Smooth transition to selected career after 10th standard

Sashi has always had a desire to do something different. Born at the end of the twentieth century, he has been witnessing the challenges and thrill of change and newness that defines his generation. He is intelligent, has a sharp mind, and a strong feeling of, "It is MY life!" He is fed up of elders telling him that engineering and medicine are the only options for a safe and lucrative future. His mind refuses to believe it, for when he looks around he sees so much happening – tremendous advances in the retail and marketing sector, legal experts thriving, creative designers getting any fees that they demand, and even managers with no formal qualifications rising fast up the corporate ladder.

Such a scenario, while very encouraging and thrilling, raises the doubt in many youngsters about where their future lies. As someone said in a seminar recently, "there is a problem of plenty." Too many career choices, too many advisors, and too much at stake. Sharp youngsters like Sashi also know that if they make a wrong move, they can be pushed off the fast track, and will wallow in the shallow waters of mediocrity and stagnation.

Students chatting after school
after school
Image Credit: Natesh Ramasamy, cc-by-2.0, flickr.com

The Crossroads

Obviously students touch the first crossroads when they have completed their 10th standard. A few who are not at all academically oriented, or cannot afford higher education, move on to diplomas, ITI courses or other job-oriented training. The vast majority move on to PUC/+2 and mark their time for two years preparing for the entry into degree courses that will define their career.

Here comes the first dilemma, to choose the stream for higher studies (see box "Where, How and Which way do I complete my +2?" Not only does a student have to select the stream of studies, but also the subjects. The +2 courses in general can be divided into three major categories:

Science, Commerce and Arts

Though some streams do offer combinations between the above three, most schools and colleges have clearly defined optional subjects. Except in NIOS (or if a student has obtained exemption due to Learning Disability), one has study another language with English. The most common choices offered are Kannada, Hindi and Sanskrit, while selected colleges do offer French and other languages also. The four "core" or "optional" subjects define which category the student belongs to.

Science : The most common combination of optional subjects are PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology, the most popular choice of those who wish to "keep all career options open"), PCM+Electronics, PCM+Computer Science. Selected colleges do offer Statistics as the fourth subject. Lesser known is the fact that for those with Math-phobia there is an combination of PCB+Home Science. While more than half-a-dozen girls colleges have been offering this combination since many years, there are colleges like Cathedral, Indian Academy, Green Country and schools like Vidya Niketan, who offer this combination to both boys and girls.It is significant that Science is also a popular choice among bright students who are not interested in a career in Science or Technology, since it is possible to switch from Science to Commerce or Arts, but not vice-versa.

Commerce : is the popular choice of students who feel that they are not oriented to science (or find the subjects too difficult), or even those who wish to have some free time in their daily routine to pursue other courses or extra-curricular activities. While Business Studies and Accountancy are compulsory, the other two optional subjects can be selected from Math, Statistics, Economics, to History, Geography, Political Science, etc. Commerce subjects are found to be more interesting even by students who eventually wish to make a career in Humanities or Arts.

Arts : Traditionally this has been the "poor cousin" of the other two streams, pursued by those who found science and commerce too tough, or did not have good enough marks in 10th to get admission, or were financially constrained. The scene has changed remarkably in the past decade, and many bright students who are sure of making a career that is people, languages, or social science related, are opting for Arts at the +2 level. Here again there is a fairly wide choice of subjects such as Psychology, Sociology, Economics, History, Geography, Political Science, Logic, etc., but most colleges offer only one or two of these combinations, hence one has to be careful in selecting the college.

Science vs Arts
after school
Image Credit: theps.net, cc-by-2.0, flickr.com

Unusual Combinations : A few selected colleges offer combinations from the above three major streams, and even away from them. These include combinations like Home Science+ Psychology+ Sociology, or Computer Science+ Commerce subjects. Courses are offered in design fields, environmental sciences, physical education, etc. but in very selected institutions.

Admissions in schools or colleges for +2 are highly competitive only among the few reputed institutions that have made a name for themselves over the decades. Cut-off percentages often go beyond 90% to qualify for admission. However, one should keep in mind that many new junior colleges have opened in the past few years, backed by good management and infrastructure, and since they have not yet gained wide exposure, admission is available much more freely. Many schools have also upgraded themselves in the past few years to either add on CBSE/ISC 12th standard, or to add on a PUC college to the existing school. It is worth the while to check out the latest lists and then explore admission to the best possible institutions.

Also one needs to keep in mind that when institutions mention a particular cut-off percentage for admission, it is usually for their first list. With wide variety being available, not all students take admission, and hence there are second and third lists where students with much lower percentage do manage to get in. If one is specifically interested in an institution, it may be wise to keep checking with them till all their lists are out and admissions are closed. Also, it is advisable that the institution is not too far from the residence of the student, as valuable time wasted in travel can be used for further coaching or studies, particularly for the competitive exams.

