Tag: Mumbai University

The Secret Of The Ignorant Mumbai University

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.”

The Curious Case Of A Misnomer

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

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.

 

 

Ignorance & Reference Books Will Get You KTs

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

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?

The Dark Of Authority

Young people have no respect for authority now...

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 –

  1. Print the experiment program from another lab.
  2. Fix it ourselves (for which we didn’t have the authority, of course)
  3. Do it next week!
  4. Use another software!
  5. Use a flash drive, perhaps?
  6. Swap the CPUs.
  7. Date his hideous daughter, instead! (I almost agreed when he said he would pay up)
  8. Convince our professor.
  9. Roam around
  10. Skedaddle!

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!

How to Survive the Initial Days Of Degree After Diploma?

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.[1]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!
members of agnel polytechnic student council 2011
My time at the student council during diploma days helped me face the degree days. That’s me fourth from the left.
  • 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.[2]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)


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footnotes   [ + ]

1. 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.
2. 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!