspirant must be clear that becoming a quality Engineer needs lot of hard work and a minimum level of intellect. If both these aspects are present, the student can certainly go ahead. Else, he must choose some other career path. If either of these 2 aspects is not there and the student still foolishly pursues Engineering studies, then he will be tricked by the system and emerge as a degree holder low in confidence, devoid of skills and certainly unemployable. This type of graduate has been the output of all B-grade and C-grade Engineering colleges of Maharashtra for many many years. Almost all these colleges are owned by politicians of all political hues and hence the phenomenon is usually ignored by the incumbent Government.

The need for quality CAREER COUNSELLORS cannot be overemphasized. It is the burning need of the hour. Any Tom, Dick and Harry should not be encouraged to take up Engineering. It is a challenging field and only the capable ones must be encouraged. Today’s teenagers are gripped by electronic fever and are found spending long hours fiddling with their electronic gadgets. They invest little time for studies as they have no self-control and are usually pampered by cash-rich parents. The field of Engineering must be recommended to only such students who are intelligent, hard-working and have a strong mind which can temper the electronic fever.

Now, let us turn to the aspect of which Entrance Exam is ideal for choosing right Engineering students. The Entrance Exam must contain questions in PCM subjects which are thought- provoking and test fundamental concepts of the subjects. The JEE is certainly one such exam and is time-tested to select the deserving candidates for over 50 years. On the other hand, the MHT-CET started in 2004 is a sub-standard Entrance exam which contains easy formula-substitution questions and does not test the thinking or problems solving ability of the student at all. The JEE has 110 chapters, conceptual questions and negative marking. The MHT-CET on the other hand has typically 60 chapters, simple formula-substitution type questions and no negative marking. Thus, the choice between JEE and MHT-CET is abundantly clear for anyone who is an advocate of quality education. The JEE is the right choice ofcourse !

Now, let us examine how students have been preparing for Entrance Exams in Maharashtra in the past 10 years. About 2.5 lacs students appear for the Engineering Entrance Exam every year in Maharashtra. There are 3 major study patterns which have dominated different sections of the Engineering aspirants community.

The first study pattern constitutes nearly 75% of the Engineering aspirants community and involves joining a tuition or coaching class for college curriculum for 2-years in Std.11 & 12. Such students study from the college text books and additional notes given by coaching classes and prepare for the college Unit Tests, Terminals, Prelims and finally the Std.12 Boards exam. Such students prepare for the Entrance Exam like JEE MAINS or MHT-CET as the case maybe after Std.12 Boards exam by joining a Crash Course in a coaching class. This pattern of studies is dominant in all rural and semi-urban centers of Maharashtra and almost 50% of students in urban cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad etc. also follow this study pattern. This study pattern enables students to do well in college exams and Std.12 exams but they fare miserably in Entrance Exams. Such students learn the subjects of PCM by rote memory and they develop poor thinking or problem solving skills. They make poor candidates for Engineering.

The second type of study pattern involves studying for Std.11 college exams in Std.11 and then studying for the Entrance Exam and Std.12 Boards simultaneously in Std.12 which yields decent success to students in Std.12 Boards exams as well as the Entrance Exams. However, the pre-dominant method of learning remains basic understanding and simple applications-based questions. Such students do not score too well in JEE (< 60 marks out of 360) but do well in the easier MHT-CET. This type of study pattern is found in coaching classes in almost all semi-urban centers and to the extent of 35% in urban centers of Maharashtra. This type of study pattern is effective in providing a mediocre background for future Engineering studies though not an excellent or strong one.

The third type of study pattern involves studying for JEE only in Std.11 & most of Std.12. Only the last 3 months are dedicated by the student to study for Std.12 Boards which is sufficient as all Std.12 chapters are also there in JEE syllabi. The focus of this study pattern is on deep conceptual understanding and developing sharp problems solving abilities. This is the type of study pattern practised in good quality IIT-JEE coaching institutes which are present in only few urban centers of Maharashtra. About 15% of the students in urban centers follow this study pattern. Students following this study pattern perform excellently in JEE and all Entrance exams. They do well in Std.12 Boards as well though they do not figure amongst the toppers. The most important aspect is that students following this third study pattern perform excellently in Engineering thereafter. The seed of innovation, research and entrepreneurship is planted into the minds of students following this type of study pattern.

It is obvious that from a teaching point of view, the first study pattern is easiest to administer followed by the second and the third study pattern is toughest to administer. The ratio of number of coaching institutes advocating these different types of study patterns is also in the similar ratio as the number of students practicing the same. It must be the efforts of all educationists in the Government and the private sector to create a system wherein more and more students study by the 3rd study pattern as that is the most efficient pattern for becoming quality Technocrats.
  
