The technical education in Kerala has taken a new shape from the context of education and trade with the dawn and multiplication of engineering colleges in our state. The first self-financing professional institution in Kerala run by the Muslim Education Society set its mark in 1994 and by 2012 with a rapid fashion of increase, there are now nearly 100 colleges with approval from AICTE and the government. In the wake of this situation a general concern had arisen with adverse criticism from various quarters. This had perhaps compelled the government to fix conditions for sanctioning of new courses and extension of approval of existing course in these institutions.
The conditions laid out vide a Government Order seen published in the official website of DTE specify a fixed minimum running average pass percentage (full pass) on first appearance for students of self- financing colleges, in an incrementing manner from lower to higher semesters and increasing for further years, for extension of approval. But, the mechanism to reinstate the approval is not announced.
Also, based on analysis of examination results, the percentage of students successfully completing the course is reported to be less than 40 in nearly 70 percent of these colleges. The High Court is now suggesting closure of poorly performing self-financing engineering colleges as a corrective action for this.
The pass percentage is a clear indication of the student academic performance but not always an indication of the teaching-learning process. The calibre and effort of the student, the nature of the subject, the examination and evaluation process all will affect the pass percentage. In certain cases the result of a single subject or the results of an individual programme with less demand, admitting students from lower ranks alone could be low, pulling down the total pass percentage of the institution which may not be in agreement with the general results.
An equal or even more important component of academic performance routinely examined by the National Board of Accreditation, AICTE for quality assurance is the percentage of successful candidates produced by the Institution with respect to intake which will provide the institution a time frame to mould them into better shape.
The commencement of any self financing institution is only upon the fruitful alliance between government and management and minimum requirements are to be met by all proposing institutions for getting approval by AICTE and State Government. Many self-financing colleges perform with proven and experienced persons retired from government services in top positions, ensuring systematic and organized drift of academic activities.
But, budding institutions which are unlikely to have higher rank students in the initial years and minority /remotely located institutions which accommodate large percentage of students of specific category whose qualifying education may not furnish them comfortable with the professional stream of study may not yield expected results, especially in the initial year.
The proposal for closing down of an institution with pass percentage less than 40 by transferring students to another well-performing college seems to be impractical due to various reasons. Since the pass percentage is not a predictable parameter, lateral entry of students into a well- performing institution may be threatening to the impending results of the institution and the chances of the well-performing institution to transit to a poor performing institution is high, if the ‘well’ or ‘poor’ performance is judged merely by the pass percentage. The deployment of infrastructural investments made by such vanishing institutions is also to be considered since a major share of the revenue for the same is the public money collected as fees from students. Another immediate aftermath of such abrupt deed can be unwelcoming to teaching community which may turn jobless since technical institutions have turned out to be a major placement arena for engineering graduates in our state.
A more judicious method of assessing and checking an institution could be fixing a minimum performance index based on various factors which will contribute to the excellence of a technical institution. In addition to academic results, competent faculty, firm and farsighted planning, promptness in fund allotment for infrastructure improvement, earnest placement efforts, unyielding research initiatives are all indications of a well- performing institution.
An accreditation by a competent agency for quality check can be made mandatory for all such institutions on completion of fixed number of years, providing minimum period for its initial stability. The effective implementation of a minimum academic grade requirement for promotion to higher semesters by universities concerned can also have a major role in improving student effort towards successful and timely course completion.
Though universities have been announcing such promotional requisites, it is thinned due to delay in result announcements and intervention from student organisations. Failure in one single or multiple subjects in the lower semesters will distract concentration for studies in higher semester due to the additional effort to be made for clearing arrear papers. This may result in cumulative failures and the course completion may end up with a colossal figure of failed papers. Also minimum understanding of certain basic subjects is essential for learning of higher semester subjects. Check on promotion, though may delay the completion period, will provide favourable environment for successful finish, while an attempt to bring them back to class room after leaving the campus to help them to clear the failed papers may be futile, due to a changed mindset of the student.
However, admitting the failed students into the following batch can exceed the modest class strength if the number is large. Introduction of additional batch, which is being followed in medical education sector of our state, shall be a possible solution for the problem which requires concurrence from government and regulatory bodies. This need not invite more infrastructural requirements in colleges since most of the laboratory and other physical resources are not 100 percent utilized. The additional work load on faculty and staff will have to be addressed.
Since there is a huge demand for post-graduate teachers, established institutions can be encouraged to commence post-graduate programmes to regulate the demand-supply balance. Unfortunately, similar condition of minimum running pass percentage is found set as mandatory by the government for starting a PG programme, when AICTE has chosen to relax on staring of such a programme in a delinked fashion with UG programmes. A joint effort of government, managements, academics and professional organisations can strengthen the technical education in the state, offering improved technical learning to a large number of our students in the state.
(The author is an alumni of CET, Trivandrum, and faculty in self -financing engineering colleges. The views in the article are the writer’s own. Email : email@example.com)