AICTE has released the new academic calendar for 2021-2022 in which first-year engineering students will begin classes on September 15. Given the delay in the upcoming academic session, how will AICTE address the academic losses?
This is a challenge that everyone has to address jointly. Last year too, classes commenced late wherein we had to tweak the calendar. AICTE had sought approval from the Supreme Court for the revised calendar for 2021-22 in January 2021 itself. By the time the Supreme Court gave its nod in the first week of April, the second pandemic wave had set in. We had not envisaged that problems of such magnitude will erupt. Now that board and entrance exams are getting postponed, even the present calendar may be modified. However, with classes having gone online, handling the syllabus may not be difficult as students can cut the commute time and even attend weekend classes if required. It may take another year or two to come back to the original schedule. But then, compared to many foreign universities that have suspended academic activities for a full year, Indian academic institutions are continuing online education. A delay of a couple of months may not hamper academic progress unless the third Covid wave throws the schedule out of gear.
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How is AICTE implementing multidisciplinary approach to technical education post NEP 2020. It appears the IITs are already moving in that direction.
There was a time when many universities including the IITs were focussing on specialised disciplines. Consequently, the original concept of higher education being multidisciplinary was getting diluted. But post NEP 2020, the IITs and universities are catching up with the inclusion of Humanities, Social Sciences and Management departments; even Law and Medicine are being included in these institutions. AICTE has been facilitating the process through a Model Curriculum that was rolled out in 2017 where mandatory courses in Science, Humanities, Environment, Constitution of India and a course on Indian knowledge System, which includes Ayurveda, Yoga etc were included. We have also enabled students to gain access to over 3,000 MOOCs through the SWAYAM platform under which they can take 40% credits even if their college does not have multidisciplinary faculty to teach courses as per their choice.
The new education policy also includes proposals for developing e-content in various languages. What has been AICTE’s role in this regard?
AICTE and IIT Madras are translating SWAYAM’s courses in 8 regional languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam and Gujarati with 90-95% accuracy using an automated translation tool developed by AICTE. First-year engineering students who are keen to pursue technical education in their mother tongue will have access to SWAYAM courses in these languages and also books written by faculty in regional languages from the new academic session. Plans are on to extend the facility to higher semesters and include three languages -Punjabi, Odiya and Assamese. This inclusive approach will help students from interiors of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar etc, who had schooling in their mother tongue, continue their education with confidence. After entering the engineering college, they will have to enrol for English in all four years to develop proficiency in reading and writing the language. Technical/scientific terms in English will be retained in all the regional language textbooks to ensure there is no mismatch. If France, Germany, Japan have done well in technical fields through their native tongue, what is preventing us from repeating the success.
has said Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics (PCM) is important but not compulsory for entrance to certain engineering courses. Will this not compromise on the quality of engineers who pass out every year?
Nowhere has AICTE said that without PCM, students can become engineers. In fact, not only PCM, but even Biology is required to create well-rounded engineers. If a student from a remote village did not have Physics/Chemistry/Math due to lack of suitable teachers, why should he/she not be allowed to pursue engineering in higher education? But the quantum of backlog needs to be addressed once they enrol for engineering courses before they join the normal curriculum. The AICTE Model Curriculum already has three mandatory courses in Math, two mandatory courses in Physics, one mandatory Chemistry and Biology course and additional elective courses in these disciplines apart from the bridge courses of class XI and XII for the students who have not studied them in class XII. In technical institutions, they will at least be taught by well qualified teachers to help them meet the existing standards.
For the last four decades, no one questioned students who completed their three-year diploma after class X to join the second-year engineering course (lateral entry) before they became full-fledged engineers without any bridge courses. Even the IITs have innovated a model where students from the reserved category who are admitted through lower cut-offs need to undergo preparatory programme in Math, Physics and Chemistry for a year before they join the first-year engineering course. Then why should students in AICTE-affiliated institutions fall behind?