By Richa Priyanka:
“You are in the fourth year of your course, right?” asked Mr. Tiwary, an operator in a control room of G-Blast Furnace in TATA Steel.
“Yes sir,” Hari replied, his head sinking low.
“And you can’t even tell me how the request for a phone call is sent through, or how an email is sent from one ID to another!”
“Sir, we haven’t been taught about all that yet.”
“And, you never will be. The college’s job is just to give you slight basics. You should be curious and should find these on your own. You got the internet. If you cared, you would have found out already, wouldn’t you?”
This is an example of the reality of engineering colleges in India. While the HRD Ministry says, “Technical education plays a vital role in human resource development of the country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of lives of its people”, in truth instead of working on the development of skill sets of the students, technical education has become a classroom study of various theories and principles of engineering which is more often, impracticable.
When I came to college, I realized that many students who join engineering colleges are a result of walking mindlessly along with the herd, or strict unreasonable parents. When I had picked up my branch, Electronics and Telecommunications at random, I had thought I would be the only one who has no clue as to what to go on with. But, later as I interacted with several other students I realized that hardly anyone had given serious thought, or had been provided with proper counsel to choose the right branch.
Saurav, a fourth year student at KIIT University faced a similar problem. “Computer Science had always been my branch preference because I was someone who grew up playing with codes and computers, reading magazines like PC World and Digit since I was a ten year old. But when I came to college my relatives counseled me on how I should go on with Mechanical because it is a core branch.” He still invests most of his time working with codes, and developing websites and applications. “Going ahead with Mechanical was perhaps my biggest mistake. I would still like to start my career with a job in an IT industry, instead of taking up a position in a core company.”
The course pattern involves such a theoretical approach that most of the students who could have genuinely developed an interest in the subject, fall out and take to mugging up class notes to obtain a good score in examinations which barely test anything other than rote skills of a candidate. Students who wish to learn the application of various sciences, and technology or those who want to venture further with any specific discipline have to rely on internet, their personal contacts and everything else, that is outside the classrooms and labs in an engineering college. While subjects like Microprocessors do cover the fundamentals with books, that are adept, we never get to study about any MP that hadn’t become obsolete for today’s electronic devices.
Mrinal Tiwary, an Electronics and Telecommunications engineer, who spends most of his time with robots and has won numerous national level awards in the field of robotics and circuitry confesses, “I have never kept myself closed to curriculum. I have no technical certifications, I am self-taught. Youtube and my small scale research, that I carried out, to convince me that my knowledge is right, helped me through. College has well qualified teachers to teach us theoretical concepts, but it’s not practical.” His areas of interests are circuit designing, image processing, MATLAB, analog and digital electronics, each of which is taught in college, but sadly none of their course patterns are designed such as to teach one how to implement the age-old technologies and subjects’ basic theories to any applications.
While the course designed by the AICTE (a statutory body for technical education under Department of Higher Education, MHRD) keeps getting revised every third year, it is important that some demanding changes be made soon to make the course befitting for engineers, to make them skilled enough to survive in a competitive industry. Instead of stressing more on the theories, the curriculum should implement a skill-oriented education system to make institutes more aligned with the industries, and to bridge the skill mismatch. The grading system should be such that practical application is given more weight than the theory papers. While some institutes have already started doing their bit for making their students acquainted with the industry by starting with the industry visits, it is necessary that vocational training and apprenticeships be made a graded parted of the program so that there is a uniformity across different colleges over India and the engineers are prepared. Moreover, research and development should be encouraged among engineering students so that more and more number of students can look forward to furthering innovation.
The real challenge is to devise strong yet, flexible methods that could help engineers grow with the rapidly pacing technology, so that we make the cut not only as a country with increasing number of engineers who graduate every year (1.5 million in 2014) but also as a country that produces the finest engineers in the world.
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