There are 43 students in my third year Engineering batch who still have Applied Mathematics, Parts 3 & 4 of previous year to clear. If they don’t reattempt & pass before they enter forth & final year, they will be awarded the most undesirable thing in any student’s life: one year drop.
You can put the blame on students, that is all right. Lack of efforts is definitely the cause. But if we dig deeper into education politics, a disgusting secret pops out of the wormhole that is both appalling & callous of the perpetrators. One more cause that can cater to our demand for a proper explanation for the failure of so many students every year is the innocent diploma course. Out of the 43 hapless students I mentioned above, 35 are direct-second year students, which means they were directly admitted to the third semester of degree after having completed three/four years of diploma. These students last wrestled with the much-hated god of confusion, Mathematics in the forth semester (or second year) of their diploma. Let us suppose this to be the year 2011. At this point, the students who opted for HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) after their SSC (Secondary School Certificate) have good knowledge of some important Mathematics topics namely Calculus, Laplace Transform, Fourier Series, Fourier Transform, etc. from their 2-year HSC course. Then this same year, these kids enter first year of Engineering degree course. They will study Mathematics (higher/heavier versions of what they did during HSC) and then move to second year. This is year 2012. Now, the kids who now have completed their diploma join the other kids in second year. The two differences they have are the diploma kids are one year elder and not at all accustomed to the Math topics their HSC peers are strong in. This is because the Maths that they had during their diploma times was trivial, covering topics like Matrices, Quadratic Equations, Trigonometry, etc.
As a result, if a diploma student chooses not to join an external tuition for Mathematics, thereby understanding not a single thing the teacher is teaching, he/she fails. If he/she takes little extra effort, then a 40 is not that difficult to achieve out of 100, but that depends on how a student is. There is where we stick the blame on them.
Coming to the secret, in 2010, a faculty group from the exam cell of a reputed college, tired of seeing their students losing one whole year because of failure in Mathematics, approached the great Mumbai University for a chat. Now they couldn’t directly approach the diploma course governors. So the group requested the innumerate board of the university members to have a word with the Maharashtra State Board Of Technical Education (MSBTE) about the subject, Mathematics. Their hypothesis was that if MSBTE tweaked the Maths in diploma curriculum to a higher level… a level in parallel with the Maths in the HSC course, then that would prepare the diploma students to tackle the strong Math basics of second year degree. This, as far as I am concerned, was an amazing solution.
The university board declined, citing and I quote, “We cannot go and request an inferior board to dance to the tune of something a nobody college has so amateurishly suggested. And for who? Drop-outs? Those shameless failures? Let them sit at home for a year & learn their lessons. After all, we do get what we desire; they still have to pay their fees to stay in line. We cannot change the whole goddamn curricula for a bunch of stupid students, for God’s sake!”
The faculty group returned and conceived an idea. One professor of this group is a Math professor. He takes remedial lectures for such students. On Friday March 7th, 2014 he taught a chapter of Cauchy-Riemann equations to 20 out of the aforementioned 43 students. His name is Ashwin Chavhan. A professor with a change in his mind. This article is dedicated to his love for Math and dedication.
“A teacher should always lack negativity. Then, failure can take a back seat.”
My last post created quite a furore over the use of the “word” KT as in ATKT. It is wrong to term “KT” as a word, although in shorthand, people prefer KT, than ATKT, or failure or the full form for the matter.
So, ATKT which we all know what stands for, is a tag provided free of cost to students doing professional courses, by the University they are affiliated to, on failing to score the minimum marks (usually 40) in a subject. Further talking about the minimum score, if you have 5 subjects to clear and fail only in one with around 32 (31, in some cases) marks or more, then you are eligible for the alms (read grace marks) and you will eventually pass and can post a Facebook story on how you kissed the ATKT factory.
Apostrophe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Straining on the misnomer “KT,” first of all, and if at all you still want to use it for convenience, you gotta stop adding apostrophe to it. Like “KT’s” is such bad punctuation, it makes me believe you sucked at 4th grade English basics. “KT’s” (with an apostrophe) technically means you are tagging something which belongs to KT. And to pluralize it, you add the letter “s” without an apostrophe. This will give you “KTs” which is grammatically & sensibly wrong. But, students & professors alike use “KTs” in their daily conversations & it has become a memory. [Please read The Oatmeal’s guide on using apostrophes! It is as funny as it can be.]
