Faculty concerned as syllabus similar to subjects taught at school, say rote learning is to blame

The transition from school to college is not easy, as the first semester results of 519 engineering colleges — released last week — show.

Only 151 engineering colleges in the State have managed to record a 50 per cent pass percentage, while over 200 colleges’ pass rate has been less than 30 per cent.

“The results are disheartening because the syllabus was just mathematics, physics and chemistry, most of what the students had already studied in class XII. This clearly shows that engineering is not easy and students need to be very strong in the fundamentals to clear exams here, said K. Prakash, a professor at a city college.

Only 48 colleges in the State have managed to have about 70 per cent of their student clear all subjects.

“We often find that the best performers in school fail in college exams. This leads to a huge loss in their self-confidence levels,” said Devina Jacob, a counsellor with an engineering college.

Many colleges have been trying to do their bit to bridge the school–college gap. For instance, the RMK group of institutions, which has three colleges in the top 10 as per the results, has a specific 10-day programme designed for first-year students.

“We identify three groups of students — those from Tamil-medium schools, who have a problem communicating in English; those who got by on rote learning and those with issues of settling in. Each faculty member is put in charge of 20 students and students are not only counselled, but also given the confidence to excel,” said R. M. Kishore, chairman of the group.

Many colleges also say there is much they do to improve results, with many methods similar to those adopted in schools. “We have tests and oral exams and even check notes the students take in class. Letters are sent to parents regularly,” said R. Ramanan, a professor in a college that has managed to get an 80 per cent pass record.

“Students from school are so used to learning lessons by rote that colleges have to employ those methods to get results,” he said.

Teachers in most colleges say many of their students have failed in mathematics. “We had about 380 students writing the exam, and 320 have failed. However, we have applied for a re-evaluation of our results,” We have also filed for re checking,” said the principal of a city-based college.

“Many colleges that have many gold medallists in the final year perform rather badly when it comes to first-year students. This is mainly because they have students from schools that insist on rote learning to obtain high marks. The results improve after the fourth semester, especially when core engineering subjects are introduced and students get used to the types of questions asked,” said A. Christopher, a senior college professor.

When students and parents are making the choice to pursue engineering, they need to be careful. “How students perform often has nothing to do with the brand of the institution, but more with the kind of faculty members that particular college has. Often, many students from the same college fail. This could have something to do with the lack of good faculty,” Mr. Chritsopher added.

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