Principal Scientific Advisor K VijayRaghavan feels that it is wiser to study these subjects in schools before seeking admission to B.Tech and BE programmes.
Days after the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) relaxed the criteria for admission to engineering courses, two eminent scientists have expressed apprehension over the decision to allow students without physics and maths as their core subjects in schools to pursue engineering by offering them remedial bridge courses.
Principal Scientific Advisor K VijayRaghavan feels that it is wiser to study these subjects in schools before seeking admission to B.Tech and BE programmes. “Rigour and depth in subjects like physics and mathematics come easier early on,” VijayRaghavan was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. Terming the decision “retrograde,” scientist VK Saraswat, member of the NITI Aayog and former head of Defence Research and Development Organisation, said that it is a ‘step in the wrong direction.
Saraswat and VijayRaghavan have undergraduate degrees in engineering from Madhav Institute of Technology and Science in Gwalior and IIT Kanpur respectively.
Their remarks come in the backdrop of India’s technical education regulator tweaked the criteria for admission in undergraduate engineering programmes. Under the new norms, students who haven’t studied either physics or mathematics or both in their class 11 and class 12 are eligible for pursuing the course.
The new norms say that candidates must secure at least 45 per cent marks in any three of the 14 subjects listed – physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, information technology, electronics, informatics practices, biotechnology, biology, engineering graphics, technical vocational subject, business studies, and entrepreneurship. Earlier, physics and mathematics were compulsory subjects in high school for engineering aspirants.
However, the regulator has defended the decision saying that changes are in line with the multidisciplinary approach of the new National Education Policy (NEP). AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabuddhe said that the changes will “open a window of opportunity” for students. Emphasising that these changes are not binding on institutions, Sahasrabuddhe said it will allow students to pursue engineering in branches like textile and biotechnology. He argued that advanced knowledge of these subjects is not required and bridge courses offered in college can provide all the required knowledge.
The Principal Scientific Advisor, however, opined that all these ‘flexibilities must be exercised with care.’
“In some areas of social sciences and natural sciences, knowledge of mathematics or physics acquired in high-school may not be essential but even in such cases a strong schooling in mathematics, logic, quantitative approaches, and physics learned early is valuable,” he said.
“Without a strong high school level training in mathematics and physics, it would be difficult to progress through in a high-quality biotechnology course. Advanced methods of computer science, statistics, the physics of motion, probability, and so on will be required for a good course.”
Talking about the proposal of offering bridge courses, he said: “There would be hardly any individual who comes in unschooled and then excelled through a bridging course. Rigour and depth in these subjects come easier early on.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Saraswat said the only way the changes could work for students coming from diverse academic backgrounds is that they are made to study the bride course for a year and then only allowed to start normal classes of the engineering programme. “Attending the bridge course alongside the normal classes won’t work,” he said.
Professor Guhan Jayaraman, head of the biotechnology department at IIT-Madras, said that there is nothing new in norms announced by the AICTE as many private universities are allowing students to pursue courses in biotechnology even when they didn’t study mathematics in high school.
“But it has been noted that when these graduates come to an ITT for Ph.D, they cannot use simple mathematical formulation,” he was quoted as saying.
TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education too suggested that the bridge course should be completed before starting normal courses.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited said that the new norms can work but one will end up limiting their opportunities without a maths background.