Lateral entry to engineering colleges has become popular among students.

What is better? Two years of higher secondary education followed by four years of engineering programme or three years of engineering education after three years of study in a polytechnic college?

There are definite advantages in pursuing engineering programmes after polytechnic education, according to heads of polytechnic colleges. Not only do the students get job-ready at minimal expenditure, they also enjoy the comfort of exercising the options to pursue B.E. in engineering colleges through lateral entry or take up part-time B.E. programmes offered through technical universities while in jobs, even without having to spend additional time, the polytechnic heads reason out.

In a government polytechnic, it is possible for a student to complete the three-year programme by spending less than Rs. 10,000, said P. Kamatchi, principal, Government Polytechnic College, Tiruchi. For a student from a middle-class background, it makes sense to join polytechnics, get into a job and then pursue engineering on a part-time basis without causing financial burden on the family, she explained.

In fact, the trend of Class X students switching over to polytechnic education with the idea of securing admission in engineering colleges through lateral entry has been catching up in the recent years. At least 25 per cent of students join polytechnics with the idea of studying further in engineering colleges.

With polytechnic colleges and engineering colleges numbering almost equal in Tamil Nadu — over 400 in both cases — a need for substantial enhancement of quota for lateral entry admissions in engineering colleges has become imperative, according to S. Sangapillai, principal of Seshasayee Institute of Technology. It is just 10 per cent now. It is in view of the inherent advantages that the socio-economic condition of students is gradually ceasing to be a factor in polytechnic admissions. Earlier, rural students with high scores used to be admitted in polytechnic colleges. But now, students from upper middle class background also seek admissions. Almost every year, the placements have been cent per cent in almost all the branches, Mr. Sangapillai observed.

Another interesting trend is that girls are choosing core branches without inhibition. Traditionally, girls had been choosing the Computer Science or ECE branch in polytechnics. But now, they choose core branches almost on a par with boys. Of late, girls are also recruited for process industries. Instances of girls working in shifts in shop floor are not uncommon in industrialised parts of Tamil Nadu.

Ideally, the entire intake of engineering students must be from polytechnics if the objective of making all the engineering graduates employed has to be fulfilled, R.S. Kala, principal, Padmabhushan Sri N. Ramaswami Ayyar Memorial Polytechnic College, Tiruchi, said.

For meeting the manpower requirements at shop floor, industries make a beeline to polytechnics rather than engineering colleges. Even in engineering colleges those admitted through lateral entry after polytechnic education stand a better chance to land good jobs, Mr. Sangapillai explained.

There is no dearth of job opportunities in the scenario of phenomenal expansion in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. The present challenge lies in generating the right human resource for the booming economy. The solution to the challenge, Ms. Kala said, could certainly be found by making diploma the base for engineering education.