I used this occassion to check out something too. I tried a couple of what I call the 20-20 programming problems on them. I took a short session, gave them two problems, and 10 minutes to solve them. The problems were 1) count the number of transitions in a array of 0s and 1s, and 2) find the length of the longest sequence of 1s in the same array. Only the core part of the program was expected - no reading/writing/initialising/etc. The first is about 3 lines of code, and the second may be 5-6. I took all the answer sheets, checked (not very detailed), and tabulated the results.
Here is what I found. Among the first years, about 30% solved the problem fairly well -- I would give a mark of 8/10 or more. Only the first problem though. Some attempted the second, but not much luck there. The story was same in second year, with roughly the same percentage. The third years presented another story altogether. Not a single person could produce a satisfactory solution! I had somehow feared that this may be the result; but was surprised that it turned out this way.
I did share the news with the class, and also told the Director of the institute and faculty members who accompanied the students. I hope they take this seriously and work on improving the standards.