The Engineering-Medicine Paradigm

Posted on September 16, 2010 in Education

By Anirudh Madhavan:

If you were to go to your window and throw a stone into the street, it would probably hit an engineer. The whole place is teeming with them (they breed faster than rabbits!). The engineering/medicine students in India outdo entire populations of certain European countries. The lure of sciences in our country is maddening to a certain extent. The various possible reasons for this mad rush can only be explained on the basis of a detailed social study. Some basic reasons are enlisted below.

The first and foremost incentive to medicine/engineering is the economic stability it provides. India is one of the fastest developing economies in the world and relies heavily on its IT sector. The western countries look upon India as the land which provides them with the largest pool of doctors and scientists. In the premier space research institution, NASA, 36% of the scientists are Indian. So even though the recession did make some hearts skip a beat, it’s needless to say that an engineer will never be out of a job. In the same vein, it’s highly unlikely for a doctor to go jobless in India (a private clinic being a very viable venture). Another aspect to it is the obscene amounts of money that can be amassed in as little a time as say 10 years. Big money is guaranteed and in keeping with Amitabh Bachchan’s famous dialogue — a bank balance, cars and a bungalow et al come with the package. The parental pressure angle can never be negated as many mediocre kids who don’t have the aptitude for science are pushed off the cliff into the scientific sea by their family. I, from personal experience can vouch for dozens of students who in their school days wanted to be nothing less than a movie star or the Prime Minister but have ended up in lousy engineering/medical colleges and are now contemplating their futures through a dusty microscope.

This leads to a dearth of talented people in various other walks of life. How many great sportspersons or musicians can India boast of? The answer is just a fistful. There is a diversion from natural inclinations to forced identities which scars the human mind beyond repair. The suicide rates of potential engineers and doctors have sky-rocketed in the past few years in response to unreal expectations from family (society). Another flaw in the system is the mushrooming of coaching centers which promise entry into premier institutions provided you are ready to pay through your nose. The ironic part is that it’s failed professionals who teach in these centers. If they couldn’t get their lives straight, what makes you think they can set yours straight? Year after year it is proven that it is the students who do not enroll in coaching centers that secure the top positions hence negating the role of coaching centers.

The best way to deal with this situation would be the introduction of multiple new subjects in the high school curriculum. Subjects like mass communication would provide children with an opportunity to widen their interest zone and give them space to splash around while they’re still young. The popular perception of society needs a makeover and people need to accept the fact that there are extremely good prospects beyond the sphere of science. I would like to thank Rajkumar Hirani for his dialogue in his latest film – “Strive for excellence and success will follow you around”. Let’s hope for not too distant a future in which people all around the globe look to India with respect for our myriad virtuosos and not merely (in their words) – “science nerds”.