Special Correspondent

M. Anandakrishnan panel report in a month "CET enriches the competitive skills of students and if it is scrapped, students will resort to rote learning."

CHENNAI: The public mood, barring a couple of dissenting voices, was overwhelmingly in favour of continuing with the Common Entrance Test (CET) for admission to professional courses, at the first public hearing by the M. Anandakrishnan committee in Anna University on Monday.

Interestingly, the committee has been mandated to suggest ways for giving constitutional legitimacy to the abolition of CET. It will submit its report to the government within a month.

Strong plea

The decisive voice of the day was that of V. Varaprasad, a labourer, whose son has gained admission to Tuticorin Medical College: "The entrance exam is needed to ensure that only the deserving students get into professional courses. If my son could make it, then so can other economically disadvantaged students."

Even educationist Jeppiar, who wanted the CET abolished, said the move would have to be made legally valid.

"An ideal formula will be to continue with the CET but have 10 to 15 per cent reservation for rural students," said Salem-based analyst Jayaprakash Gandhi.

"The CET enriches the competitive skills of students and if it is scrapped, students will resort to rote learning," said N. Vijayan, president of the Principals of Matriculation Higher Secondary Schools Association.

DMK functionary from Andipatti Seeman said the CET had many advantages, starting with its objective methodology, which made it more foolproof compared to a descriptive examination. If the system is to be abolished, a beginning should be made by rewriting textbooks and providing better training for teachers, especially in rural schools.

Committee chairman M. Anandakrishnan recalled how earlier attempts to abolish the CET were set aside by courts. The idea arose because many sections felt that the CET was a burden on students, academically and financially. Also, students had to take several entrance tests in the same basic science subjects to enter professional courses offered by different institutions. The hearing was meant to ascertain how, in an alternative system, merit and reservation could be continued.

K. Parthasarathy, former Law Secretary and committee member, said the panel was examining all legal aspects in doing away with the CET.

Higher Education Secretary K. Ganesan said out of the 66,000 students who were in the engineering admissions fray in 2005-06, only 1,517 were from the CBSE stream and the question was whether CET was needed for the sake of such small numbers. The government was keen on abolishing the CET through constitutionally valid grounds.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Anandakrishnan said the committee was examining data from the past three years on marks patterns in the entrance, Board and CBSE examinations, as well as the urban-rural differentials. Expert statisticians and academics were on the job and the committee would "take a rational, logical decision that will safeguard student interests."

Members of the public can also send e-mails to lo@tndte.gov.in or write to the Director of Technical Education, DOTE campus, Guindy, Chennai-25 till August 20. A second public hearing will be held in Madurai on Sunday.