Career Counselling Advice

Marks vs Learning

Shruti is very dejected and angry. While she scored 97 in Physics, she got only 95 in Maths in her 2nd PUC exam. She was sure that she will score a full 100 in Maths. She has been told that even if she asks for re-totalling, they will not change her report unless the difference is more than 6 marks, which in her case is impossible! She has been taking out her frustration on all and sundry.

In the case of Rajiv, the whole family is worked up. No one wants to believe that he has scored only 46 in Chemistry, and they have even been speaking to a lawyer friend to find out if they can sue the PU Board! Christopher had an excellent track record, finishing his 10th with an aggregate of 72%. He even had a first class in his 1st PU. Now he finds that he has failed in 2nd PU because he managed only 20 marks in Biology. He is confused whether to start studying for his Supplementary exams, or to wait for the revaluation that he has applied for. The CET results that are round the corner now become meaningless for him, even though he did so well in it.

There are long queues everywhere for retotalling, photocopies of answer sheets, and revaluation. From those scoring in their nineties, to those who have failed in all subjects, thousands are unhappy with their results, and have the strong feeling that there is something wrong in the evaluation.

The Director of PU Board, Mr. Nayak has gone on record to say that the valuation has been done correctly, and there are no major errors. And yet the number of dissatisfied students this year is perhaps ten times larger than ever before. There is anger, frustration, defiance and a sense of gloom from students and parents alike. They feel that their future has been jeopardized due to wrong marking. More than looking towards deciding the right career at this crucial juncture of their life, thousands of students are stuck in the quagmire of resolving their grades.

While only time can tell how rampant the errors of the PU Board were, this brings our focus to the fact that every single mark seems to have become like the crucial peaks at Kargil that our brave soldiers were trying to defend. Examinations have lost their significance of being stepping stones to further studies, and have become the end-all of a person’s life. And the sad part is that parents seem to be encouraging their children into this type of thinking.

It is already very sad to note that the two year PUC has become an outdated and senseless drilling of students into a wide variety of subjects, many of which they may never use in their practical life. Since first year PU marks are not taken into account, many students relax in their +1, and get back to studies only subsequently. A majority of them do not know till the last minute where their future lies. Many are exploring alternatives as wide as medicine, engineering, law and management. Innumerable students are going in for “professional” courses by paying huge fees, without knowing where they are headed.

It is time for the PUC system to be replaced by a four semester pre-professional course where students can be given insights into life sciences, technology, human behavior, life skills, and most importantly – knowledge of various career options open to them. Till this happens, students will have to go through the meaningless PUC, at times choosing optionals like PCMB “to keep all options open”, or taking up Commerce because “science is too tough, and arts has no scope.” The least that parents can do is to make their children understand that it is the learning that is important, not the marks.

In the words of John Ruskin: Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.

(All names and minor details have been changed to protect the identity of the students)

By Ali Khwaja

 

How Expensive is Today’s Management Education?

Management has been one of the prized fields of study for over four decades now. The boom came with the establishment of IIM’s, and a generation ago any youngster’s dream was the IIT-IIM path to success, glory and riches. The growth of other management colleges was comparatively slow, and even a decade ago, there were less than one third of the management institutions as exist now.

Another step forward in management education was when some colleges took the risk of doing away with university affiliation, and began “autonomous” post-graduate diploma courses. Initially students were hesitant to join these, and would join such courses only when they did not get admission in “recognized” MBA colleges. But the tide turned, and soon the industry realized that autonomous diplomas were more practical and oriented towards the world of work – and students with PG Diplomas that are branded as “equivalent to MBA” have been getting equal job opportunities.

Then came the phase when private operators got into management education in a big way. Dozens of engineering colleges started MBA courses affiliated to the technological universities in their states, and even IIT’s started offering management education. Today the directories of B-Schools, as they are often referred to, run into hundreds of entries in most states.

Which institute to join and what price to pay?

Innumerable students aspiring for management education are in a dilemma when it comes to choosing the right institution. And one of the major factors is the price. Most post-graduate courses in management do not come cheap. A few colleges that have not yet acquired a reputation, charge within a lakh of rupees per year, but those more in demand easily command fees of up to three or four lakhs per annum. At times one is left wondering whether such high fee is justified, since management education does not require expensive equipment like engineering, IT or medicine. Of course, they do spend lavishly on infrastructure, ambience and furnishings – but it is debatable whether these are absolutely necessary.

