C.N. Ashwath Narayan, Minister for Higher Education, Information Technology & Biotechnology, and Science & Technology, spoke to The Hindu about dip in admissions and what the government is doing to bring more students into higher education.
Admission in government degree colleges have fallen this year. What is the reason for this?
There are 430 Government First Grade Colleges (GFGCs) in Karnataka. In the past few years, it was observed that total admissions were an average of about 1.2 lakh.
However, during COVID-19 pandemic pandemic, there was 100% pass percentage in II year PU examination. Owing to this, the admission numbers for I year GFGCs surged to 1.8 lakh during 2021-22.
But the pass percentage in II PUC is now reduced considerably, and is 61.88%. However, even this academic year, that is 2022-23, the number of admissions for I year GFGCs is around 1.02 lakh, and post CET counselling, it may improve.
One of the major causes for dip in admission is that most universities and engineering colleges in the State have commenced undergraduate courses, including integrated courses, from the academic year 2022-23. Student admission to degree courses follows a mixed trend. A small dip during any one academic year should not be treated singularly and with pessimism.
What steps will the government take to bring back students to these GFGCs?
Government has adopted multi-pronged approach. For instance, we have implemented Digital Learning Scheme to extend the benefit of technology-enhanced modern methods to the students of GFGCs. As many as 2,500 classrooms have been upgraded into smart classrooms with projector, UPS and uninterrupted net. Tablets are being distributed to first year degree students. All these are aimed at bridging the digital divide between urban-rural, government-private institutions.
On the other hand, the Government has selected 1,242 eligible candidates through written test conducted by KEA for the post of assistant professors. Measures are in place to improve infrastructure in GFGCs with the help of MNCs through CSR funds, NGOs and philanthropists.
Government has entered into an MoU with Infosys and has availed of access to Infosys Springboard, which is an online platform offering more than 12,000 online certificate courses to students and teachers, free of cost. Complete fee is being waived for girl students in GFGCs. Several scholarships are also in place to assist students financially. Placement activities are continuously being improved.
On the whole, the younger generation seems to be retreating from higher education in the post-pandemic phase. What steps is the government taking to get them back into the education stream?
Economic crisis due to the pandemic, availability of countless new jobs as an outcome of technological advancements and the lure of economic independence do distract students from pursuing higher education. To assist students who stop their degree education midway because of employment, the government has established 11 evening degree colleges on a pilot basis at already existing GFGCs in municipal corporations under the Sandhya Shakti scheme. These colleges are already operational. More such can be opened.
There is an allegation that confusion in NEP implementation has led the students staying away. It seems that students are not ready to wait for four years to get the honors degree. Previously, after three years, students could attempt any competitive examination on the basis of a degree. But now there is no clarity about the three-year degree certificate.
Even though we are the first State to do so, Karnataka has implemented NEP very meticulously and in a very scientific manner. Very extensive awareness programmes were conducted to bring clarity regarding NEP among various stakeholders. With the multiple entry and exit options created for students under NEP, opportunities for higher education and placements abound instead of diminishing. Four-year degree programme is an option for students and yields honors. Otherwise, a three-year degree has the same scope, validity and opportunities attached to it as before. Degree certificates obtained by students after three years of degree education suffices and qualifies them for attempting competitive examinations.