As a soon-to-be engineering graduate from Bengaluru, my life over the last four years has taught me a lot of lessons and a little bit of engineering. I write from the perspective of that kid who couldn’t make it to any of the premier institutions in the country and will soon graduate from a tier-three engineering college.
After giving my class 12 board examinations, I remember feeling happy – happy that I could now study what I really wanted to, and also experiment with my ideas. Engineering was a passion – and unlike many, I took it up by choice.
August came, and my college life began. The first semester was devoted to making new friends and getting familiar with the system. So, observing the fallacies in the teaching methods took a backseat.
In the second semester, I came across interesting subjects – and so, there were a lot of questions. However, these questions were not always encouraged because ‘we don’t have time to complete the syllabus’. Or, because you don’t know about it? Alright, I’ll google it.
Then, in the third semester, we started specialising in our respective areas. I was absolutely excited and intrigued. Soon, trouble began. With almost 80 students packed into one class, it became difficult for the teacher to effectively communicate. Certain subjects that required conceptual clarity were given to us only in the form of notes and important questions. The general instruction was ‘study this and the exam is taken care of’.
Barring a few teachers who went the extra mile to teach us something new and interesting, I believe most colleges (like mine) only seem to produce batches of people who come in, memorise something, drain it all during the exams, get degree certificates and leave. After all, we are a country that produces lakhs of ‘engineers’ every year. However, in the midst of being judged by society – the pressure to pull oneself out of poverty, fuelled by the commercialisation of education, is so great that we have forgotten the fundamental purpose of learning.
In my opinion, the fundamental purpose of learning is to become skilled – skilled enough to use one’s knowledge and know-how to contribute something that can change lives, and produce something revolutionary.
I came to realise this clash between what I was doing and what I wanted to actually do, after around one-and-a-half years of my engineering course. This made me lose interest – and I too became someone who looked for shortcuts to pass the exam. Imagine lakhs of such youth who have been made to give up that fire in them to think innovatively, and who’ve lost the motivation to constantly keep learning. That, in my opinion, is the biggest man-made disaster that has happened to this country.
Of course, we still boast that India invented the zero and chess. We also claim that we are home to ayurveda, yoga and that we’ve given the world supposedly its oldest language. Yes, all of these are marvellous – but how long do we intend to bask in the glory of these laurels? After all, not many engineers and scientists who were born and are working in India have won the Nobel Prize.
To those in charge of the different universities with hundreds of tier-two and tier-three colleges affiliated to them, I want to say that it is possible to provide quality education like the IITs or the NITs. It is possible to give students from humble backgrounds the elevation for them to become global leaders. The pressure on students every year to get into an IIT can be reduced if the college in their neighbourhood can be just as competent.
This can happen if few things are changed. The outdated and theory-intensive syllabuses in these colleges should be removed. A wholesome and reliable system of student-assessment needs to be implemented. A focus on a student’s personality, ethics and thought-processes needs to be stressed upon. There needs to be more support for undertaking projects and inventions within the campus. Above all, hiring passionate and skilled teachers and providing them with a suitable pay is a must.
I agree that it is easy to jot things down and dictate them on paper – but the change has to begin somewhere. The disinterest and demotivation I’m surrounded with, on an everyday basis, needs to go. We need to realise our full potential as a country known for its brains. As Thomas Edison once said, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
Featured image used for representative purposes only.