Even though such fee amounts are beyond the reach of most middle-class families (particularly since many parents may have already spent a sizeable amount for the undergraduate studies), the hopes and dreams built around an MBA are so alluring that parents are willing to beg, borrow or scrounge.

Is MBA education value-for-money?

Hence one needs to ponder over the question whether the amount spent on such education gives value-for-money, and does it really ensure a bright future and lucrative returns to the student? Unfortunately the answer is not always “Yes”. With the spurt of B-Schools, many candidates are being churned out who do not necessarily acquire the managerial skills to get remunerative employment. And the aura of an MBA is such that every candidate expects to start with a fancy salary, getting sorely disappointed at times.

Practical exposure before an MBA

The exception is the growing number of candidates who are going in for a stint of work experience before coming back to do MBA a year or two later. They have a fair knowledge of the job market, and hence have realistic expectations. They take up MBA to enhance their qualifications and thus their market value. They also are able to choose the B-School more judiciously, and gain more from the course.

Prestigious institutes and the entrance tests

For those wanting to get into MBA immediately after graduation, it is imperative that they choose the college with care. Admission in good institutions is based on entrance exams, of which the CAT, conducted by the IIM’s, is the most popular, and is used for selection by other prestigious institutions also. Another selection exam, the MAT, is held three times a year, and dozens of other institutions base their admissions on the marks obtained in this test. Hence if a candidate has scored high marks in either of these entrance exams, he is assured of admission to a prestigious college. Even if he cannot afford the fees, banks are more than willing to advance a loan. These colleges boast of good campus recruitment, so the candidate is assured of a good starting salary, and can repay his loan within 3 to 5 years, or less.

Not all institutes have good infrastructure

The problem occurs for those who do not do well in CAT or MAT. Karnataka has its own K-MAT for colleges affiliated to the state’s universities, including VTU. But unfortunately not all these colleges have good infrastructure, teaching, or reputation. Students graduating from some of the lesser known colleges, particularly those who have taken loans for their fees may find it very difficult to get a sufficiently well paid job and repay the loan fast. Hence one needs to be very careful, and not get enamored with the label of “MBA”.

One should ensure the following facilities before joining a management college:
  1. Good infrastructure in terms of library, computers, auditorium, etc.
  2. Well qualified teachers who have put in a few years of steady service in the institution. If teaching staff has been leaving frequently, it is a strong indicator that the college is not good.
  3. Track record of campus placement -- and most importantly, the TYPE of jobs that candidates have been securing. It is not enough to get impressed by the names of companies doing the recruiting, because they may be recruiting for lower level posts or BPO’s.
  4. Quality of the students seeking admission, their background, their academic standards and their seriousness.
  5. Whether the college has a good industry interface and gives sufficient exposure to practicing managers and field visits.

By Ali Khwaja

 

Settling Down in College

If you have completed your 10+2 with Science, you were probably aspiring for a seat in a “professional course”. When your friends from Commerce and Arts were relaxing after the final PUC exams, you were slogging away to appear for IITJEE, AIEEE or CET exams. When the CET results came, and if your merit ranking was not very high, you went through the suspense of whether you will get a seat in a good college. The counselling process took its own sweet time, and you finally managed to get a seat allotted, either in a college of your choice, or by compromising for some other. The journey of becoming an engineer has now begun.

As soon as you start your course, you realize that things are completely different as compared to PUC or CBSE or ISC, whichever stream you came from. And you know that you now have four years to struggle before you can call yourself a qualified engineer (i.e. if you are not one of the unlucky ones who lose a year or two). Since this is a crucial phase of your life, which is going to prepare you for your future as a professional, it is essential that you need to prepare and adapt yourself suitably. Here are some practical tips

COLLEGE AND ITS ENVIRONS

The engineering college inevitably has a different atmosphere, since the teachers, labs and the facilities are quite unique. Get yourself familiarized with the entire campus, explore every nook and corner, visit the other departments, introduce yourself to each teaching and non-teaching staff member. Get acquainted with not only the rules and regulations, but also the unwritten rules and norms that are expected to be followed.

Find out also about the extra-curricular activities and see where you fit in. It is essential that you give yourself an all-round development. Make yourself self-reliant in terms of all the day to day needs, and start using the library. The faster you make yourself familiar with each aspect of the campus, the smoother your stay for the next four years is going to be.

