Polytechnic education plagued with problems in J&K

Polytechnic education plagued with problems in J&K

The intake capacity of seats in polytechnic programmes should be reduced in both government as well as private colleges, while the Lateral Entry quota at Bachelors level in state universities must be increased

Er Shah Khalid

After witnessing “considerable decrease” in the enrolment ratio since the past few academic sessions in polytechnic colleges across Jammu and Kashmir, the Administrative Council under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Lt Governor recently accorded sanction to revamping the admission process in polytechnic colleges, besides changing the “Technical Education Department” to “Department of Skill Development” and the “Directorate Technical Education” to “Directorate of Skill Development”.
The Academic Council also approved hiring of a consultancy for reviewing the courses offered by polytechnic colleges. Further, it was directed that admissions to polytechnic colleges in J&K should now be shifted from “Board of Professional Entrance Examination” to “State Board of Technical Education”. Institutes have also been asked to fill all vacant seats. Under the new admission policy, admission to polytechnic programmes will now be on the basis of academic merit in Class 10th, as the authorities have dispensed with the entrance examination from the current academic session. To bring the admission process in sync with the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) norms, the eligibility criteria has been reduced to 35% from the existing 40%. Will this policy bring positive changes in Technical Education programmes offered at Polytechnic level? I think if this question would be posed to academicians, the answer will be No.
First, after completing the three-year Polytechnic Engineering Diploma, the students have to pursue their Bachelors of Engineering through Lateral Entry mode, in which the students are admitted to the 3rd semester of the B-Tech Lateral Entry programme. But here in J&K, the intake capacity in B-Tech Lateral Entry programme in universities that are offering Lateral Entry programmes are five seats per branch, for which thousands of polytechnic aspirants appear annually in entrance exams. This is one of the main reasons behind the decrease in enrollment in polytechnic colleges, as majority of students are now joining the four-year B.Tech programme after passing Class 12.
For the past couple of years, students have been writing to university authorities to increase the gross enrollment ratio in B.Tech Lateral Entry seats, but the university authorities have expressed helplessness, as they have no competence to increase the number of seats till official orders come from the AICTE. Officials at AICTE say that they have no problem in issuing such a formal order, but the Higher Education Department in J&K will not officially write to them with a proposal for increasing the number of seats. The indifference of the Higher Education Department has put thousands of diploma candidates in a helpless situation.
Candidates who are appearing in the polytechnic engineering entrance examination, conducted by Board of Professional Entrance Examinations, do not have to make any effort to crack the entrance examination, because the intake capacity of seats for Diploma Engineering programmes is more than application forms received for the entrance examination. There has also been a huge decline in the cut-off merit in the past academic years, with candidates having just 10 points gaining admission in the Diploma Engineering programme in government and private polytechnic colleges across the erstwhile state. After getting admission, only 30% students complete their academic credits. The reason behind such a high failure rate is that most students have entered the Diploma Engineering programme casually and their academic standard is low.
A few months ago, while discussing this issue with an Assistant Professor of an Engineering department, he said, “We got some answer scripts from J&K State Board of Technical Education of Diploma Engineering students for evaluation and the majority of students failed. Even if someone passed he got only a passing percentage with a low grade.” The Assistant Professor put the blame on the government’s wrong policy. He also expressed dissatisfaction that some state universities and private polytechnic colleges didn’t meet the requirements for practicals and workshops.
In 2012, the NC-Congress coalition government gave the nod to polytechnic colleges for every district. Most of such colleges are still running in sheds and rented accommodations. Some polytechnics have concrete buildings, but the infrastructure, teaching faculty, and labs are substandard. Recently, a student from a polytechnic college shared his shattering experience with me. He said, “Every month the faculty is changed and we are unable to finish our syllabus by the end-semester examination. Sometimes the tutor did not even have the qualification to teach the subject.”
I myself being an engineering student, I posed to him some basic questions in his core subjects, but he failed to answer. When asked about certain practicals, he said that his batch had not done any such practicals.
The present state of infrastructure in most polytechnic colleges is pathetic. The authorities in the past have always talked of rejuvenating the Technical Education sector, but their claims have fallen flat. On one hand the state government had approved dozens of polytechnic colleges but on the other hand the administration did not increase the intake capacity of seats for B-Tech Lateral Entry Programmes. The Diploma Engineering colleges came into being years back, but are still not functioning as they should. Our polytechnic engineering colleges, whether private or government, do not provide quality education, but the government is granting them registration as if they were shopping malls.
The initiatives taken by the AICTE were to support efforts to improve quality of technical education and enhance existing capacities, so that institutes become dynamic, demand-driven, quality conscious, efficient and forward looking. The initiatives were conceived and designed as a long-term project. But years have passed and the majority of our polytechnic colleges are still without basic facilities.
Dynamism is essential to meet new challenges. If we want to maintain quality in technical education, we have to stop the unplanned expansion of technical education and the crazy rush of polytechnic colleges. The Technical Education department must cancel the registration of colleges that have failed to provide quality education. The authorities must make sure that private and government polytechnic colleges are following norms laid down by AICTE.
The government must also revise its policy and bring some changes in the eligibility criteria, so that only those candidates who have qualified the secondary examination with 50% marks are eligible for the entrance examination. The Jammu & Kashmir Board of Professional Entrance Examination should remain as a governing body for conducting the entrance examination but they must change the entrance test pattern and should come with a negative marking type pattern with different series of question papers, so that meritorious students get through.
The intake capacity of seats in polytechnic programmes should be reduced in both government as well as private colleges, while the lateral entry quota at Bachelors level in state universities must be increased. There are many other ways to improve quality in technical education. These are only some suggestions that I hope the authorities will consider.

The writer is spokesperson for J&K RTI Foundation. However, the views expressed are his own, not of the organisation he is working for. [email protected]

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