Integrated PU courses burden parents, students

Integrated PU courses burden parents, students

If you are an anxious parent trying to guide your child into one of the top colleges, chances are that you would have heard of this hybrid ‘integrated PU colleges’.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has issued a circular directing principals across the country to stop offering coaching programmes integrated with the regular syllabus.

Most of these integrated PU Colleges follow a fixed pattern of origin: they start out as private coaching institutes, offering tuitions to help students prepare for competitive exams, and once they establish a popular name for themselves, they open establishments that focus entirely on preparing for these exams sandwiched with the regular PU curriculum.

These integrated outfits are the equivalent of ticket counters at movie theatres – once you get past the admission, you’re sure to find your way in! Surely, this cannot be construed as a crime.

But those seeking to be placed in prestigious colleges, might be paying a much higher price than we think.

To begin with, it might be more appropriate to first consider what we are putting ourselves and our children through when we enroll them in such outfits.

Integrated courses are expensive. Most private educational institutions are well aware of the fact that a many parents are willing to spend any amount to see their children through, so they charge according to the demand.

Once enrolled, most students find themselves in a rat race ad infinitum, with mock tests held once every week that concentrate entirely on core subjects.

Other subjects like languages are touched upon just as much as required for the exam and practical lab sessions are restricted to about 2 to 4 months of each academic year.

The regular syllabus is completed in less than half the year to allow students to concentrate on their competitive exams.

There is little or no encouragement at these institutes to pursue any extra-curricular activities.

Flawed philosophy

There are a number of things that I feel are misplaced with institutes offering integrated programmes described above, but the one that disturbs me the most is the flawed philosophy enforced at these institutes.

I firmly believe that to be successful outside the walls of our colleges, one has to embrace a well-rounded approach to learning. It is just as important to be creative as it is to be technical.

The arts, the languages and the humanities play equally significant roles in our lives as do engineering and medical.

Regular PU colleges have a lighter, more balanced curriculum that allows plenty of time and space for the minds of students to meander from one subject to another.

Its aim is to provide a base for students - a spring board from which they can decide for themselves, after careful consideration, what field of study to dive into.

Integrated courses, on the other hand, are like launch pads for rockets – they only point in one direction.

Most of them are students who are funneled into these institutes either by the education system or their parents before they are old enough to realize what their passion is.

Are we not depriving a chance for our children to listen to their heart?

Despite the high success rates from these integrated institutes, a large number of students will never make it to the premier colleges, and will end up losing two of the most formative years of their lives, solving questions from previous years’ papers.

There are two important questions to be addressed here.

First, are the authorities right in giving license to these integrated PU colleges?  Second, why do parents fall prey to such schemes even though all they really want are bright and shiny future for their children? 

These integrated institutes should present themselves as after-class-hours private tutoring for specific competitive exams, for that is precisely the reason why people enroll themselves here in the first place.

Moreover, this tutoring should always be over and above the existing curriculum, and not a skewed substitute, so that only those who are targeting these exams would be willing to go the extra mile and enroll themselves.

While we could blame private institutions and the media for fuelling the hype surrounding our premier engineering and medical colleges, a significant part of that blame also falls onto parents and teachers around the country, who view these hybrid integrated courses as the only pathway to a successful career.

Mediocre results

Compared to international standards, despite the high quality of students that enter these institutions, the amount of original research carried out at our top colleges is abysmally low.

Both students and professors view the system as a platform for recruitment into the corporate world.

Sooner or later. most of these engineers end up switching streams or pursuing higher studies abroad to fulfill their ambitions, while genuinely interested students are deprived of their branch and institution of choice.

The result of this is that we are creating mediocre engineers when we could be creating great scientists, actors, journalists, writers, musicians and sportspersons.

As long as colleges use separate competitive exams (often of their own choosing) as part of their criteria for admission, there will always be an unquenchable demand for coaching institutes and their ilk who will try to take advantage of the system.

One solution would be for colleges to use examination scores as only one out of several factors that will be considered for admission. Aspiring students should also be given admission based on their excellence in sports, their participation in real-life projects, extra-curricular activities or internships that they may have taken up during their holidays.

The key point here is balance.

On one side, we do want some institutions, whether public or private, that set unimaginably high standards in their respective fields – and in a country like ours where the number of students far outnumber the number of such institutes, the competition will invariably create the need for additional preparation and tutoring.

On the other side, however, we also need a system that fosters freedom and creative thinking, allowing children to choose their own paths and create their own lives, so that those who actually desire to be at these cutting-edge technical institutes actually do so on their own.

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