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Why the Professional Entrances have to be scheduled for April/May.

June 1, 2015

Last evening I was confused whether the entrance exams must be shifted from hot summer months of April/May to cooler months.

Thinking over, I came to the following conclusion:

* Academic year in India is from June-April in schools & universities.

* Professional entrances can be held only on completed syllabus. We have entrances to professional institutions like the Medical, Engineering, Law, Architectural colleges at both UG and PG levels. The tier-1 is for IITs/NITs/IIMs/AIIMS/NDA etc.  These are the only centralized entrances in the country. Tier-2 is for state level admissions in govt colleges. For tier-2 admissions, you have to produce a domicile certificate in the state of residence/declaration for a minimum period of 5 years to be eligible for getting into the respective state universities/affiliated colleges.  MMC/KMC/Anna University (Guindy Engineering College) etc come under this category. Very few like Karnataka for instance share their state sponsored professional seats with non-state aspirants. Tier-3 is also constituted by respective state universities (for payment seats) and deemed autonomous universities (like SRM, VIT, Amrita for instance). Thus we have various entrance exams in India tailor-made for admissions to different institutions. Who wants to take any chances? Board 12 students usually apply for all and sundry and take entrances in anything & everything possible to ensure they get what they want.

* So Feb-May is a hectic exam season in India. February is the perpetual board practical month. March-April are the board months. Entrances start with end of April and proceed well into May month.

* Students as well as parents get sleepless once the kids come to Standard 9. We have to decide by now, which branch we have to opt for in Standard 11 & 12 (higher secondary). In case you are to sit for IIT, you cannot delay any longer joining a professional entrance institute/center for extra tuitions.

* Right from the day the school reopened in first week of June in class 9, my son’s school started pestering us what we would like to do in class 11 (with 2 whole years to go for that stage)! Whether we would continue in the same school, or whether we would like to move out. In case we want to continue in class 11, which group. By 10th opening, I confirmed in writing, my son would like to opt for Maths-Phy-Chem-Computer Science in class 11 in the same school.

* By this stage many boys were already attending IIT entrance courses. Standard 9 changed so many things for them. From standard 9, every year the classes were shuffled and friends were separated. Thats when I started getting SMS in my phone from school even if my son coughed or sneezed. In class 10, my son took a day off to visit Tirupathi with us parents. We got his head shaved for which school sent for me. I was reprimanded for being a careless parent ‘instigating’ my son to absent himself from school without teacher’s permission. I got to meet the class teacher, principal everyone!

* A zero period (!) became the norm – academics became the most important aspect in our lives. Testing time for parents mainly.

* All extra-curricular activities including Scouting & Sports come to a grinding halt with class 8. Thereafter Indian schools are one-way street.

* A friend whose both kids are into IIT says this is the problem with India: We try to ‘tackle’ everything like its happening even with IIT which is not the way to go about it. Once you start going by the blue-print and learn to cleverly manipulate even IIT and IIM entrances, the very purpose is lost says the girl. Both her sons studied under a professor who tutors IIT aspirants that’s all. She refused to enroll them in specialized institutions like FITJEE alleging the very concept is wrong. Her brainy kids started with IIT preparation only in class 10 hols, never earlier. Trying to ‘tackle’ IIT defeats the purpose of having IITs in the country. The Bihar model is not quite right which is why we are seeing many suicides in IIT. This is why according to my friend, research is failing in India.

* Its also true many schools these days are overzealous and start with class X syllabus by class 9 (in Dec/Jan) and the same is true of class XII (standard 11 syllabus completed on warfooting basis to start with std 12 portions by as early as Sep).  Still officially, a student is supposed to be ready for board exams both for class X and standard 12 only by February. All practical exams are held by February and March 1, board exams start unanimously across the board.

* Depending on your electives, your board exams can be completed by March. Rare electives in the higher secondary course like for instance banking/instrumentation etc may be scheduled in the end of the exam time-table – dates of which may fall in April. Results arrive by May month so that by June/July students may be prepared for joining class 11 or university as applicable.

* July mostly all art & science colleges open on fresh admissions. Professional colleges open maximum by Aug-end or September 1st week.

* Moving the entrances to earlier cooler months means, most candidates may not be fully prepared. Officially, no candidate needs to go through the entire board syllabus before February month.

* There is a minimum age restriction of 16 years to be completed to appear for standard 12 boards I think by the cut-off date of March every year. Both physically and mentally our children need to meet certain criteria to be eligible to write the boards. Why should not the same yardstick be applicable when it comes to giving professional entrances. After seeing my son and his friends I know every month they show maturity in a way – they aren’t the same long enough. Even 2-3 months make a difference to them and their views/standings change. Some of my friends’ kids gave SAT on completion of 12th for doing BS abroad. From 12th to degree completion, in these last 4 years, I am seeing how my son has changed for the better. I wouldn’t have trusted him with a BS overseas but I have full faith in him for MS.

