Latest AICTE handbook implies that students need not study physics, chemistry and maths to get into an engineering college. Simply put, even students from the Commerce and Arts streams, studying subjects such as Marketing, Floriculture and Food preparation, are now eligible for admission into engineering institutes. While the goal is to provide flexibility even to students from a non-Science background, the final admission decision will rest with the institutes.

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex body for technical education programmes such as engineering and management, brought out its Approval Handbook for 2021-22 on March 11.

The handbook implies that students will have the option to not study Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics or Biology in Class 12 for admission in engineering institutes. These subjects are referred to as PCM and PCB.

AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe later clarified that Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics will continue to be important for engineering and that students are merely being given flexibility.

Here’s the lowdown of this change and the reasons behind this flexibility:

What are the changes to engineering admissions?

Under the AICTE Approval Process Handbook 2021-22, engineering aspirants from Class XI and XII need not mandatorily study PCM and PCB. These students have been given the flexibility to choose from an array of subjects.

The handbook states that students will be eligible for an undergraduate engineering programme by passing their Class XII board exam with any three subjects from the following: Computer Science, Biotechnology, Agriculture, Engineering Graphics, Business Studies, IT, Entrepreneurship, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology Informatics Practice, Technical Vocational Subject (from the CBSE list, including Marketing, Consumer protection, Floriculture, Food preparation and Fashion design)

These guidelines mean that PCB or PCM are no longer mandatory for engineering courses. This opens up engineering even to students from a commerce or arts education background.

This is a stark change from previous years where PCM/PCB were mandatory for admission to undergraduate engineering courses.

Here, the university concerned or engineering institute would be involved in providing a bridge course to the students who don't have a prior background in PCM or PCNB.

However, individual institutes will have the right to determine whether students can be admitted without having studied these subjects, depending on the stream of engineering they choose.

The entrance test JEE (and JEE Advanced for IITs) will continue to be mandatory for all students. This exam has questions pertaining to PCM and hence students will need to know their basics well in these subjects.

Why were these changes implemented?

The flexibility given to students is a result of the government beginning the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020. This policy calls for students to choose subjects from across educational streams, depending on their interest and aptitude.

So, an Arts student can study Mathematics or Physics while a Science student can study History or Sociology.

This principle is being applied to engineering courses as well, where students from diverse educational backgrounds can enrol for an engineering course if they are genuinely interested.

The flexibility to choose subjects other than PCM or PCB could lead to a more diverse batch of students in an engineering classroom.

So, can students completely avoid PCM and PCB?

The short answer is no. PCM and PCB will continue to be the foundation for engineering education in India.

AICTE and the education ministry are merely offering students from even non-Science backgrounds the flexibility to opt for engineering. However, the final decision rests in the hands of the respective engineering institutes.

Students also need to remember that it is essential to have basic knowledge of PCM/PCB for any engineering programme. Without this, they will be unable to cope with the academic curriculum in engineering schools.

While bridge courses will be offered, it is not clear how and what these programmes will contain. Engineering professors are of the view that these courses alone may not be sufficient to build a foundation for the academic rigour required for engineering.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Money Control. The original article can be found at