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JU builds math fortress for engineering

A minimum score of 60 per cent in mathematics has been made mandatory for an engineering seat at Jadavpur University as part of a move to rule out students riding piggyback on physics and chemistry to meet the existing eligibility criteria.

The decision, effective from the next academic year, is meant to prevent students from using a loophole in the current system to get into engineering without the level of proficiency required of them in mathematics.

Over the past two academic years, anyone aspiring to study engineering at JU needed to rank in the top percentile of performers in the joint entrance examination and score a minimum of 180 out of 300 marks in physics, chemistry and mathematics in the Class XII board test. For Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and people with disabilities, the cut-off was even lower at 55 per cent (165 out of 300).

Some candidates would achieve the cut-off despite being below par in mathematics because only the combined score in three subjects was taken into account.

From 2016-17, the minimum requirement for all categories of candidates would be at least 60 per cent in mathematics in the Class XII examination. General candidates would need to score 120 out of 200 in physics and chemistry together while those eligible for quotas would qualify with an aggregate of 105.

The faculty council of Jadavpur University's engineering department approved of the changes in eligibility criteria at a meeting in the last week of November.

The university has since informed the entrance examination board about its decision so that the changes can be incorporated into the information brochure for JEE 2016, scheduled for May 17.

Dean of engineering Sivaji Bandyopadhyay told Metro that making proficiency in mathematics the core of its eligibility criteria was necessary to ensure that students without a proper foundation in the subject didn't make it to the university's prestigious BE programme. "Since the current eligibility criteria specifies that a candidate is required to score a minimum of 60 per cent in physics, chemistry and mathematics taken together, someone with even 45 per cent marks in mathematics can potentially get into JU by scoring 135 marks in physics and chemistry," he pointed out.

Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan said a few weeks ago that all students should study mathematics in some form at least till they are 18. On his first day as the new president of the Royal Society, Ramakrishnan said: "Everyone should be educated in some science and mathematics through 18, I think... and it would need a slight modification of the way education is structured."

He questioned the convention of many students leaving mathematics and science for good at the age of 16, when they write their Class X examination.

Bhaskar Gupta, a former chairman of the JEE board and professor of computer science at JU, said there should be elementary mathematics in Class XII even for those studying arts. "It is time we took note of what Ramakrishnan said. Without basic understanding of mathematics, it is difficult to survive in today's competitive world in any profession. There should be easier mathematics in our Class XII syllabus for an arts student."

A member of JU's engineering faculty council said a statistical analysis of the performance of engineering students in the semester exams over the past two years revealed that those with less than 60 per cent marks in mathematics in the Plus-II board examination didn't do well in BE.

"It was found that either they were not being able to clear their papers in the first attempt or they barely scraped through. This made the grade point average present a sorry sight. Such results affect the institute's reputation in the eyes of campus recruiters," the professor said.

In 2014-15, JU became the first engineering institute in Bengal to make it mandatory for any BE aspirant to score a minimum of 60 per cent in physics, chemistry and mathematics together. Calcutta University, which started BE programmes in eight disciplines this year, too has allowed candidates with 60 per cent in the science and mathematics papers to apply for admission.

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