* My niece & nephews gave All Indian PG entrance for MD/MS. Even these entrances were held in summer months only and my niece is completing MS in Gynaecology this June. She had secured All India 2000th rank and started her PG in Aug/Sep. Before the entrance, she was at home for 1 year preparing for the entrance. The time schedule was perfect.

* All professional courses strictly adhere to the academic cycle and the structure we have in place is very disciplined. Why disturb it. Tampering with a time-tested method is not advisable. 

* Only IIT aspirants may be in a position to do justice to engineering entrances held before time. Because many start with Sandwich course by even 9th, 10th standards. Same is true of medical aspirants.

*  What about the rest of the students. What will happen to the school schedules.

* My son is a lazy boy – a last minute slogger. He will burn the midnight oil always in the last couple of months working round the clock, not eating, not sleeping. He started studying with full vigour both for 10th & 12th boards by December only after I screamed and pleaded and threatened him with suicide ultimately (Indian parents!)!! You think he would have been in a position to give any entrance test before the board exams?! Who am I kidding! His friends are like him. So for late beginners, its impossible to give entrances anytime before the boards.

* I did make the mistake of enrolling my son for IIT entrance coaching by class 8 – the preparatory sandwich course. That forever made him hate any entrance preparations. By 11th he became a rebel and refused to attend even Math tuitions. He is totally self-made and I resigned to the fact that he is not the over-brilliant or over-ambitious. He studies at his leisure. He says he can take care of himself and we parents need not have to lose sleep worrying over him.

* Err a boy in the neighbourhood got into FITJEE structured coaching by class 6 – yes, they start as early as standard VI now. He is my son’s batch. He did not make any friends in school. His mother was particular my son and he did not play with each other. The poor lad was a loner – was an only child to his parents already. Did not get into IIT. Wasted one more year at home giving repeat entrances and now is in a tier-2 engineering college finally. He is bald almost completely. Looks too old for his age. Parents, please don’t do this to your children. Everytime I look at the boy my heart aches for the precious jolly years lost.

* Those of my friends kids who attended ALOHA maths classes in primary school developed severe aversion for maths by middle/high school. Thank god I did not push my son into it. Worst was, the children were beginning to skip the steps in mathematical problems, arriving at the solution with mental calculations using short-cuts.  Theorems & derivations were not easy with them. A friend had to strive hard to make her daughter UNLEARN Aloha and get her work out the steps logically! I would strictly ask any parent to keep his/her child OFF ABACUS!

* In case the entrances are to be shifted to any other month(s), it has to be still AFTER the completion of boards. Which means the students will lose one full academic year by the way – if the exams are to be moved to mid-term like in September or December AFTER BOARDS to join professional courses only in the following/next academic year. Never can the entrances be held before the boards. Its true CAT/GATE are held usually in March before the 8th semester of the final year of engineering course. But the final sem usually is about projects in the professional degree and with some light electives. The serious stuff/major papers get over by 7th semester. GATE & CAT also test your general aptitude to some extent and not just your structured UG syllabus.

* The purpose of having professional entrances in April/May is this: the aspirants may have fresh memory of all they have learned in the academic year and will be on their toes with good working speed coming out of practice. They can recall whole syllabus without an effort at short notice.

* Summer months of April/May atleast do not see flooding in India. Students are safe that way with no fear of a repeat, with exams getting re-scheduled on postponement. Whereas monsoons in India hit different states at different times. South west monsoons start with Kerala by May end, proceed to Karnataka/Goa/Maharashtra by June 1st week, then cross over to central India and Gujarat/Rajasthan/Delhi/Punjab/Kashmir by July/Aug. Another branch of the same monsoon hits Bengal and north eastern states around the same time. But North East monsoon arrives in southern India only by September. Any delay may start the season by Oct/Nov which can go on upto January in some exceptional years. The coramandel coasts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Orissa etc receive rainfall in the year end. Many times the monsoon affected states see flooding of rural centers that result in school closing. Its a big risk moving entrances to any other months from the safe summer sun of April/May. April and May are the only stable, predictable months given the Indian climate.

* If 12th standard students do not even have this stamina to wait or travel in hot sun, I would blame them for their poor intake of nutritious food and lack of exercise. I would blame their parents equally. After all in India, the family size has shrunk to 1-2 kids maximum. Our children give professional entrances only once in their life time. Can’t parents sacrifice even for one year standing in queues for the sake of their children? I took out my satellite tv connection for almost 3-4 years barring intermittently. 

* I am almost like a single parent. My husband, an NRI most of his life, wouldn’t even remember which class his son’s attending!!! For my son’s school admission after getting back from Malaysia, I engaged a dial-a-driver for our car for 2 hours. My son was running a high temperature and vomited in the street on his way to the school. He had picked up a virus in the swimming pool. He still cleared the entrance successfully in a hot May month only.

Even for getting an application to his admission we stood in queue in May month for hours together – because we wanted this particular school. By phone my husband only knows to give the orders. He would insist he wants this school, this college for his son and I would do the rest. He has never dropped our boy in the school even once and does not know where his college is. Nor has he attended any school or college event. Does not know any parent of his son’s friends either. I double up as both mother & father. I pay the fees, I sign the reports and documents.

