118 years of trust
Chandigarh, Monday, December 7, 1998
Debate on entrance exams:
It’s quantity versus quality
By Jupinderjit Singh and Varinder Walia
THE recent announcement by Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Minister for Higher Education, that entrance tests for admission to various postgraduate courses in the state’s universities will be abolished in a phased manner has once again brought the contentious issue to the fore.

Inadequate staff hits teaching
From K.G. Dutt
There is deterioration in the academic standards in the newly opened engineering colleges in the state because of lack of qualified staff. In most colleges adequate staff has not been employed as the authorities are unable to pay proper pay scales to teachers. A survey undertaken by TNS reveals that some colleges have adopted the practice of hiring staff on a part-time basis from the Regional Engineering College, Kurukshetra.

  Polity’s new toy
By Jasvir Kaur Chahal
EDUCATION seems to have become the latest toy acquired by the Indian polity. Come power and they start riding this rocking horse to the limit of mad fury, perhaps searching for success through this otherwise rare commodity in the country.

Campus scene: Consultancy centre at PAU


Youth & careerTop


Debate on entrance exams
It’s quantity versus quality
By Jupinderjit Singh and Varinder Walia

THE recent announcement by Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Minister for Higher Education, that entrance tests for admission to various postgraduate courses in the state’s universities will be abolished in a phased manner has once again brought the contentious issue to the fore.

While educationists are divided on the issue. Most say the government move has not come as a surprise. With the abolition of entrance tests for admission to postgraduate classes in colleges early this year, such an announcement was on the expected lines.

Entrance tests in colleges were banned as a result of pressure by the college authorities. Ever since Punjabi University started the test in 1993, the number of admissions in postgraduate courses in colleges began to decline. During the last academic year, things came to such a pass that most classes were without students. The biggest casualty was the Punjabi Department where no admissions were made in the past three years. The propagation of this language, ironically, was the basis on which Punjabi University was set up in 1967.

Now an equal pressure has been built to abolish the entrance tests in universities. Educationists say the system was started with good intentions but developed many loopholes. Thus, began the lobbying for scrapping the entrance tests.

Officials close to the university authorities strongly defend the university’s policy of conducting the tests. They argue that the need of the hour is not for increasing the quantity of students but to have quality students. The entrance tests were started with the purpose of discouraging non-serious students from taking admission in postgraduate classes. The main motive of this section of students was to while away time. Some took admission for hostel accommodation. This section, being anti-social in nature, also posed disciplinary problems for the authorities.

However, these arguments fail to find ground with teachers opposing the entrance tests. Says Mr S S Khaira, president, PUTA: “By making the students sit for the entrance tests after they have passed graduation from the university means that the university doubts it’s own examination system. It also questions the integrity of persons conducting the examination of graduation classes.”

Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon, a former Dean, Colleges, Punjabi University, and at present president, Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR), a registered body of eminent educationists, says the issue should be left to academicians and not to politicians. Defending the decision of the university to hold entrance test, he says these were started on the recommendations of Raju committee set by the UGC to suggest ways and means for improving higher education in the country. “It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Higher Education has succumbed to the demand of a pressure group who believes in numbers and not quality education,” he laments.

He claims that the entrance tests have been a success. The need now is to remove various shortcomings that have crept the system. Citing loopholes, he says there is a need to involve college principals and teachers in the scheme who were ignored earlier. More weightage should be given to marks obtained in graduation. The eligibility criteria of securing a minimum of 50 per cent marks can be lowered. The question papers should also test the practical knowledge of the candidate.

Another major loophole is that the student has to pay an exorbitant fee for sitting in the examinations. It would be better if such tests are not considered as a source of revenue by the university. The teachers should also consider the conduct of examinations as part of their official duty.

Former Dean, Academic Affairs, and dean Colleges, Dr S S Dhillon, in whose tenure the entrance test were started, says despite extra vigil” by the universities there were cases of unfair means being used, in examinations. The entrance tests brought all candidates on an even ground. “However, after five years, we have realised that the entrance tests have a lot of negative aspects like the test is not comprehensive as it consists of only objective questions.” He suggests introduction of viva for the candidates to test all-round knowledge.

He also suggests that the universities should conduct the test on a no-profit, no loss basis. The exorbitant fee given to coordinators should be reduced. The fee charged from students should also be lowered.