Deep down, KTs will mean “Keep Terms.” So when you say “I have 2 KTs,” you are actually making a fool of yourself, saying “I have 2 Keep Terms.” Tell me, does this make any sense? This is worse than Borat! And if you say “I have 2 KT’s,” it will mean that you are dumb as a pigeon and have not completed your sentence. The listener will unfriend you from his mind and you will never know that you are in their Restricted list on Facebook.
To make things clear, the best & right way to state your result is: “I am allowed to keep term in 2 subjects.” Or simply: “I failed in two subjects.” The coward’s way of stating is: “Don’t ask! Seems the college wants to burn a hole in my wallet.”
So, to sound grammatically correct, you gotta stop using the misnomer. Surely it won’t affect you till your funeral, but if you wanna stand out, embrace this post.
PS: Failures depends on lots of factors and the college’s internal money-making strategy is a stronghold.
Before I start, I want to make one annoying thing clear that “KT” is not a noun and you cannot pluralize it as “KTs.” Doing it will make you look dim-witted and I may even restrict you from my Facebook updates. To be clear, KT as in ATKT is an acronym for Allowed To Keep Terms. I empathize for the person who first cut it short to KT. In engineering, as some of you may know, ATKT means you can proceed to next semester even if you have failed in not more than 5 subjects in that academic year. There are some terms related to it like nKT, Golden KT, etc. which are beyond the scope of this post. (And of course, the use of word “KT” in the title is to make people understand what this post is about against the fact that I know how you people must have experienced irony.)
Coming into Engineering, 50% of professors will imply, yes mark my word, imply to use Technical or Techmax Publications which contains food extremely palpable & upright. It is not their fault that they suggest reference books of some great authors so that you can understand the basic concepts. If you don’t know the concepts, you will die crushed between the imaginative metal frills of two bullet trains of different lengths and speeds, they have in Algebra problems. Yes you can study from these spoon-feeding books and score nice to impress the interviewers later in life, but when it comes to technicality, things won’t be easy. On the other hand, if you solely depend upon the reference books (say Electronic Devices & Circuits by Boylestad for instance), you will die crushed under the pile of watermelons, they also have in Algebra problems.
Ignoring the travelled path will help you fail because the syllabus has no edits since the twentieth century and the administrators believe in marks on paper. Practical sessions are the most over-rated sessions because all they do is copy & write & complete manuals using the previous batch’s materials and that CRO over there is the most mysterious object. Wanting to know how it works will help you. Going home & surfing/reading about it will carve you to be an engineer. Going to college on Sundays & operating on it will make you a credible engineer.
my technical books (Photo credit: nickobec)
To balance, the suggestion is grab them spoon-feeding books (second-hand, of course) before they get sold out in local bookstores and hoard them. Also, try to get the reference books (through libraries, stores) and consult them while you take your mid-term & preliminaries. During the preparation leave for the finals, you can approach your hoarded books and crack the exams.
The blame for all this parade can be righteously put on Mumbai University. You have to follow the rules & Adolf Hitler’s quotes in helvetica on Facebook won’t help you either. If you keep studying from the spoon-feeding books, which have numerous masked errors, then I’m afraid to tell you, your job experience will suck. Because, in industries, concepts matter and you people know that.
Moreover, talking about the spoon-feeding ones, I have observed a single author writes as many as twelve books on different topics. Now, you can only imagine the credibility. But, since questions come from these books, you ought to read it. Even a stupid can read these books and score nice. I am not deriding anyone, although I hate the practice. Been using reference books since my Diploma times and I have had my share of failures. And this time, I am gonna eat without strain. Can I have a golden spoon, please?
