Tuesday, 12 December 2006

‘O Captain, My Captain…...’


A page from my life (a bit dog-eared): The venue is LMS compound and the event is CAP (Centralised Allotment Process). The demure atmosphere is punctuated regularly with tensed sighs and deep breaths. A computer operator manning an allotment terminal calls out the number ‘84’. Heaving a sigh of relief I, along with my father, responded to the call. Without hesitation, I gave my preferences. EC followed by AE and then CS, all in CET. The good rank withstanding, the computer allotted me AE. Disappointed I left, not before filling the higher options form. A few weeks later I got the course of my choice.


A page from an Engineering aspirant’s life, 30 years hence (fictious but probabilistic): Same venue and same jamboree. The gaudy sea of humanity is vibrating with the latest ring tones. A computer operator calls out the number ‘5567’. A candidate and his father walks up to the computer terminal and makes themselves comfortable with panache. “Merit seats in self-financing colleges have been filled”, the operator says apologetically. “There are plenty of merit seats left for EC and other courses in CET. May I allot you to CET? ”, the operator asks, even more apologetically. “Nah, we will go for a management seat in a good private college”, the candidate says imperturbably. Finally choosing a ‘good’ college the candidate returns home smirking.

I did break a few rules by letting Epilogue share space with Prologue in the first page itself. The past we know, future we can imagine but the present is the most difficult to assimilate of all tenses. Often the churning is felt only when the butter is seen. Our college is celebrating its 65th year of existence and in this context let me analyze the transitions in the professional education sector and CET in particular after the entry of self financing colleges into this sector.

CET, for long, has been the undisputed ‘best’ among Kerala’s Engineering Colleges. Till a few years back, there was no other college which could boast of such a large campus, infrastructure and an intellectually bright student-teacher community. It was for these same reasons that I chose CET without hesitation. Why ponder more? The exuberant placement cell is one good enough reason for any engineering aspirant to join CET (At last count the 2002-2006 batch has received nearly 581 job offers).

So that is how the unsinkable CET is cruising. Calm waters. No sharks. Complacent. Very complacent.

Before I ‘sink’ CET, let me recall the histories of some other Titanics. St. Joseph Hr. Sec. School and Model School were once upon a time two of the most prestigious schools in Trivandrum. Both boasted of eminent teachers and had facilities well beyond their competitors. Many of the present day celebrities and bureaucrats are alumnus of these institutions. But if one were to take a survey of the top ten schools in Trivandrum today, you will be surprised to know that they don’t even figure in the 10th position. The reasons are simple. They failed to upgrade and update with the changing needs. Unaided schools brought in a revolutionary change in the mode of teaching. Besides excellent teachers, they provided students with all the facilities needed for all round development. While St. Joseph and Model School continued to school with the same infrastructure, unaided schools regularly upgraded. So it wasn’t long before these Titanics were sunk.

These facts won’t suffice to convince the hardcore CET-ian, I know. So for these guys, here are a few more painful truths. Are our teachers the best? A difficult question to answer. We certainly have the brightest brains to teach. But how many of them actually teach. CET’s history, too, doesn’t mention about any teacher who has completed the whole syllabus on time. Now compare with a private college. The fatter pay packet has been able to attract quiet a number of good teachers. And by hook or by crook (extra classes on Saturday) the whole syllabus is completed.

Want more? Then, are our infrastructure and lab facilities the best? Everyone knows our college is an old one. But do we need to stamp that throughout our college. Cobwebbed classrooms. Piteous hostels. Defunct and rusty equipments. Shift the scene to a private college. Sparkling marble floors. Latest equipments working with clockwork precision (Speaking of clocks, there is an electronic clock in one of our Electronics Lab. The clock is as old as the college and works on electricity. It never shows the real time as tsunamis are more predictable than the electric supply). Moreover a demure environment has been provided for serious academics.

Still want more? Then chew this. Can anyone match CET in terms of placement? This is one area CET is still king. The number of job offers has been steadily increasing over the years. Though a few companies do visit other colleges, the students there don’t have the same variety and menu to choose from. Still, I feel, this won’t last for long. Companies need men and these colleges have the right contacts to lure them. Almost all the private colleges have a placement cell and it won’t be long before IBM or Microsoft poaches in these colleges, too.

At least now, admit defeat. Barring placements, self-financing engineering colleges have already overtaken CET in all other quality parameters. In spite of this, if CET is still considered the best, then it’s solely due to the collection of the best brains in Kerala. The present situation can be summed up in two lines, “If you want to learn the subject, study in a private college. If it’s only a job you want, then come to CET”.

‘O Captain, my Captain; the ship is sinking’. I will certainly swim to safety, as there is at least 30 years before CET will fully sink. Who will plug the leak and save the ship? I would like to know.

The White Smoke :- I want to use this tailpiece to thank the Alumni members for maintaining the site www.cetafi.net. Why? Because 30 years from now, the nostalgic articles in the website will help me describe to my children the wonderful college that CET was once. Even before I started writing this article, I had discussed its contents with few of my classmates. Most of them vehemently argued and adamantly refused to toe my line. So I am very curious to know how you respond to my analysis. Please let me know.

This article was written when I was in my Fifth Semester and before the College authorities had started utilising the World Bank funds for renovation and new equipments. The original article was first published in www.cetafi.net


akram said...

hey... its hrithwyk and not akram...
anyways its one of the best blogs ive read.. i really appretiate it...
keep the good work up.

sreejith said...

thanks akram :-)