“In the final analysis, it is the integrity of the person concerned that makes the system a success. Without it any method or process will fail to deliver,” he concludes.

The need for introducing entrance tests was felt by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, as the peak of militancy amid reports of mass copying during the annual examinations. Later, the tests came as blessing in disguise for officials of universities and other educational institutions who were under tremendous pressure from politicians and bureaucrats to accommodate their, wards, especially in professional courses.

Whether the entrance tests have improved the academic atmosphere in educational institutions or not is a million dollar question. Educationists and students are divided on the issue.

Most educationists opine that the tests are the need of the hour to improve the quality of professionals being produced by the institutes of higher learning. Such tests are being conducted all over the world to assess previous merit of the candidate, they say. The tests help to stop the entry of “unscrupulous” students who get merit by adopting unfair means, says Dr R K Bedi, president, Guru Nanak Dev Teachers Association. He says higher education will not be up to the mark if tests are abolished.

He feels at the most entrance tests can be streamlined.

Dr S P Singh, Dean, Colleges, also favours entrance tests. He says there must be a way out to improve the quality of higher education. The tests are conducted on an all-India basis. Hence, if these are abolished by the state, the intake will be of a poor quality.

However, students are of the view that it is very difficult for them to pay for tuitions required for preparing for such tests. Tuition “shops” have mushroomed after the introduction of entrance tests, they argue. The earning from tuitions can be gauged from the fact that two teachers of a private college at Jalandhar had disclosed that their earnings were more than Rs 2 crore at the time of the voluntary disclosure scheme about two years ago. This had forced Guru Nanak Dev University to take drastic steps to check the menace of tuition. The Registrar, in a notification, had directed the teachers of affiliated, had directed the teachers of affiliated educational institutions not to undertake tuition work otherwise drastic action would be recommended against them. However such steps failed to curb the menace.

Hence, for the poor students abolishing of the tests will definitely come as a blessing as they can ill afford the tuitions.

However, the educationists feel the practice of entrance tests should be continued till a viable solution is found. They say the universities earning crores of rupees from such tests will further face a financial crunch if these are abolished.

“The state government has no right to take such decision unless it provides sufficient financial support to the universities,” they argue.


Technical education-II
Inadequate staff hits teaching
From K.G. Dutt

Karnal: There is deterioration in the academic standards in the newly opened engineering colleges in the state because of lack of qualified staff. In most colleges adequate staff has not been employed as the authorities are unable to pay proper pay scales to teachers. A survey undertaken by TNS reveals that some colleges have adopted the practice of hiring staff on a part-time basis from the Regional Engineering College, Kurukshetra.

The survey shows that some teachers of the Regional Engineering College go in groups of six every weekend to teach in colleges at Yamunanagar, Radaur and Mulana. The privately managed engineering colleges in Radaur, Mulana, Yamunanagar and Kurukshetra keep the colleges open even on Saturdays and Sundays. Sunday being a holiday at the Regional Engineering College, Kurukshetra, and in most cases Saturday being a half day, qualified staff from these colleges can avail of this time to take classes in other colleges.

Each teacher is paid about Rs 200 per period. The most colleges each teacher is assigned about 30 periods.

This has affected the teaching schedule in the Regional Engineering College at Kurukshetra. According to official sources, the Principal of the Regional Engineering College was compelled to pass orders that “no teacher would take up assignment outside the college without the permission of the Principal”. It is learnt that the Principal withdrew the order when faced with pressures from a number of quarters.

As teachers on a hire contract basis are not available in some areas, there has been lesser admission rush in the engineering colleges at Kaithal, Jind and Faridabad. This is because they are unable to get qualified staff from other engineering colleges to teach the classes.

It is learnt that in Faridabad and Gurgaon areas, these colleges are run in rented school buildings during the evening after school hours. It is learnt that some engineering colleges are being run in hired rooms of Dharamshalas. Interestingly, some colleges in the private sector have not even employed regular technical staff. This staff is needed to man laboratories. Instead of appointing technical staff on a regular basis, these colleges recruit retired persons on low salaries ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 1000 per month for the job.

Another fact which has come to light is that some colleges are not functioning at places where the All-India Council for Technical Education, the state government and the university had given approval. For instance, the three bodies had given a no-objection certificate to a private body for opening an engineering college at Dodkarsa village in Karnal district. Amazingly, this college is being run from Kurukshetra till date and the management has not made any effort to open the college at Dodkarsa. Why the state government and the All-India Council for Technical Education have so far failed to take notice of such an aberration on the part of the management is puzzling. If such lapses are allowed, educationists point out, that technical education in the state will go to the dogs.