There is some amount of confusion whether a student can change college after 1st year of PUC, and whether a change of stream is possible (e.g. switching over from Science to Commerce). Some of these matters are under judicial appeal, and we will have to await the judgments. However, it is better not to rely on the possibility of change, and select the right stream straight away. As a counselor I have come across many students who deep down knew that they cannot cope with science, but opted for it in PUC under peer or parental pressure, or even to keep up their own "prestige", thinking that science is superior to other streams. After very poor performance in 1st PUC, they run pillar to post trying to get a change into commerce or arts.

Similarly, those who are starting off their 1st PUC need not think of the year as "earned leave" to studies after their hard work for the 10th Board exams. One should start building up a regular study habit, since portions increase significantly in 11th, and one has to do more of self-study compared to the detailed "spoon-feeding" that they received in lower classes. At the same time students should try to narrow down their career goals by the time they have finished their 11th or 1st PUC, because then they can concentrate on preparation for the Board exams and also the entrance exams they may have to face.

Where, how and which way do I complete my plus 2 ?

While students who have studied in the State Syllabus (SSLC) opt for the Pre-University Course (PUC), those who have completed their 10th under the ICSE or CBSE curriculum often wonder whether to continue in one of these central syllabus, or to switch over to PUC. With the coming of the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS. Details available on www.nios.ac.in) and International Baccalaureate (IB. Details available on www.ibo.org) the choice has widened. Unfortunately there is no general answer to which would be the best, but a few points taken into consideration may help the student take the decision:

What Next? Where, How and Which Subject and College?
after school
Image Credit: danielfoster437, cc-by-sa-2.0, flickr.com

PUC is comparatively the easiest, and average or below average students can hope to clear it without too much difficulty. There are almost 200 PU Colleges in Bangalore city alone, and the choice of both colleges as well as optional subjects is widest under this stream. Also, since the competitive CET is based on the PUC syllabus, a student can hope to get a better rank for admission to engineering or medicine in the state.

CBSE has a standard pattern all over the country (and in many foreign countries where Indians are in large numbers), hence a student can find easy admission in case of sudden transfer. It is also designed to give a strong foundation all-round, and most CBSE schools maintain very high standards, including in extra-curricular activities. The IIT-JEE, AIEEE and various other All-India entrance exams base their questions closest to the CBSE syllabus, hence students aspiring for such institutions stand at an advantage. Kendriya Vidyalayas and other government organizations generally follow CBSE, giving opportunity for the salaried class to get good education at a very low fee.

ISC is perhaps the toughest of the Indian +2 exams, but it gives a wider variety of subjects to choose from, greater sharpening of the analytical and reasoning mind, and again a good foundation for various all-India entrance exams. Many reputed schools that have existed for decades and even a century, offer ISC, and since it is based on the Senior Cambridge pattern, its recognition in the Commonwealth and other foreign countries is also higher.

IB has a distinct advantage for students who wish to pursue their under-graduate studies in Western countries. It is universally recognized, allows more flexibility of studies, but in India it has the disadvantage of late exams (in May, with results in July) due to which admission to local universities at times becomes a hurdle.

NIOS is a very flexible examination system offered by Government of India, where students have a wide options to select any combination of traditional and non-conventional subjects, study two languages or one, and appear for the exams in stages. It also has facilities for children with special needs. Though the general public is not fully aware of this option, it is a boon to many, and recognized all over the country.

Preparing for Competitive Exams

The +2 stage is the time when one needs to prepare for a wide variety of entrance exams, depending on one's interest. Those who select well in advance, and prepare systematically, are the ones most likely to make it. One should specifically study the subjects required for the specific entrance exam, and also familiarize oneself with the type of question papers, scoring pattern, timing etc."

Engineering aspirants need to appear for IIT-JEE, AIEEE (nor the National Institutes of Technology), CET, COMED-K, and entrance exams conducted by the autonomous universities such as KLE, VIT, Manipal, Amrita, BLDE, etc.

Medical aspirants have the choice of All India Pre-Medical Test, CET, and exams by autonomous universities or even institutions like Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), etc.

Law seekers now have the benefit of Common Law Admission Test (CLAT. See website www.clat.ac.in for details), for admission to a dozen top National Law schools all over the country.

Architecture students have to qualify in National Aptitude Test for Architecture (NATA. See website www.niasa.org, www.coa.india.org for details), in which creativity and design skills are given importance.

Similarly, various entrance exams are held for Design-related courses, Hotel Management (BHM and B.Sc. in Hospitality), Business Management (B.B.M.), and of course Military Service through NDA or even the Special Apprentice exam for studying with and getting absorbed with the Railway Engineering Service.

published as "How to choose a campus or course" in Deccan Herald Education Supplement on 3rd Jun 10

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