Young people have no respect for authority nowadays (Photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)
Every institution is administered by authority & that is more of a necessity as we all know. But what happens when you can’t change the Date & Time settings in a PC in a Signals & Systems laboratory? What happens when the dialog says “You don’t have proper privilege to access the settings?” What happens when you realize that a lab assistant needs “extra” authority to change a cable of an inkjet printer from one PC to another in an educational institution? What happens when you learn that the Server administrator is a lazy dork?
No, apocalypse is still elusive, you see. What happens is that the institution degrades. From all aspects.
Last day I logged into my account in the aforementioned lab. It is the type of account every other student has, except for some of the Students’ Council members who try to start a newspaper which is totally unbiased, yet the articles being shortlisted fall in parallel to what we find in TOI. I found the time set in the desktop to be shamelessly incorrect and tried to change it when that dialog appeared. MS Paint, thankfully wasn’t disabled.
So when the PC connected to the printer didn’t have MATLAB software in it, our professor asked us to summon the powerless lab assistant. His use of words empathized us (two of my batch-mates joined me to pause their frustration over the account limitations). “Kya Sir! Sirf do wire hi toh nikalke lagana hai!” to which he replied, “Mere paas authority nahi hai. Wo (server admin) daatega baadme…(sic).” Now what is the difference between us the hapless students of modern educational institutions and the wiser lab assistant who fetches CRO probes for our sake, as he tries to make ends meet?
The server admin turned out to be a contemptible person because he was seated in an air-conditioned room full of gizmos and piles of unwritten application forms that had the power to buy every goddamn electronic thing related to computers & servers. I guessed he suffered from hypertension when he started finding ways out of the problem instead of solving it. He asked us to –
Print the experiment program from another lab.
Fix it ourselves (for which we didn’t have the authority, of course)
Do it next week!
Use another software!
Use a flash drive, perhaps?
Swap the CPUs.
Date his hideous daughter, instead! (I almost agreed when he said he would pay up)
Convince our professor.
Although some of the above were real, one of us wanted his job. This is authority. People who have it, abuse it and people who don’t, are busy with CRO probes. Damn!
Maybe it has something do with corruption, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
What I conclude from this anecdote is that people with power can do wonders. But they are busy warming swivel chair seats & brainstorming about how Sundays should also be working.
PS: No prize for guessing who wanted that Server Administrator job!
A lot of people had to say a lot of things about an article that I wrote on why diploma before degree in Engineering might be a bad idea for most (in India). So, here’s a follow-up in case you still took the diploma route: a primer of sorts on how to survive the initial period of engineering degree (BE or B.Tech) after you have completed your diploma.
A friend of mine also just painfully completed three years of his life-changing four-year diploma course (which included a year of training as part of the curriculum) and he is kinda in a kettle of fish unable to cope up. This guide is for people like him.
What is the Degree Situation After Diploma?
You have just passed out of diploma and you aspire to enroll for an engineering degree course in some extremely fashionable college with decent education and faculty. SIES Graduate School of Technology in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, for instance. Mind you, every single college is different in its own way but when it comes to the quality of education and faculty and other ‘features’, things are almost the same across Mumbai. What matters is how you manage yourself and your studies while you are in college. I say this not because I have studied in different colleges, but because I have honest friends who all write or talk about them endlessly.
