Students from the State are ill-prepared for the AIEEE — a potential platform for bright engineering opportunities. Experts discuss ways to change this trend.

The addition of 10 new National Institutes of Technology last year by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the existing 20 has meant a welcome expansion of opportunities for engineering aspirants across the country.

But the corresponding benefit has not trickled down to Tamil Nadu, where the awareness about All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) is not yet up to the desired level, school heads acknowledge.

They cite a few pertinent reasons for such a state of affairs. At the outset, the number of Tamil Nadu students appearing for the AIEEE is low, compared to their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Unlike in the neighbouring States where State board schools also accord highest importance to analytical reasoning in the syllabi, in Tamil Nadu, students in the Central Board of Secondary Education schools alone, by virtue of their exposure to problem-solving skills provided by the subject contents, are in an advantageous position to perform well in AIEEE for entry into NITs and other institutions of stature that consider AIEEE score for admissions.

Teachers say that the subject contents in the Tamil Nadu State pattern being descriptive in nature, the question of faring well in AIEEE does not arise at all. Teachers cry hoarse whenever the students' reasoning abilities are tested in public examinations, and insist on making the entire examination process bookish.

Also, the misconception among State-board students in Tamil Nadu is that they could equip themselves for AIEEE by undergoing some crash programmes at the eleventh hour. This explains the dismal all-India ranking of students from Tamil Nadu. A candidate of the State board seeking to achieve well in AIEEE has to necessarily put in extra efforts with dedication, all through their higher secondary studies, according to A. Rajagopal, an experienced trainer for IIT-JEE and AIEEE.

Plus One portions

The added disadvantage for Tamil Nadu students is that a good number of schools do not pay the requisite attention to Plus One portions in their quest for high marks and flattering results. Forty per cent of questions for AIEEE pertain to Plus One portions, Mr. Rajagopal explains. There have also been instances of Tamil Nadu students qualifying themselves for admission to NITs, but settling for a fancied branch in any of the top-ranking self-financing engineering colleges due to parental pressure. Academics say such ill-informed decisions of parents wreak havoc on the future of students. There can be no parallel to the employment opportunities one comes across in NITs. For instance, the placement records of the National Institute of Technology - Tiruchi (NIT-T), show that most of the over 95 per cent of students find lucrative jobs in top-notch companies every year.

Performing well in AIEEE is all about being strong in concepts and fundamentals whereby students would be able to answer questions in a jiffy, points out A.K. Bakthavatsalam, Professor, Training and Placement, NIT-T. Yet another reason for poor performance in AIEEE is the ‘comfort zone' in which the students of Tamil Nadu State board schools find themselves in.

With over 400 self-financing engineering colleges taking part in the process of admission counselling, even an average student is guaranteed a seat. The element of challenge that was there a few years ago when students had to prepare for the Tamil Nadu Professional Courses Entrance Examination has vanished, according to a correspondent of a CBSE school.

The Tamil Nadu Government may have justifiably abolished entrance examinations in the interests of students from rural parts who are unable to afford expensive training in coaching centres. But, the scope to evolve mechanisms for injecting vibrancy into the examination system by way of exposing students to problem-solving skills, and according due importance for Plus One portions must be fully explored, teachers emphasise.