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AICTE new regulations: In a major change, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) recently tweaked the eligibility criteria for undergraduate engineering programmes, making physics, chemistry, and maths optional for aspirants. Students can now pursue technical courses like biotechnology, textile, or agriculture engineering at the undergraduate level without having core science subjects at plus two level.

However, PCM remains mandatory for most engineering subjects like computer science. The AICTE has listed PCM compulsory for only 14 subjects.

AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe said, “What AICTE has adopted is a flexible approach wherein if a student has not done all these courses in the board exam but completed one or two of them online or MOOC, they can take an entrance exam and join engineering.”

He said the new AICTE regulation is flexible, empowering, and a liberal approach and does not negate the importance of PCM in engineering. “It’s the foundation on which the entire edifice of engineering is built,” Sahasrabudhe said.

The new criteria, however, have not gone down well as many educationalists viewed that the model could further decline the quality of engineering studies in the country. PB Sharma, vice-chancellor of Amity University Gurugram, said, “It is forgotten that engineering and technology thrive on the foundation of science and analytical mind created through the pursuit of mathematics. Diluting the science and mathematics base of engineering would destroy whatever little quality of engineering education we have in our country.”

Earlier maths, physics, and chemistry in plus 2 were compulsory subjects apart from qualifying in the entrance exam. The eligibility criteria this year, however, will be at least 45 percent in any three subjects out of the list of 14 provided by AICTE. A former engineering entrance exam topper felt that there should be a basic knowledge of science subjects for all the aspirants taking engineering. WBJEE 2020 topper Souradeep Das said, “If students without a math or physics background join engineering courses, then they will struggle as there’s a need to teach the basics to them in the college.”

Class 12 student Aaryan Prothi of The Indian School believes the new AICTE regulation will create a difference amongst the students. “The students without the basic knowledge of physics, chemistry will not be able to follow the engineering studies whether it is core mechanical, electrical stream or other trades of agriculture or textile engineering. Though colleges might provide a basic course on science subjects for the students, it will not be sufficient for engineering courses. This will create a gap between the students.”

The new module will also deter students without sound knowledge of physics, chemistry to get jobs in future, as their lack of knowledge may hamper their engineering result, he said.

However, National Institute of Technology (NIT Raipur) Director AM Rawani thinks that the new model provided an opportunity for students aside any streams keen on pursuing engineering at the undergraduate level. “It is true that most of the engineering disciplines require a sound knowledge of physics and mathematics. However, there are few disciplines like Biotechnology and Bio-informatics, where knowledge of biology is more important as compared to mathematics,” the director said.