And you are worried about how you will cope up with a new group of students because you will be a direct second-year student. Worry not, because in no particular order, here are the things that you should worry about as well as how you can get past them…
Issues to Deal with in Your First Year of Engineering
Quota or No Quota: The online admission process sucks. You need to choose which one university you will opt for the next three years of your life. Some options are the politically controlled University of Mumbai, the unmindful Pune University, and some other state universities like the popular ones in Chennai and New Delhi. After you get out of the selection universe (that’s a bad pun), think about your ancestral origins. If your cast certificate (get one immediately if you don’t have it; domicile and creamy layer certificates are equally important; Aadhaar card too) says SC/ST/NT/OBC or any other caste that falls in the “minority” category you need not worry at all. Colleges will come to your doorstep. If you are one of those ‘open’ caste-wala, then we are rowing the same boat (although I reached the beach in 2015). Worry not, colleges like SIES, Father Agnel’s, and K J Somaiya have minority quota for the poor ‘open’ guys which means if you are a south-Indian or a Gujarati, procuring a seat will be slightly easier in these colleges. Consider all the choices you have. Do not consult your relatives
Scholarships: Your fees will be in the range of a few lakhs depending upon the admission criteria i.e. donation or no donation; in comparison, students who come in through the caste quota pay only a fraction of what you pay. Once you start attending the lectures, make sure you check for the websites of trusts which give scholarships. For Gujaratis, there are hundreds of community-run trusts. But we all – open folks – should be interested in the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust Scholarship, which will give you your full fees back, or at least 90% of it. Trust me, 90% people who apply for it get the cash. The good part is: you can apply every year; the bad part: you have to score above 80% aggregate. Your chances of getting the scholarship increases if you go beyond 90%
Extra Lectures: Most colleges who want their students to do well academically will conduct extra classes. Sit for these lectures and you won’t have anything to complain
Tuition/Classes/Mentors: I won’t suggest any of them. I have friends (who were toppers during diploma) that flunked in subjects even after giving thousands to those professors who have the most bumptious nicknames like “Don”, “Raja”, “RR” of RR classes, “Mangal”, “Hero”, and “Saviour”. They will eat your wallet and time. Many people who join these classes boast about how their professors had set the previous year’s paper and how they are sure they will get a whiff of what questions will come in the present year. They are either lying or being fooled by their tutors.However, recently I have found that these claims are true. Especially professors who are tied to the University of Mumbai. They do act unscrupulously and list out questions that are bound to appear in the final board exams. People suggest you take extra classes for Mathematics, but I will recommend you to first get your basics clear by buying some reference books of first year engineering degree. They work if you study well. Also, do not rely on Techmax publications which only spoon-feed you the concepts and make you forget them when the need arises. Get hold of actual author books and things will be much different. I have read Bhargava’s Basic Electronic System two times and now years after I completed engineering, I still know how a BJT works. Or do I?
Efforts: Do a little (10%) more than what you did during your diploma times. That ten percent will give rise to about forty percent in degree, which is the minimum passing mark
Teacher’s Pet: This doesn’t work in degree. Teachers already have their pets, and diploma students are considered aliens. Your best bet is to eye a new-comer professor. He/She will support you like you will support him. And if he/she talks your mother’s tongue, bingo!
The Student Council: Try and join it. People (both teachers and students) will know you and soon, things will be nice and easy. This is by far the best thing to do in order to survive the initial period of degree after diploma in engineering. Because even if you cannot fare well in studies, these extracurricular activities will keep you going. After all, college life should be a mix of studies and fun.As suggested by a close friend Sushanth Nair, it will take more than the student council to become popular in college. You will have to be lively and extremely social. You should know people, and above that, know how to interact with them. You also need not join a council to be popular among the people. Just skip the lectures and hang out around the canteen patting cats or dogs. If people notice you, bingo!
I won’t stretch this because I don’t have the power to turn an introvert into an extrovert. There’s one more soft rule that you can follow in your first few weeks in engineering degree: talk to as many people as you can and build healthy relationships. This could be with your classmates, college mates, professors, stationery shopkeepers, chaiwallas, etc. The more people you know the better you will swim out of your engineering course.
All I can say is, everyone can pull this off if they believe they really want to excel in this field. Concentration is key. If something doesn’t seem right, talk about it with your family. Or girlfriend. Or boyfriend. And then maybe change your career path. It is the 21st century and you don’t have to stick to a course if you don’t feel like it. TN.
Featured image courtesy: @rizsam (Unsplash)
Update: Copyedited; revised. (31 January 2019)
Update #2: Copyedited; removed stereotypes related to the caste system; added images. (19 September 2019)
However, recently I have found that these claims are true. Especially professors who are tied to the University of Mumbai. They do act unscrupulously and list out questions that are bound to appear in the final board exams.
As suggested by a close friend Sushanth Nair, it will take more than the student council to become popular in college. You will have to be lively and extremely social. You should know people, and above that, know how to interact with them. You also need not join a council to be popular among the people. Just skip the lectures and hang out around the canteen patting cats or dogs. If people notice you, bingo!
