Thursday 12 September 2013

Panel Discussion on “Prospects and challenges of Common Entrance Test: Engineering and medical courses”

A panel discussion was organized on 31 August 2013 on “Prospects and challenges of Common Entrance Test: Engineering and medical courses”. It was lead by a hand of experts from various fields of education.

The panel consisted of Dr. S. Kumar – Executive Secretary, ComedK; Dr. Antony Robert- secretary Career & guidance, St. John’s Medical College; Prof. Nagendra S – Dean, BMS College of Engineering; Prof. Vallish Herur – Director, BASE; Dr. Shilbala Singh – Principal, Kendriya Vidyalaya, DRDO; and Dr. MCA Devi – Senior Scientist, NDRI a parent representative. We also had two student representatives – Joel and Anna who shared their experiences in CETs.

Fr. T.V. Thomas, Director CUMI and School of Education addressed the gathering and set the foundation for the panel discussion. He spoke about changing the philosophy of education for the betterment of the society. He also raised questions like “Are we testing the aptitude of students by sending them to coaching centres?” which evoked the crowd to reflect on it.

Dr. Kennedy Andrew Thomas – Director of TQMS was the moderator of the event, he started by speaking about the critical importance of the entrance exams from the students point of view.

Dr. S. Kumar briefed about the various judgements which were passed by the government from the year 1993 till date and gave a bird’s eye view about the dawn of the entrance exams. He then gave insights about the quota system, reservation of seats, the various reforms and policies framed, statistics of the number of colleges and deemed universities specializing in medical sciences.

Dr. MCA Devi began by quoting the definition of education and later questioned if our current system aims at doing justice to that definition. She spoke on how only numbers matter, the stress and pressure faced by students which in turn passes onto the parents. She also laid emphasis on the importance of preparation by students and how parents should be supportive during this phase. She concluded by talking about the anxiety that parents go through till the completion of the entire admission process and hopes to see more transparency in these exams.

Dr. Anthony Robert kept the crowd alive by his good sense of humour as he spoke about the after effects of crossing CET. He shared his personal experiences of becoming a surgeon. He cautioned the parents and students about misleading advertisements of unrecognised institutions. He even educated them about the various funding agencies which can financially support them.

Prof. Nagendra focused on how Indian economy reflected on the Indian education. Irrespective of the various boards – CBSE, ICSE, State which ultimately face the CET which is based on CBSE syllabus. He even spoke about the plight of engineering seats going vacant, as the students aim to rush to the top colleges; he also talked about the stress faced by students forced into tuition classes. He ended his session with the question, “Are our students tested for the right aptitude?”.

Prof. Vallish Herur, started his session by asking if the students of today take up engineering and medical seats on their own or is it out of societal and parental pressure. He said that these exams should be conducted fairly and transparently. Board exams conducted do not provide a platform for testing the aptitude and hence various entrance exams have come up. The education system fails to focus on training students for their boards, hence these coaching centres have sprung up to cater to the needs of students, he said. He concluded by saying that the evaluation system should not be rigid and the government should bring about a flexible system.

Dr. Shilbala Singh spoke widely about CBSE board and the introduction of aptitude test, and career counselling to determine the right subject of interest for the students. She persuaded the parents to allow their children to follow their dreams and not to force them. She even spoke about the importance of self study rather than pushing them into coaching centres, she suggested the students to look into other professions and options which are available today. She concluded by saying that teachers still hold the power to push the students up the ladder.

Joel shared some very useful and interesting tips with his personal experience. Joel spoke about the dos and don’ts of preparing and writing entrance exam, which was truly useful for the students. He motivated them to stick to what they want and to keep trying until they reach their goal. While Anna focused more about the drive and passion towards a particular career goal, she gave more importance to decision making process. She also shared some tips related to time management, transition phase to help the state board students, mock exams, etc.

The whole session was wrapped up with a round of questions from the parents and students to which the panellists answered and shared their views and suggestions. Some of the questions were; ‘How to avoid rot memory and develop conceptual memory?’, ‘Can we introduce mapping to check for the aptitude?’, ‘Is there aptitude and career counselling available for the students of Christ University?’, ‘Why isn’t there a separate paper for physics and chemistry to test the students who are competing for engineering and medical entrance?’ and finally ‘Who monitors the reservation of seats?’.

Jacqueline Kareem


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