Why are J&K students losing interest in technical education?

The enrolment for technical education programs is witnessing a sharp slide in Jammu and Kashmir. More than 50 percent of seats allotted to polytechnic colleges are set to remain vacant this academic session which will commence from July. As per official figures, there are around 31 polytechnic colleges in J&K, 24 government and seven private colleges, with an aggregate intake capacity of 5765 students. Around 20 different courses are offered by these institutes. Against the total intake capacity of 5765, only 2500 candidates have appeared in entrance exams conducted by JK Board of Professional Entrance Exams (BOPEE). “Even if majority of seats remain unfilled we have to make for academic arrangements for the students joining the institutes. So, obviously it will be a costly affair to run these institutes,” an official said. The lesser number of students joining the institutes means less revenue.

The technical education department charges Rs 2130 per students as admission fee and Rs 1780 as annual fee. If all the seats get filled in the polytechnic institutes it will bring revenue of Rs 1.22 crore to the department. “But this year only 50 percent of the candidates against the total intake capacity have appeared in entrance. We are not sure how many of them will join the colleges,” the official said. Not only this year, but the student population in the polytechnic colleges has dwindled over the past years, throwing up a major challenge to the department. The admission in these colleges had come down from 64.22 percent in 2014 to 35.77 percent in 2018. In wake of this slide three polytechnic colleges have already been closed, two in Jammu and one in Kashmir. “The dwindling trend in admissions has posed a challenge for the department to keep these institutes functional,” the official said. Owing to the prevailing admission scenario the polytechnic institutions are confronted with financial crises, taking a toll on quality of education. In case of government polytechnic colleges, huge infrastructure in terms of buildings and machinery remains under utilized. The directorate of technical education had written to the administrative department about the decreasing admissions in the colleges and attributed it to lack of awareness about diploma programs and non-popular courses offered in the institutes.

The directorate had also submitted a proposal to the government to introduce open admission system for aspiring candidates for diploma courses in the polytechnic colleges. The move was aimed at revamping the admission process and to overcome decrease in the enrolment of the students in these institutes. A proposal submitted to the administrative department had also recommended suspending the admission process through BOPEE. “But the administrative department disagreed as it would require amending the BOPEE Act,” the official said. Owing to lesser number of candidates appearing in the entrance, the aspirants scoring negative marks in entrance are now also allowed to seek admissions in colleges. “It obviously tells upon the performance of the students at the time of exams in the institutes. The institutes fail to perform fairly,” an official said. Secretary Technical Education Department Zubair Ahmad said the government will examine the issue and use all available option and possibilities to address it.