Online study platform Stupidsid used to dub it as the most overrated course on planet Earth. Very well, the then teenage founders knew what they were dealing with when they included Bachelor of Engineering (BE) courses into their database. But, little do incoming students know what the technical courses have in store for them once they step into its confusing and gigantic world of information – numbers and alphabets and symbols mostly.
And I am talking chiefly about those students, passed out of the mandatory yet insufficient Secondary School Certificate (SSC), at the entrance of the matriculation edifice. Should I take up the three-year diploma (certificate) course or should I go through the HSC-CET route? Is diploma good after 10th? What if I have decided to become an engineer? What about ITI?
These are the questions you will get answers to in this article.
The Confusion After 10th Grade
That is also exactly when your (yet unheard of) relatives clog your home network with phone calls, text messages, and what-not giving worthless advice about what you should do and which stream you should join and why VJTI is still the number one college in Mumbai. Your parents talk more to those parents whose children now walk behind the top CEOs or are the top CEOs of some native amalgamation under the disguise of an international one. (I’m not taking any names.) Your friends will be helpless because most of them will be in a similar situation.
Your partner is doing fashion designing or is studying town planning or is perhaps busy doing what most untalented folks do – digital marketing. You want to take up a diploma course because it sounds cool and will give you some respite from appearing for the Common Entrance Test (CET) which we all know is a tough nut to crack.
Whatever you are inclined to do, you should give a peek through the following points that I have personally experienced over my engineering days. After completing my four-year diploma course from Agnel Polytechnic, Vashi (which included six months of in-plant technical internship each at Air India and Godrej & Boyce), I entered second year of the degree course (in Electronics and Telecommunication or EXTC) at SIES Graduate School of Technology and studied for three more years to become an engineering graduate. Two years later, I began pursuing my Master of Arts in English Literature. And then in 2019 I successfully completed it. So you can rest assured that this article is based on experience and not on hearsay.
Note – Most diploma courses span three years but in my case I spent four years completing it because of the in-plant training.
Degree vs. Diploma – Which is Better?
A list of important factors to consider before opting for diploma in engineering compared to the HSC-CET route:
You Will Perform Poorly in Mathematics
This is the biggest drawback of doing diploma before degree in engineering. Because whatever stream you choose, a diploma course has the subject Mathematics only in the first three semesters as M1, M2, and M3. And the pathetic syllabus by the Maharashtra technical board (MSBTE) will have you learning only basic Matrices.
By the time you complete the course, you will forget most of it chiefly due to a lack of practise and implementation. Next, since you will directly enter the second year of engineering degree, a huge part of essential Mathematics (first two semesters; M1 and M2 of degree) will elude you and there is where they teach you why Mathematics is so, so, so important in engineering. Eventually, the chances of you flunking in the third semester Mathematics is as high as your chances of getting through the college that you want are low. Tutors may help you, but remember, coaching classes are a multi-crore business in India.
Although I somehow passed M3 in my second year, I struggled a lot to get passing marks of 40 out of 100 in M4. Since Mathematics is critical for other subjects like Electrical Networks, I struggled with those subjects as well.
Lack of Friends
You will find out how badly you suck at Mathematics in less than five days of your degree. And there’s this lack of friends-cum-classmates that you cannot even throw the baggage on.
Most of your classmates have all braved the CET and are, in most cases, younger to you by at least a year; they have already formed groups and all the pretty girls are taken, the topper has been throned and is usually not good-looking, teachers have capped their white-lists and created nicknames for you. You will never be called by your first name until the time you almost forget how a Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) works. Diploma students are called D2D students, direct second year admissions, failures, scumbags and thankfully, sometimes “scholars.” Too bad, they won’t call you back-benchers because unlike during the school times, here the only vacant benches are the front ones. Somebody might want to edit that Kalam quote!
To cut the long story short, if none of your diploma classmates have enrolled with you in your college and if you are an introvert, then you will indefinitely sink into a state of desolation. Paranoia will take time, but history shows that soon you will find solace in other diploma students from different college and/or streams.
