In a controversial move that would impact the quality of engineers produced in the country, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has made mathematics and physics at Class XII-level optional to get admissions to BE and BTech courses from 2021-22.
As of now, Class XII-level maths and physics subjects are compulsory for admissions to undergraduate programmes in engineering and technology.
The approval process handbook for 2021-22 released by the AICTE has changed the eligibility criteria for UG admissions. Now, students have to pass 10+2 with any of the three following subjects — physics /mathematics / chemistry / computer science / electronics / information technology / biology / informatics practices / biotechnology / technical vocational subject / agriculture / engineering graphics / business studies / entrepreneurship.
Candidates have to score 45% marks (for reserved category students it is 40% marks) in the above subjects taken together. “The universities will offer suitable bridge courses such as mathematics, physics, engineering drawing for students coming from diverse backgrounds to achieve learning outcomes of the programme,” AICTE said in its handbook.
The move has come under strong criticism from academicians who said mathematics is a foundation for all engineering degrees. “Bridge course is a remedial course for those who are weak in Mathematics. It cannot replace higher secondary-level mathematics, which is a foundational course,” said S Vaidhyasubramaniam, vice-chancellor of SASTRA university.
The AICTE’s model curriculum for engineering programmes has Mathematics running up to fifth semester in almost all programmes. “Mathematics and physics have to be compulsory for all engineering courses,” he added.
However, AICTE chairman Anil D Sahasrabudhe told TOI: “It is not the question of optional. The choice of three mandatory courses required as input to engineering education are expanded, and hence for different disciplines there could be different three mandatory courses.”
“If a student without maths is admitted he will be required to do a lot of math courses in first year. Even earlier, direct second-year entrants from diploma holders needed extra maths courses. This will bring a lot of flexibility in line with National Education Policy and in the new system of 5+3+3+4, there would be no arts, science and commerce streams. But, still for understanding engineering, one will need maths, physics else a lot of bridge courses shall be required to come to the same level as those who have done physics and maths,” Shasrabudhe said. Rita John, head, department of theoretical physics, Madras University and also a domain expert for physics, said: “Without physics and mathematics, the fundamental understanding of science will be very poor. Without a strong foundation in science, our future engineers will not be able to do proper engineering and it will adversely affect innovation.”
Professors say mathematics used to be taught in seven out of eight semesters and those students are generally good in engineering. As of now, mathematics is compulsory in three semesters and optional in fourth semester.
“Emerging areas such as data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning are all based on mathematics. Without knowing maths, students cannot shine on new emerging areas. It is not a good move,” said professor D Arivudainambi, department of mathematics, Anna University.
Echoing the views of professors, Anna University Vice-Chancellor M K Surappa said mathematics should remain a compulsory subject. “Maths is important for even programmes like biological engineering and biotechnology. Mathematical knowledge also helps students to be more analytical and creative,” he said.