For paying fees on school entrance results, we were give 2 days. First day when I went to the school by 10 am, I found that they had closed the gates after letting in some 500 parents (having clubbed KG admissions to primary/high school). Getting midway into a good Indian school is a herculean task. That’s what I found out by experience.

So next day I returned with originals by 6 am and stood in queue that already had 5-6 parents standing before me. We were let into school by 9 am. I met the principal and explained my son was sick for the interview. I produced a medical certificate. She saw the entrance grades and was satisfied. He had scored over 85% in that. She gave me spot admission. There is an SBI extension counter in my son’s school. I had not had breakfast or lunch. By 2.45 pm I paid the fees by DD just a few minutes before the bank closing hours. Then I found the canteen in the school and had a coffee and a veg puff. Soon it was time to pick up the text books & note books with the chalans. I returned home by 5 pm on my own. In the auto I had fallen asleep. The driver stopped before a shop and got me a Pepsi to drink. He shook me awake and asked me to have it taking pity on my condition!

I am glad I did what I could for my son – which is why he got to attend a great school. His peer group is excellent. I realized that parents role in kids’ life is very minimum once they cross 12-13 years. After that, friends are very important. The school gave my son all that he has now; the school and friends made him what he is today. For 1-2 days suffering, we are enjoying the fruits of a lifetime.

We applied for NIT (AIEEE) entrance, SRM entrance everything online. We mother & son did everything together. My son took care of application for Anna University counselling. We never disturbed our NRI head of the family except for payment of fees! In the mean time my son wanted to get into this particular college in management quota. I had to run pillar to post. He would have got into a good professional college but this one was premium. One more parent who is no more took me to their offices. So after a lot of deliberation, we settled for this college.

My friend, also with an NRI husband, who drove me to the college office on Jan 21-22 in the year 2011 had just had a relapse of breast cancer. We filled the application forms together. My son had a 93.5% from science & maths in boards X. In feb, the children had board practicals. I was called for admission interview by Feb 28. March 1st the boards started. I saw and spoke to my friend in the intervening days. She could speak coherently no more. Nothing worked for her: chemo or radiation. The cancer had reached her mouth and was peeping out. Feb 28th before leaving for my son’s private engineering college counselling, I saw my friend for the last time being boarded into an ambulance. That was it. March 6th after ensuring for her son EEE admission in the same college after attending interview on Feb 26th with cancer spread all around her mouth, my friend died a very painful death exactly on their chemistry exam day.  Feb 26th, she spoke to me one final time. She could barely make the words in the landline. She said she could not sit in the college offices (for over 5-6 hours). But she pulled through the feat. She wanted the best for her son and did not want him to join any professional course in payment seat under govt counselling. She said she had had done her part. Mother. I asked her how she was and she said her wound (cancer) in the mouth was hurting. Unforgettable even today.  The entire school management and the children turned up forgetting Physics exam was around the corner. I was reminded of my mom. If not for my friend’s pressure, I would not have sent my son to this college. Today her son is graduating too – but my friend is not there to see it. What a tremendous sacrifice, supreme sacrifice. This mother sat dying in the college offices fighting for EEE seat for her son that she was earlier denied. She won it for him before her breath gave out.

I am reminded of how much pressure we parents had in those 2 important years. My friend was sick yet she would wait for her son to return home to have lunch with him. Most days the kids had revision exams only in class 12 right from September month. Half a day school – either morning session or afternoon. They had innumerable cycle tests and mock practicals. My friend was more concerned because she knew soon it would be her time. She had plans for her son – all carefully laid out in e-mails, handwritten letters, instructions for her husband to do what and when… Even now I can’t help weeping quietly for the great mother and wife she was…

But I think finally its all worth it. Love of an Indian parent has no limits. A mother lives even after her death – she is our guardian angel. Mine is one for me I know.

Many ask me why I could not put my son in hostel atleast in college. I never wanted to. This is what I am for, what else. My son never attended any course for GRE. He prepared at home for 24 hours giving mock 5 hour marathon tests online for a continuous 1 month prior to cracking it. He learned to drive in the last 4 years, he goes to gym, he does a lot of other things because I am here. A hostel/dormitory has time restrictions.

Only a parent can care for his/her child selflessly. Why should others bother. Its too much to expect grandparents to fill the role of parents I guess. They have done their duties to their kids – us. Its unfair to trouble them for our selfish reasons. Most of us Indians also take our aged parents for granted.

All my son’s friends’ parents are somewhat my friends. Every single one of them has immensely sacrificed so their kid(s) can have a great future.

I really do not know what else is there in my life. There is no other purpose.

Its not money that matters always. Parents know in whose hands their children would be safe and who to trust and parents won’t stop from doing what they can to ensure their girls/boys get the best and are secure. Our friends did not seek anyone else – I am proud they have given us this honour.

If anything this throws light on what and how parents think and want for their children.

The professional entrances or the timing of it is no issue at all. Ever given a thought to why India’s Lok Sabha elections are held in the summer months of April-May as well?

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