Diploma is Not Equal to Degree
Diploma will give you opportunities and plenty of accolades for participating in the ubiquitous technical paper presentation competitions where you take a topic (which is often – “Recent Trends In Engineering”) and plagiarize every other online journal/Wikipedia article/magazine related to that topic without citing. The rookie jury will be astonished to see you present a Prezi slideshow because they are used to the more popular MS PowerPoint presentations. Technobabble will win you that cash-prize.
In degree, the story is totally different. You think of changing the monotony by participating in a presentation in the upcoming college-level technical fest. They have challenging competitors, professional jury, brainstorming sessions, and concept-debriefing. You will fail terribly if you follow your diploma protocol and that will further attack your self-confidence.
You should also think over this: diploma is typically a three-year course and degree is a four-year one but you only move forward a single year (direct second year admission) in degree after you complete the diploma. That answers the question why diploma has such a low value in career shelves and professional CVs.
Diploma as it should be rightly known is just a certificate course that was originally developed to help individuals land quick jobs in the technical fields. It cannot be termed a degree (as in academic rank) because earning a diploma neither makes you a graduate nor just a 10th/12 passout. You hang in the middle and that’s not a great situation to be in.
Parents Will Never Understand the Paradigm Shift
Okay, so you cracked that diploma examination with flying colors and were consistent in your efforts. You get the provisional certificate. Fine. But, since you suck at Mathematics, and because you will invariably find out that the remaining subjects are partially related to it, you will have the luck of flunking in at least one subject. Because, what you studied during diploma will be located on the farthest parts of your brain, and Mathematics, along with alphabets now has ambiguous sentences and Greek letters guarding it.
Techmax Publications won’t be sufficient also because they are crammed with errors. Depending on Easy Solutions or the recent fad KT280 Solutions may help, but will you really understand and grasp the engineering concepts? When the time comes for you to perform during the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) or any Public Service Undertaking (PSU) entrance test that you may later take, you will most probably experience a huge failure.
And that failure won’t be like how it seems to be in that famous inspiring quote about the invention of light bulb by Thomas Edison. It will bring you embarrassment. Teachers of your former polytechnic will understand and react totally opposite to how your parents will. That’ll be a relief, and if your diploma mates are allowed to keep term (ATKT) in the same subject(s), that will be a support against your parents, too. Pressure will falter and you will stop thinking about the future. This moment will be worthy, and I am pretty sure, the next time you sit to study with a credible reference book, it will be with vengeance. Only, here the adversary is no one.
So, it is up to you and only you to decide what it will be and how it will be. Engineering is just too overwhelming when it comes to all the knowledge and learning, but make sure the path you choose is trustworthy and unmasked.
DO NOT listen to people who use sentences like “Diploma will give you experience”, “Diploma is better than the pain of CET”, and “Diploma is in parallel with Engineering.” This is all blabber because these people are actually referring to how the mainstream terms it. Of course, self-thought can outmatch these above listed discrepancies and there are people who have found actual success with the diploma route, like my father who is a successful Civil Engineer now after starting off with a diploma course in engineering. He took the diploma route in early 1970s followed by a four-year degree course and is a proud construction specialist today.
On the other hand, I have recently observed that there is not much difference between diploma students and graduates when it comes to their ability to get jobs in the real world. A friend and former colleague earns a handsome package as an engineer in Schlumberger after doing Industrial Training (ITI) and diploma courses. He still tells me that he has plans to complete his engineering from Mumbai University, but despite without a graduation, he is still an asset to his company.
With respect to how the word sounds bold, diploma is good enough for students who are not planning to pursue graduation in future. It is also a great path for students who are financially weaker and would want to wrap their education with a decent technical faculty. For example, a close friend of mine earns a decent package at Godrej & Boyce in Vikhroli after only pursuing diploma in Industrial Electronics. She has no plans to pursue degree in engineering and she’s happy and already climbing up in the world.
Choosing one over another is just a matter of choice, and there is no objective answer as to which one is better, but all I want to emphasize on today is that Diploma does come with its own set of disadvantages. Which, to conclude, are more devastating than that of going to junior college. TN.