HOSTEL

If you are living in a hostel or a PG accommodation away from home, particularly if you have left your family for the first time, be prepared for facing some amount of loneliness and depression. Try and get comfortable with the food, find out alternative foods available so that once in a while you can have a change. Try to make a habit of managing your clothes, inculcate the discipline needed to get through the morning routine, and find ways and means of developing friends so that you don’t feel homesick.

PEERS AND FRIENDS

Make friends with as many as possible, not just from your own class or section. Do not make the mistake of getting identified with one “gang” in the initial stages. However interesting they may seem, keep away from the frivolous ones who believe in enjoying life at the cost of academics. Don’t feel bad if you cannot maintain the life standard of some of the richer ones, particularly those who flaunt mobile phones or motorbikes. These are very minor aspects of life, and you will soon get over the craze.

ACADEMICS

After your tenth standard, you had no board exam for two years, and you have probably got tuned to studying only for the “final” exam. In a professional course, every semester has an exam whose weightage is equal to all other semesters. Your final grade will be an average of all the semesters. Hence get into the habit of studying for each semester without delay. Be aware of the subjects you are finding difficult, and seek help in them if necessary.

Talk to seniors and teachers and find out about the subjects you will be studying in the subsequent semesters, so that you feel connected to the course you have taken up. Start looking up data about the industry you will be joining. The more you know about your future, the more interesting your studies will appear to you. Identify teachers who are not only knowledgeable but also interested in students, and you will find that you can learn a lot from them outside the classroom.

DOUBTS

If for any reason you are confused or doubting whether you have landed up in the wrong place, do a quick analysis without getting too sentimental about it. Try to pinpoint what exactly is causing you the distress. If it is homesickness, remind yourself that it will not last long. If it is fear of some new subjects, you can always put in some extra effort and get familiarized with them. If it is a major doubt like whether you have done the right thing in taking up engineering at all, then do introspect, discuss with your parents and if possible with a career counsellor, and find out whether you would like to continue. In this aspect keep in mind the fact that engineering sharpens your abilities and opens doors for you in a wide variety of fields – so you can always switch over after completing your B.E.

By Ali Khwaja

 

You have landed up in the wrong course

Kaarthik always wanted to be an engineer. Not because he was attracted to technology or was good in science, but because everyone told him that good jobs and high salaries await those who study engineering. He gave up his interest in literature, creativity, human interaction. Vaguely he had decided that after engineering he will do an MBA, after which he was told he will become a CEO and could lead a luxurious life. Halfway through his BE he is struggling with ‘backs’ of subjects he failed in the last two years, and is now very depressed even thinking of working as an engineer for the next few decades.

Suresh and Sajiv were friends since they began school. They were both fed with dreams of how IIT engineers go to USA and earn in dollars – and without knowing anything about what it entails, they set their goals for IIT. They both joined coaching classes right from high school. While Suresh progressed well, both in school and in coaching class, Sajiv found himself struggling, and managed to get only about 55% in his 10th Board exam. Nevertheless, he followed Suresh and joined an upcoming Integrated PU college and took up science. Within a month Sajiv realized that he was unable to cope with his studies. Worse, he was finding the coaching for IIT even more difficult, and the total strain was pulling him down immensely. Suresh was sympathetic to some extent, but he had his own ambitions and dreams, so he drifted away, making Sajiv even more depressed and uncertain. With great difficulty Sajiv scraped through his 1st year PUC, made desperate attempts to prepare for competitive exams – but landed up failing in two subjects in the 2nd PUC exams.

Sajiv’s cousin Raju has a different dilemma. Though he scored poorly in PUC Science, his parents managed to get him a payment seat in an average engineering college. He struggled through, lost a year due to ‘backs’ and finally completed with a second class in five years. Not only in campus recruitment, but wherever else he applies, he is not even getting an interview call.

There are innumerable students like Sajiv and Raju who, despite having fairly good intelligence and capabilities, land up in courses and subjects they are absolutely unsuited for, and then either drop out or end up being misfits in their profession.

For those who find themselves in such situations, it is not too late to try and find a better direction. The two crossroads of 10th and 12th, when career decisions have to be taken, should be time of great introspection and careful decision making – even if a wrong move has been made.