A senior faculty member from a reputed engineering college even went to the extent of saying that AITC should stop issuing licenses to new engineering colleges for at least five years. Instead, it should review the functioning of the present colleges to ensure that these are well equipped with laboratories, hostel accommodation and staff.

Because of the deterioration in the standards of engineering education and the mushroom growth of colleges, employment opportunities have further diminished. For instance, every year the Haryana produces over 4,000 qualified engineers. Where are the vacancies for them. Consequently, qualified degree holders are forced to work at low salaries. In some cases these degree-holders are seen working on a salary as low as Rs 1500-Rs 2000 per month.

On the other hand, there is a mad race for capturing government posts. A recent instance is that for two posts of SDO meant for SC quota in Haryana, 59 candidate came for interview. The situation in the general category is worse.

The state exchequer has to spend enormous sums for turning out engineers. For instance, the annual budget of the Regional Engineering College at Kurukshetra is about Rs 15 crore. It turns out 250 engineers per year.

As employment avenues in engineering departments have considerably diminished, technically trained men have started competing for the civil services. It will not be surprising if an exodus start from engineering services to civil services. This will be a loss not only to the state exchequer but society as a whole.



Polity’s new toy
By Jasvir Kaur Chahal

EDUCATION seems to have become the latest toy acquired by the Indian polity. Come power and they start riding this rocking horse to the limit of mad fury, perhaps searching for success through this otherwise rare commodity in the country. The toy seems to have attracted more attention of these spoiled children of society with latest declarations of Amartya Sen that education is the panacea for all illnesses of Indian society (after all Nobel Prize carries that much weight in India).

The year 1986 witnessed a hallmark in the history of Indian education when the Rajiv Gandhi Regime brought forth the second national policy on education after a year long discussion in various Universities on this proposed policy. The lesser students of ‘education’ of my like were dissatisfied then that this discussion never reached the grassroots level i.e. the colleges of education and rural and urban school teachers.

Then came the Janata regime and they found too many mistakes in this policy and set it for revision. The Acharya Ram Murti Committee report was the outcome. The schemes which could hardly take off found themselves landing with screeches. Since then it seems to have become the hobby of our politicians to hobnob with education.

The pinnacle of this exercise came in the month of October when the Education Ministers as well as bureaucrats gathered to discuss the latest 21st century education policy for India sans the presence of sizeable representatives of expert educationists — people from educational philosophy, educational technology and other specialists.

Once again reminded of Amartya Sen’s zest for ‘internal freedom’, which, perhaps, he rates as the highest and which has to transcend through education’s magic wand, I wonder if the current trend of the monopolised, lopsided education policies can ensure that creative freedom amongst the masses of India. I visualise his ‘Internal freedom’ as to be the basis for the other four freedoms namely: participatory, transactional, procedural and protective. The danger bells ringing here warn us that, perhaps in our endeavour to have short-term gains, we may not gamble education for long-term losses. Beware! Democracy is at stake and long with democracy the future of 100 crores of us Indians.

The educationists already have the feeling that they are many times treated as aliens to their own area of specialisation i.e. education when they have to explain their problems to the not-ready-to-be-understanding bureaucratic heads handling education. Now they have further been pushed down the drain by the new precedent whereby politicians also decide curriculum. One is compelled to think that it is now the turn for politicisation of education in general after successfully politicising the campuses for higher education. Who acts as dons? The educationists or does the needle point elsewhere?


Campus scene
Consultancy centre at Punjab Agricultural University

LUDHIANA: To promote interaction between the university and industrial/commercial/government agencies for design, development and transfer of technology, Punjab Agricultural University has established a consultancy centre. The centre would provide an opportunity to the faculty to enrich their knowledge regarding professional matters.

The projects to be undertaken by the centre could be in the area of investigational and developmental testing using standard test procedures and non-standard developmental testing with special procedures to simulate service conditions, on-site investigations and tests involving structural integrity product or equipment failures and environmental hygiene investigations, testing of equipment and technology transfer.

The consultancy fee is charged according to the cost of equipment and material, computer charges and other overhead charges.

