If getting into engineering colleges is a dream come true for many, tackling the challenges of the first year is another thing altogether.
The results of the first year (second semester) engineering examinations were declared recently and they show a disturbing trend. The pass percentage dips considerably at the end of the first year: Whether it is Tamil Nadu or Mumbai or Nagpur, the trend remains that the performance in the first year is far below the pass percentages obtained in the final year. These are the same students who go on to do well in later years, so what are the reasons for this poor performance in the beginning, when they ought to be carried away by the force of their preparation and enthusiasm?
It seems like a natural conclusion that after three years or so of being pushed to excel — in their board exams, the JEE, AIEEE and other exams — the students tend to relax once they enter the college of their choice.
Says Siddharth Dash, who is now in his second year at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad, “I know many students who used to study for 10 to 15 hours during their 12th.” In the first year this drops to about two hours a day and in the second year increases to about 5-6 hours.
Though the spread of subjects in the first year is fairly continuous from the school curriculum, the method of teaching is different. “We teach more to get the concepts across and we are less exam- oriented, which is what they have been used to at school and in the coaching classes. So they need to become more independent and it takes them a while to understand,” says P. K. Thiruvikraman, Associate Professor BITS Pilani, Hyderabad. He goes on to say that language might be a problem too, with reading habits on a low due to shortage of time and English classes receiving less attention. “Most teachers and parents want to emphasise on Math, Physics, etc.”
Seniors lend a hand
Would they benefit from counselling? Siddharth does not feel the need for this. He feels that the nature of their doubts are such that friendly seniors can help them out. This is also the case with Adarsh A Tadimari who is now in his first year of B.Tech at IIT Madras. He says that his seniors really do pitch in and help out. Even in doing assignments, they are eager to lend the juniors their laptops and help clear doubts on how to prepare for the exams, etc.
Pradymna Kodali, II year, BITS Pilani, Hyderabad, feels that his peers may benefit by counselling, but that is because many of them do not understand what they want to do and have chosen their streams based on their grades and not based on what they are interested in. He also feels that homesickness is a major reason why performance in the first year dips.
Perhaps some students also feel that the first year only consists of common core courses like math and physics and hence take it easy, whereas the second year seems more important because it has subjects of their specialisation. This is being short-sighted because basic math and science is something that they will come back to when they practise their craft. The first year therefore requires more attention and those who manage their first year well are likely to do well in the long run.