Wednesday, May 4, 2011

First-year engineering students trip at first hurdle

MUMBAI: Only the best and the brightest make the cut and grab the limited number of seats available at engineering colleges. But admission alone does not guarantee success. Nearly 81% of first-year engineering students in colleges affiliated to the University of Mumbai failed to clear their first semester exam this year. Principals of engineering colleges say this is the highest failure rate recorded in the past couple of years, and more than 25 city college heads held a meeting last week to discuss the worrying trend. 

Of the 11 papers that first-year students had to clear, Computer programming–I proved to be their Achilles' heel; most of the students could not clear the paper, which they said was exceptionally difficult to crack. 

Amit Sathe (name changed), a student from Lokmanya Tilak College of Engineering at Koparkhairane, said: "Usually, one question paper in the first year first semester exam is always tough. This year both, the Mathematics paper and Computer programming-I were far from easy. We have been informed that only about 25 students out of 500 from our college cleared the Computer Programming paper." Passing marks in the subject are 40. But Lokmanya Tilak College officials told TOI that 17% (approximately 85 students) had passed that paper. 

There are approximately 17,000 firstyear engineering students enrolled in 55 colleges—in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Thane and Raigad—which are affiliated to the Mumbai University . Students, who were under a lot of stress because of the delayed results, which were announced only mid-April , are now clamouring for a re-evaluation . 

The first year course is tough, and the average pass percentage over the past three years has been around 30-35 %. A mere 19% pass rate, however, say principals, is cause for concern. 

A principal from a Navi Mumbai college, who did not wish to be named, said: "Most students found Computer programming-I , which is set by the Mumbai University, difficult. The passing percentage in that particular subject is the lowest ever, leading to the steep fall." 

At the meeting held last week, principals discussed the reason for the high failure rate and measures that can be taken to prevent such dismal results in the future. Another engineering college principal speculated that the high failure rate could have been because of a glitch in the new system, which was introduced this year. He said: "The U n ive r s i t y had introduced a barcoding system, through which s t u d e n t s ' marks are directly fed into the computer . Exam supervisors, paper evaluators, clerks and officials are new to the system . We cannot ignore the possibility of some students being marked absent as not everyone is wellversed with the new technology . If that is the case, marks will be rectified through re-evaluation , but the process will take time." 

Vilas Shinde, the controller of examinations, University of Mumbai, said, "Students have been given a grace of ten to 12 marks, despite which they have not managed to clear the paper. We can't attribute the low passing percentage to any particular reason." 

First-year engineering students appeared for their first semester exams in December. They are now preparing for their second semester examination, scheduled to begin by the end of this month. Engineering students said they are under a lot of pressure as they will not only have to give a re-test in the subjects they have failed in but also sit for their second semester exams at the same time. "Re-evaluation takes time, and by the time we get our corrected scores, we would have already given our ATKT papers," said a student. 

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