While the rest of the city enjoys the summer, Class 12 students can’t think of taking a break. Engineering, medical, dental, management and law aspirants are flipping through the pages of reference material, hoping to clear various entrance tests. Those who have appeared for these exams are now anxiously awaiting the results.
If the pressure of appearing for a board exam and several entrance tests isn’t enough, what’s worse is that the syllabus for both exams is different.
Medical and dental aspirants, or even those hoping to bag a seat in one of the premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), end up focusing on the state education board curriculum to study for their HSC exams and then studying the NCERT syllabus to crack national-level entrance tests.
“The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) became the common entrance test for all medical and dental courses in the country a year ago. Since then, we have been requesting the state government to upgrade our syllabus, but our requests fall on deaf ears,” said professor Subhash Joshi, who owns a coaching class.
He said the recently announced Joint Entrance Examination-Mains (JEE-Mains) results showed that not a single student from Mumbai secured one of the top 100 ranks.
“Mumbai students top the all-India CBSE and ICSE exams every year, but when it comes to cracking national-level examinations, our students are far behind. This is because of the differences in syllabus,” he added.
In 2011, former human resources development minister Kapil Sibal ordered all state governments to adopt the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) books for Class 9 to Class 12 so a uniform syllabus for science and mathematics could be implemented. Sibal had requested state governments to implement the changes over five years.
Around this time, the Centre had mooted the implementation of NEET for medical aspirants and the entrance to IITs depending on the Joint Entrance Examination — both depending on NCERT curriculum.
Six years later, while some state governments — such as Gujarat and Rajasthan — decided to adopt the NCERT curriculum, parents and students in Maharashtra are still demanding that the government frame a common syllabus. “The state board and NCERT syllabus aren’t that different, the content varies by 20% to 30%. We have asked the state education minister to bring the syllabus for maths and science on par with the central board syllabus so students can benefit. However, not much has changed,” said Sudha Shenoy, parent of a medical aspirant.
This year, close to 3.89 lakh engineering and pharmacy aspirants appeared for the state-conducted Common Entrance Exam (MH-CET), the highest in the past few years. Officials attributed this increase to the increasing demand for professional courses. However, some said this may be the last time the CET is conducted on the basis of the state board syllabus, which explains the ‘panic registrations’.
On one hand, the directorate of technical education (DTE) has decided to upgrade their entrance exam and bring it on par with the JEE exams. On the other hand, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has decided to introduce a NEET-like national entrance exam for admissions to all engineering institutes in the country. “The AICTE decision is not yet official, but the state has made it clear that if CET continues, then students should expect an exam on par with JEE. We have thus written to the state board, asking it to upgrade the syllabus accordingly,” said Dayanand Meshram, joint director, DTE.
While the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) has upgraded the syllabi of Class 9 to Class 12, students still feel the difference is evident. College principals said appropriate changes were introduced to the state board textbooks, but the teaching methodology hasn’t changed accordingly.
“The NCERT syllabus is application-based. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and state board are trying to match up as much as possible. CBSE inculcates application-based training from a young age, whereas our schools don’t follow such a pedagogy, causing students to lose out,” said Kavita Rege, principal of Sathaye College, Vile Parle.
She said there was not only a need for the syllabus to be upgraded, but also for teachers to be updated about better teaching modules. “It is a long process, but needs to be implemented at the earliest,” she added.