In large cities, science continues to be the most popular choice after 10th, not because of interest and aptitude, but because of the mistaken notion that science students get better jobs and careers, and also with the thought that one can always switch over from science to commerce and arts, but not vice versa. Those with a basically high intelligence, or those who can work very hard and consistently, do manage to complete their +2 with respectable marks. And if they do so, there is again pressure to continue with higher studies in engineering or technology. Many students, and even more parents, are not even aware of career options beyond engineering and medicine.

A few months into the academic year, if you find yourself regretting your choice and are very uncomfortable or even disheartened with the course, you need to clarify to yourself the following:

  • Are you going through teething trouble of settling down in the new environment? If so, give yourself time, try and make new friends, get involved in extra-curricular activities in college, and try to do additional studies at home.
  • Do you find subjects very tough, and are not getting enough support or guidance from teachers? Firstly, be assertive and tell the teachers your problem, and ask if they are willing to help. If not then seek extra coaching either from elders known to you or from professional tutors.
  • If you have regrets about the course itself and feel you are not motivated towards the career your course is taking you towards, then firstly explore the possibility of completing the course and then moving towards a field that you like. If you are just not able to push yourself towards completion, only then think of dropping out, losing a year in the worst case, and starting afresh in a field you have interest and aptitude for.
  • Do not make the mistake of dropping out and switching to the most convenient alternative e.g. students who find Science tough switch over automatically to Commerce. Those who cannot cope with engineering take up Business Management. With such impulsive decisions you could go from the frying pan to the fire. Since you have made a mistake once, be extra careful in selecting the second time.

Let us explore alternatives: Those who are finding only Math difficult in PUC can take the option of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Home Science, which is now being offered in more than half a dozen colleges and is also available to boys. ISC and CBSE offer various options in science without Math. Those who cannot cope with science subjects can take up Math with Business Studies, Accountancy and one more subject. With such a combination they are eligible for architecture, Masters of Computer Applications and various other courses. Commerce need not be the only alternative to those who do not like science – Arts also offers equally good opportunities for those who have skills in languages, people interaction, social sciences, creativity, administration and many others.

I have also nurtured many students who took up Science and have been disappointed – but they have enough intelligence to pass. Such students have been encouraged to continue and complete PUC with Science, avoid the pressures of coaching classes, and then switch over to any field of their choice, even if they do not score very high in the Board exams.

On the other hand, those who are just not able to cope with Science, and do not pass in 1st PU (or scrape through with great difficulty) can and should consider moving away without wasting another year. They can register under National Institute of Open Schooling (www.nios.ac.in) to appear for 12th Board exam with any subjects of their choice (even without any other language) for the subsequent year. The same applies to those who have failed in 2nd PU Board exam and supplementary. Admissions are still open for 2014 April exams, and NIOS is a Government of India body recognized all over the country. They have a regional office in Bangalore, phone 80-23464222 or 1800-180-9393 and email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Many students who are good in practical technology, gadget fixing etc. are not cut out for serious academics, and they may do far better in a three year Polytechnic Diploma than in B.E. And anyway they have the option of lateral entry to 2nd year B.E. when they successfully complete their Diploma. 10% of the degree seats are reserved for diploma students through a special CET which is less competitive than the regular one.

High marks in 10th standard after extensive studying, coaching, pushing by parents should not be taken as a parameter that the student will do well at +2 level. The portions increase significantly and there is much less hand-holding by teachers. Often the numbers in a class go as high as 100 and above, due to which teachers cannot give any individual attention to students. Similarly, while Integrated Colleges are a boon to the science-oriented bright students who get coaching for entrance exams in their college itself, they can be a source of great stress for those who are not cut out to be engineers (leave alone IIT-ians) and an unnecessary financial burden on parents.

The craze for engineering continues, despite the fact that now India is producing more engineers (15 lakhs) annually then USA and China put together, and the demand may not keep up with the supply. Marks scored in Math and Science in 2nd PU or 12th standard are generally a good indicator whether the student can cope with the rigors of engineering. Similarly, failure in number of subjects in the first or second year of B.E. should make a student sit up and review whether he should sacrifice the year lost and move to a field in which he has both interest and aptitude.

While it is true that competition has increased significantly, it is equally true that opportunities have increased much more. Even if a mistake has been made by selecting an unsuitable course or subjects, it is not too late to change – but after due exploration and matching interest with aptitude. Parents too play a significant role in not pressuring the child into studies which he is just not suited for, but by helping him or her make the right choice Failures are stepping stones to success.

By Ali Khwaja

 

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