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Just 20 less but JEE ‘trend’ raises alarm

Calcutta, April 18: The number of candidates appearing for the joint entrance examinations is on the decline.

The entrance to the most sought after engineering and medical colleges in the state has 48,623 aspirants this year. In 2003, there were 20 more applicants. The difference is minimal but the authorities are apprehensive of the worst.

“It is a disappointing trend,” said an official of the state board that conducts the examinations.

The government had eased restrictions on students from outside Bengal appearing for the tests, scheduled on April 24 and 25 this year, to fill up the large number of empty seats in medical and engineering colleges.

The official said: “We had expected the number to go up in the light of some of the measures taken in recent months.”

That was not to be. “The difference between the number of enrolments in the 2003 JEE and 2004 looks marginal but the trend is disturbing. This will force us to fill up a large number of seats, especially in the engineering courses, with students with below average merit,” a senior official of the higher education department said.

Moreover, two more examinations — for bachelors in animal husbandry and veterinary science and bachelors in fishery science — have been brought under the purview of the JEE. About 230 seats are available for the two courses.

The government had to relax the eligibility criterion to increase the number of enrolments after students who were ranked as low as 28,000 had to be taken in to fill up the 11,500-odd seats in engineering colleges across the state.

A bulk of the students ranked up to 10,000 did not join the courses. In all likelihood, they migrated beyond Bengal.

The government, though, has not been able to identify the factors responsible for the decrease in the number of JEE aspirants.

Officials did not rule out “poor infrastructure” in the new private institutions as a possible reason driving the students to other states. Another probable reason could be that they are opting for other professional courses or going back to the mainstream bachelors’ courses realising the waning job prospects in the field of engineering.

There are over 50 private engineering colleges in the state.

According to board officials, about 60 per cent of the total JEE examinees are usually from Calcutta, Howrah and the two 24-Parganas. The response of students from these parts is less this year, an official said.

“For many years in the past, we noticed an upward rise in the number of applicants. The number of seats in engineering colleges has been increased and those in the medical courses are set to increase with the opening of new institutions. The enrolment of candidates in JEE needs to increase if the seats are to be filled with good students,” said Amal Jyoti Sengupta, the chairman of the JEE board.

“We want to conduct a detailed study on what has led to the decline,” he added.

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