Winds of change...

Winds of change...

...or a storm in a teacup? The decision on upgrading I PU syllabus is being welcomed with cautious optimism

Winds of change...

If truth be told, the Supreme Court had chided only the Medical Council of India (MCI) over the deferment of the single entrance examination for undergraduate medical courses. But the rebuke sent shivers down the spine of the State government.

Ever since the apex court ruled in 2010 that a single all-India test (later named the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test - NEET) be conducted for admission to medical courses, the government had been dragging its feet over adopting the syllabus prescribed by MCI — a key requirement for the successful conduct of the examination. When the court asserted recently that the test must be conducted in the academic year 2012-13, the State had no other way but to fall in line.

Karnataka might be on its way to adopt for its pre-university course (PUC), the National Core Curriculum in Science (NCCS) prepared by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) based on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005. But the road ahead is not very hospitable. The Department of Pre-University (DPE), however, says it is determined to ensure a smooth run.

Unlike in other states, the pre-university education is rather complicated in Karnataka — the only State to not have department textbooks for the course. Again, PU education functions entirely independent of the high school system in the State. That is to say, no harmony exists between the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) - which takes care of primary and secondary education - and the DPE. To be exact, the DPE does not know what students studied at school before they came into its fold.

Hence, as soon as the government announced that NCCS would be adopted for I PU in 2012-13 and for II PU in 2013-14, many eyebrows were raised. Informed sources say a few lobbies fuelled this cynicism in order to stall the adoption of NCCS and eventually, the withdrawal of NEET.

Certain elements simply dislike the adoption of NCCS - the move will severely damage their interests. First, there is the tuition lobby. A single test and a uniform syllabus will mean the numerous coaching institutes will not get to charge students for multiple examinations as they do at present. That is, multiple examinations mean a student has to pay separately if he/she desires to be coached for each of them. Coaching institutes actually make a killing by tutoring students for ‘various’ tests, whereas a major portion of the syllabi of all examinations is common.

Second, many colleges do not want a single entrance test and thereby a uniform syllabus. A single test will hit groups such as the Consortium of Medical, Engineering, and Dental Colleges-Karnataka (Comed-K) and the Karnataka Religious and Linguistic Minority Professional Colleges’ Association (KRLMPCA) hard. Both the associations have their respective entrance tests.

Then, there are publishers who bring out numerous textbooks on each subject. The government says it will not only print textbooks (prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training) and make them available in the market at cheap rates, but also bring out exemplars, lab manuals, question banks, and what not. Sources familiar with the matter say the printing is going on. In short, the adoption of NCCS will hit the interests of each player.

Few would contest the merits in the conduct of a single entrance test and the introduction of a uniform syllabus. Students would not have to worry about writing multiple tests as they do every May and June. Some students write as many as four different tests in just two weeks.

The NEET is also expected to make science education affordable as parents will not have to spend lakhs on tuition for multiple examinations. But these advantages will be possible only with a standardised curriculum.

The advantages in adopting the NCCS notwithstanding, the government has a lot of homework to do. First, it has to ensure that the many new concepts are not Greek to the students when classes commence.

The Director of Pre-University Education, Rashmi V Mahesh, claims the difference between the existing syllabus and the new one is only 20 per cent. “The difference is not in terms of difficulty level. It pertains only to some new concepts and the extent of coverage of a few others,” she told Deccan Herald.

Bridge course

Rashmi says the department will introduce ‘Vignanada Pathadedege Nimma Nadige’ (your walk towards the path of science) — a bridge course for students when they pass the SSLC examination. The course will work at two levels:

One, reinforcement and revision of fundamental concepts, ideas, terms, processes, definitions, formulae for low-achievers or weak students. Every student will be given a textbook-cum-workbook worth Rs 20. Two, the teaching of new concepts for all students. Each college will get the course material and each student of the government science colleges will get the course textbook and the work material free of cost. Also, the department will commence classes on Doordarshan and private television channels as well as on the website, Rashmi explained. She said that classes would commence on DD and other channels on April 1, 2012. Once the colleges commence, students will undergo a two-month bridge course. 

Teacher training

The government says it will focus more on teacher training. Every college will be given a training module prepared by the department. Informed sources say the department is in talks with a few institutes to provide extensive residential on-site training with practical inputs to teachers. A batch of 40 to 60 teachers will be trained at a time and the project will begin in April-May 2012. The department hopes to conduct the training in all district headquarters.

Vision group

The department will also develop a model government science college in each taluk as part of the Vision Group initiative. Besides, it will adopt a few colleges.

As for the demand that the NCF guidelines should be implemented from class I, the State has already upgraded the syllabus of Classes I-IV and VI-VII. The syllabus of classes V and VIII will be brought on par with NCF in the next academic year. The curriculum of classes IX and X will also be upgraded as per NCF in the coming years. 

Key statistics

* Number of II PU students (freshers) in Karnataka in March 2011: 4,50,700;arts (2,08,390), commerce (1,25,465), and science (1,16,845)

* Number of students from rural areas: 1,83,093; arts (78,054), commerce (20,046), and science (10,293) 

* More than half of rural Kannada medium students opt for arts stream, mainly out of  compulsion

* Most science students are in cities. Out of the 1,16,845 science students in the current academic year, 26,873 are from Bangalore, 8,416 from Mangalore, 7,019 from Belgaum, 6,978 from Mysore, 5,585 from Hubli-Dharwad, and 5,371 from Tumkur 

* Number of science students is very low in Yadgir (700), Koppal (741), Chamarajnagar (847), and Chikmagalur (1,437)

* Out of the 6,95,589 students who passed the SSLC examination in 2010-11, 5,18,067 took admission for I PU, and 1,30,741 opted for science stream

* Number of science colleges in Karnataka: Govt (approximately 1,200), aided (approximately 200), and unaided (approximately 750)

In a nutshell

* Beginning from the academic year 2013-14, aspirants of medical/dental courses in the State will have to write only one entrance test, the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), instead of the many they have to at present

* At present, students from Karnataka write up to 14 entrance examinations (viz CET, Comed-K, AIPMT, AIIMS, AFMC, KRLMPCA, UGET, etc) for admission to undergraduate medical and dental courses. Engineering aspirants write up to eight (viz CET, Comed-K, AIEEE, KRLMPCA, UGET, etc)

* A single common entrance test for engineering and management courses is likely to become a reality in 2013-14

* 13 State boards of higher secondary education and two national boards — CBSE and ICSE — have adopted the National Core Curriculum in Science prepared by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on the basis of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005. 

* Karnataka will adopt the NCF syllabus for I PU science in the academic year 2012-13 and for II PU science in 2013-14; I PU arts and commerce will get NCF syllabus in 2013-14, and II PU arts and commerce in 2014-15 

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