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“Need to redefine priorities in education system”

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Anxious times: The period between Standard XII results and counselling for professional courses can be harrowing for students. —
Anxious times: The period between Standard XII results and counselling for professional courses can be harrowing for students. —

Ramya Kannan and Sruthi Krishnan

CHENNAI: “I am interested in civil engineering because I like construction of buildings,” says Firdose Basha, who has completed his Standard XII this year. But he is anxious to get a seat in a good college.

At the recently concluded The Hindu Education Plus Career Fair 2009, Firdose found many students sharing his predicament. A number of students and parents fought for their chance with the mike to ask the career counsellor about their chances of getting admission into an engineering or medical college.

Some of the typical questions were – “I have 197.85 marks. I belong to the OC category. Will I get a seat in Anna University?” or “Will I get MBBS in Chennai with my score?”

The time between the release of Standard XII marks and counselling for professional courses is tension-packed for most parents and students. The anxiety levels shoot up dramatically with most parents and their children losing sleep over the possibility of getting into engineering or medicine. Experts say these unnatural stress levels could be avoided, but mindsets would have to change and perhaps the education system itself needs to rethink its priorities.

P. Vijayalakshmi, Principal, Chinmaya Vidyalaya, says that parents and students are informed and aware of various courses available. But, they continued to flock to the “traditional type” of courses as they were hesitant to tread unchartered territory. “The herd mentality still prevails,” she says.

The blame for this lies in part with the schools, says N. Rangarajan, a Chennai-based psychiatrist.

“The schools should provide students with a range of career opportunities very early on. Unless this is done early, students and parents will not have the confidence to take an unconventional step.”

Jayaprakash Gandhi, education counsellor, agrees. “Schools have to become application oriented. Most students who come for counselling have only a bookish knowledge. They lack application orientation,” he says. “When I speak to students, they tell me they want to get into this or that engineering college or this or that stream. But they don’t even know what it means to take civil engineering course versus computer science,” he adds.

More information about colleges and courses would also alleviate tension. As students and parents end up deciding on colleges based on hearsay, their options get limited to a few colleges. When they do not get into these colleges, they have no clue what to do next.

C.N. Priya Darshini, a student who has finished Standard XII this year, says that the choice of college is based on what parents and their friends suggest.

“Mostly someone tells you how the college is,” she says. With many colleges advertising that they were the best, it was hard to decide which was better, she adds. Kumara Babu, a psychiatrist, says it is essential to have backup ideas.

“Every year, we hear that a number of engineering seats in several colleges remain untaken. And yet, there is mass anxiety because everyone is aiming for the same band of colleges, irrespective of the marks they get.”

Better information could also help in this situation, says Ms. Vijayalakshmi. An online centralised ranking system of all colleges, be it engineering, medicine, humanities or commerce, would be helpful, she says. At present, accreditation is the only scientific yardstick, she adds. But autonomous colleges may be a stumbling block, as ranking them would be tough.

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