Now, let us investigate which vested interests would want MHT-CET instead of JEE ?
Throughout the course of history, the devil has had usually more advocates than the divine cause. The same holds true in this case as well.

  • Since the MHT-CET is easy to teach and most junior college teachers and coaching classes teachers are unable to teach for JEE, the Std.12 coaching classes and junior colleges hanker for MHT-CET instead of JEE. Such teachers have been losing respect in the eyes of their students in the past 2 years since the JEE has been introduced as they are unable to answer their questions. So such incompetent teachers of Science & Maths want JEE to go and be replaced by a more comfortable MHT-CET.
  •  The misguided parents and students who do not understand that employability of the student after graduation in the job market is directly proportional to the level of difficulty of the Entrance Exam plead for MHT-CET for short-term comfort or for love of convenience. The usual bogey of such parents and students is that JEE would be more stressful. They fail to understand that Engineering studies would be terribly stressful later if they don’t get their fundamentals strong in Std.11 & 12 which happens only by studying for an exam like JEE.
  • The B-grade & C-grade Private Engineering colleges which are over 250 in number in Maharashtra are plagued by the problem of unfilled seats every year and face the prospect of closing down also want MHT-CET instead of JEE. Their logic is this. If the Entrance Exam is easy like MHT-CET, more students shall score better and would be tricked into thinking that Engineering studies are within their ambit. So more of their college seats shall be filled and they would not make a loss. Instead, if the Entrance exam is JEE, relatively less students do well and the rest get alerted that if Entrance exam is so tough then Engineering studies would also not be easy. Hence, many students become wiser and choose a different career path and do not get into the Engineering trap. This should be actually desirable but the B-grade & C-grade Engineering colleges lobby do not want this to happen for their own vested interests.     


It is interesting to know that after the introduction of JEE as an Entrance Exam since 2013, the quality of students enrolling in the A-grade Engineering colleges of Maharashtra has registered a steady improvement as per testimonials of Professors and Directors of these colleges. The number of students from Maharashtra getting selected in the IITs has increased tremendously in the past 2 years since 2013. In 2002, Maharashtra was ranked 12th in India in terms of number of students selected in the IITs, was 10th ranked in 2007 and reached 4th Rank after Rajasthan, A.P. and Delhi in 2014. So, if JEE continues in Maharashtra, it would be a matter of few more years that Maharashtra shall reach the numero uno position in IIT Ranks. Thus, JEE stands for excellence in education and MHT-CET for mediocrity at best if not poverty of education !


After reading this article, I think it should be very clear to the reader that the choice between MHT-CET and JEE is equivalent to the choice between Mediocrity and Excellence. It can therefore be broadly concluded that a Government which chooses MHT-CET instead of JEE is clearly NOT CONCERNED about quality of Engineering Education. Such a Government is concerned merely in lowering the bar thereby incentivising the ill-counselled youth of the State to take up Engineering on a mass scale. The B-grade & C-grade Engineering colleges are likely to be hand in-glove with the Government in doing the same as they are the beneficiaries of this phenomenon unscrupulously so. A Government which serves the vested interest of such constituencies should be held guilty of indulging in a form of crony capitalism and no less.

The Government should start a separate 4-years degree course called Bachelor of Engineering Skills (B.E.S.) in these B-grade and C-grade Engineering colleges wherein students learn minimal theory and are taught high-end practical industry-relevant skills like operating a CNC machine to using various software packages and computing tools. The youth who are not capable of understanding the deep theoretical stuff of the Sciences but still have the passion to pursue Engineering due to social conditioning or do some technical stuff can be groomed through this special B.E.S. courses. Such students can be easily get jobs as they are industry-ready. This is in line with PM Modi’s vision of Skill India as well.  In other words, these struggling B-grade colleges can become glorified ITIs. The prestigious B.Tech. degree and B.E. degrees must be granted only to quality students by A-grade Engineering colleges. Else,  the degrees have also lost their prestige.

Thus, the choice between MHT-CET and JEE is the choice between :
  • Mediocrity or Excellence
  • Quantity education or Quality education
  • Short-term interests or Long-term interests
  • Filling seats of dubious colleges or Building strong Engineers
  • Regressive vision or Progressive vision
  • Promoting the vicious easy path or Promoting the virtuous difficult path.

The choice that this Government makes shall decide the fortunes of an entire generation of bright students and hence also of the State and the nation. Make no mistake – this decision has the power and weight to transform Maharashtra into upward mobility or otherwise. I pray that wisdom and good sense prevails on the decision makers of the State.

I hope this article educates, enlightens and alerts the right thinking individuals of the State and the nation about the ongoings of a critical sector which can help realise or stem the tremendous potential that Maharashtra and India has.