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A cauldron of confusion

HT looks at the bizarre phase college admissions that most of us unfortunately end up going through.

delhi Updated: Jun 25, 2008 15:50 IST

The school to college transition has more than its share of conundrums. From the subjects chosen both as individual entities in themselves, and their various permutations and combinations, to the complete hullabaloothe admission procedure eventually translates into, different areas in the procedure distinctly present the quintessence of Jimmy Page’s axiom, What is, and what should not be.

Here’s a no-holds-barred look at the bizarre phase that most of us unfortunately end up going through.

Communication gap
Though the situation is changing, there still are aspirants who don’t know whether they can include Physical Education in their best of four subjects for a particular programme or if Maths and Economics are required to apply for an Honours programme in the respective disciplines. Or is there a score deduction in case of non-Economics background aspirants who wish to enrol for B.Com.

Renu Nayar, an Economics teacher at DPS R.K. Puram, points out that many individual colleges put various additional conditions above the minimum cut-off — say, you should have at least 80 per cent in Maths for Economics Honours.

Another college may ask for 80 per cent in Economics and a specified minimum score in Maths. Such a variety of requirements “creates a lot of problem,” says Nayar. “Each student has to go to individual colleges to find this information. Sometimes, students take up two-three (practical-oriented) subjects like Informatics Practices, Physical Education and Commercial Art.

Some colleges include these in best of four, some don’t. Sometimes even we are not aware of this. There should be a fixed set of rules put on the net and schools should be informed about it.” Moreover, Nayar says, “There should be some uniformity in the rules.”

Says Dr Suman Verma, Joint Dean, Students’ Welfare, DU, “It’s better if students [applying for Economics or B.Com (H)] have studied Maths. It’s not a pre-requisite but it’s advisable. Otherwise, the student won’t be able to do justice to the course.” Students’ welfare officials suggest that non-Maths applicants should preferably go for a B.Com. or BA programme.

S K Vij, Dean, Students’ Welfare, DU, says that students require counselling about college admissions and other details after they pass Class X. He adds that schools should do this job but if they approach the university, “we’ll see what we can do”. “Schools have to take initiative. Last year, I went to a school in Janak Puri (to talk on admission requirements).”

According to Usha Ram, Principal, Laxman Public School, and former Chairperson and currently Executive Member of the National Progressive Schools’ Conference (NPSC), students entering Class XI are told what they can take or not take in college if they study a particular subject at school. “Most NPSC member schools do that.” NPSC is an association of 110 schools. Nayar, too, says students are told when they join Class XI that they can study Economics without Maths at plus two but may not be able to pursue it in college.

Ram also says, “I personally feel things have changed and improved in the last one year. DU has introduced a centralised form and has made students more comfortable.”

Different Boards
Different strokes
DU being a Central University accepts students from any recognised examination Board across the country and abroad. This, say experts, is an unfair practice keeping in view the varied marking systems followed by different Boards. The university doesn’t use any normalisation method.

Vij agrees that maybe 80 per cent in the CBSE exams is not equivalent to the same from a certain state Board. “Many Boards (representatives) come to us and say our marking is stricter. What do I do? There may be a difference but how do I find the extent of the difference in marks?”

Adds Suman Verma, “We have to respect the examination system of different Boards in the country.”
DU officials, however, say that a common entrance test may not serve as a feasible solution for them. “As of now it looks unfeasible but may be in the future, details could be worked out,” says Vij.

While certain well-known academics favour a common entrance test, others sound unsure about this suggestion. A Sankara Reddy, Principal, Sri Venkateswara College, suggests a common entrance test for state Boards students or normalising the marks, like BITS, Pilani, does. “There should be a mechanism to equate state Board students to an all-India level.” Reddy also favours the percentile-based method for selection over the existing percentage-based one.

Calcutta University, incidentally, brings out different cut-off lists for students from different Boards. Some colleges like Presidency even conduct separate entrance tests for admission to all subjects.

The prevalent one-exam-based criterion essentially helps to nullify the effect of 12 years of schooling. A more compressive formula, laying equal emphasis on Class X marks and a common admission test, besides Class XII scores can end the ‘do or die’ pressure that students now face. In addition, it could also be used as a means to test a candidate’s aptitude. But the defence contends that this is a gargantuan task due to the huge number of applicants — at least 92,758, which is the number of centralised application forms submitted this year.

The English dilemma

One of the most popular courses in DU, English has also emerged as an area of many a heated debate. Many Science students opt for the stream in the hope that it gives them wider choices later. First, non-Humanities students say that they should not face the considerable slash in cut-offs for admission to the programme.

Many feel cut-offs are an unreasonable yardstick for admission. But this year colleges couldn’t agree on the details of a common entrance test.

Much ado about first list

An overwhelming number of students await the first list with bated breath. But it emerges as a mere formality, devoid of any indication of the real picture. Many say that the second list is really the new first list. The common Pre-Admission Form (PAF), brought out with the good intentions of student convenience, has been largely seen as the cause for this scenario.

However, says Reddy, “The centralised form this year is more simplified and user-friendly, though there are certain drawbacks — those of giving more options. It will not send the correct message to the administration — of whether the student has a genuine interest (in the course). In my opinion, the overall assessment is, the form is good; the (admission) booklet is very informative.”

Reddy, however, adds that the situation could be corrected by asking applicants to list choices in order of preference — up to six courses in a “restricted number of colleges”. He also says that the university should categorise colleges subject-wise according to four percentage brackets — 90 per cent and above, 85-90 per cent and so on — so that the applicant has readymade pointers as to where he stands a chance. “Let them put it on the university website.” Give readymade information, as even the media feeds them these days, so students want it this way too, says Reddy.