* * * *

Two members of the university faculty have been awarded fellowships for their outstanding contribution in the fields of veterinary pathology and food science and technology.

Dr P.P. Gupta, Professor and former Head of the Department of Veterinary Pathology, has been awarded the Fellowship Indian Association of Veterinary Patho-logists Fellowship for lifetime achievement in disease diagnosis in pathology.

Dr Gupta was awarded the fellowship at the annual conference of the I.A.V.P. held recently at Trichur, where he presented a research paper on experimental zygomycosis and chaired a session. He has done research work on pathogenesis of experimental cardio-vascular, respiratory and mycoplasinal diseases.

Dr Kashmira Singh Sekhon, Additional Director of Research (Agriculture), has been elected Fellow of the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India).

The fellowship was conferred on him at the inauguration of the International Food Technology convention held at Mysore recently. Dr Sekhon also presented a paper on interaction between academic institutes/research institutes and the food industry.

* * * *

The Department of Business Management will organise the 12th Shri Ram Memorial Lecture series in management on December 10.

Mr V.G. Jindal, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Zee Worldwide Limited, will deliver two lectures on “digital economy”. The series will be inaugurated by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Finance Minister, Punjab, according to Dr O.P. Sahni, Head, Department of Business Management.Top



Attention deficit
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dismissed by critics as an overused label for unruly kids, is a “major public health problem” according to an expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health, USA. But there is no standard way to diagnose it. And drug treatment, thought effective at getting kids to calm down and pay attention in school and at home, has not been proven to improve school work or offer any other long-term benefits. The report, from 13 physicians, educators and advocates, will be highly influential, but is unlikely to quiet the debate about whether too many kids take Ritalin and other stimulant drugs for a problem that some consider more about discipline than medicine, reports USA Today.

Reading to deaf children
Actor and educator Howie Seago is deaf. He reads books to children using exaggerated hand and body motions as he brings the books to life for the children. Seago was recently chosen to be director of the Shared Reading Video Outreach Project (SRVOP), a new program designed to enhance reading abilities of deaf and hard-of-hearing students throughout Washington State, USA, according to a report published in The Seattle Times. Seago will read a story to deaf children at 11 sites twice a month over interactive video from Seattle. Each site that participates in the program will receive a desktop video-conferencing system, computer, cameras, large-screen monitor, a VCR and accessories. Each will be able to keep the equipment. The SRVOP was created through a $ 4,82,000 Washington State Technology Grant. It is considered a flagship project for the state’s K-20 Network, a system of fibre-optic cable that is linking all of the state’s public schools and colleges.

MIT links kids around the world
Professors and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, which develops new uses for cutting-edge communications technology, spent the summer delivering computers around the world to link up 3,000 kids aged 10-16. The goal of the project was to create an online discussion about new solutions for global problems. After three months of international e-mail debate, 97 participants elected online by their peers are now gathered at MIT for an event called “Junior Summit,” a week of meetings with professors, ambassadors and corporate CEOs. Among the new ideas: (1) community service clubs in schools around the world that would use the Internet to launch discussions or share information; (2) an online newspaper with reports from young correspondents around the world; (3) a junior World Bank that would lend money for projects that help children; and (4) creating a Children’s Nation that would exist only in cyberspace. The virtual country would have a seat in the United Nations general assembly to lobby for children’s rights, and would raise revenue by issuing postage stamps, reports USA Today.


Youth & career

  • Rajkumari Amrit Kaur College of Nursing, Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi: Diploma in Nursing Education and Administration ( last date March 31); Master of Nursing (last date February 10); and B.Sc (Hons) Nursing (last date April 6). Contact college.
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences, 6th Floor, VP Chest Institute Building, University of Delhi, Delhi: DM/M.Ch/ MD/MS/ Post-graduate diploma courses. Contact faculty. Last date December 31.
  • Dr Y.S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan, Nauni: Doctoral programme in College of Horticulture/Forestry. Contact university. Last date January 23.
  • Central Drug Research Institute, Chattar Manzil Palace, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Lucknow: Post-Graduate Research Traineeship. Test on January 17. Contact institute. Last date December 24.
  • Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore-560012: Young Engineering Fellowships-1999. Contact institute. Last date December 31.
  • Small Industries Service Institute, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi-110020: Training programme on “ISO - 9000 Quality Management Systems and TQM”. Contact institute. Last date December 15.

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