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An Engineering Student Explains Why India’s Technical Education Is Lagging Behind

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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.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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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  1. Salman Faheem

    Besides all this there is an evil practice of submissions in almost all engineering colleges.

    It involves irrational usage of Paper,even the teachers know that the students are merely copying and pasting stuff yet they don’t bother about such issues.Instead of making us write like a reckless typewriter,they could ask us to work on a project,however small it may be.

    Engineering in India seriously needs a reform and it should start with paperless curriculum or atleast lesserpaper work.

    Adding to all this there is serious error in the evaluation pattern,we are being evaluated on our ability to mug up answers rather than our ability to be innovative.
    Problem solving is a quintessential character of an engineer but our education system focuses much on cramming an answer instead of finding one.

    Government se ummid karna baher haal bemani hoga.

    Allah hi bhala karen Engineers ka.

  2. Gaurav

    Nice Article – Myself Gaurav Chauhan – Founding Member and Managing Director Radio Design India, Gurgaon [British Telecom MNC] Motivational Speaker, Educator, Business Consultant and a successful Entrepreneur. He inspires and encourages people, making them realize their true potential.Engineer by qualification [electronics and telecommunication] with around 14 years of experience in the telecom industry in India, US, Europe & Asia.

    In case i can be of any help to your institute let me know, your article was good…I promote lot of education and deliver speech in engineering and management universities whener i get time.
    Refer one of my speeches in Pune – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzAsiAYcyiA

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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