Engineering In Kerala: If Learning Is Now All-Round Then Why An Outdated Syllabus?

Kerala, the state where I come from is known for having a large number of engineering colleges. It also has a very large number of students opting for professional courses mostly under societal pressure. Most of them after job migrate elsewhere seeking jobs, or join an IT Company in Bangalore, or go for an MBA or even join a Civil Service Training Centre, pass the exam and settle for a government job. I being an engineering student, feel that this issue must be highlighted.

Before 2015, engineering colleges in Kerala used to be under various universities like Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University, Calicut University, Kerala University with the exception of NIT-Calicut. But as of today, all engineering colleges other than the University campus themselves come under a single roof named Kerala Technological University, which was later renamed to APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University.

Before KTU, we used to have different timings, different syllabus, different exams, etc. Now with KTU, we have a uniform syllabus, uniform exam pattern and uniform academic calendar all throughout Kerala. Education has now become centralised, the competition has increased. People who seek admission in top colleges now prefer any college except for College of Engineering, Trivandrum.

A seminar at the university. (Photo: APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University/Facebook)

Hits And Misses (Mostly, It’s Worked Out)

As per the KTU website, it was brought under an ordinance issued by the Kerala Government in 2014, for centralising technical education in Kerala which includes BTech, MTech, Diploma, MCA, Management and Architecture. One of the main motives of it was described as “Several new courses have been introduced to make the curriculum acceptable internationally. Several initiatives viz. Introduction of B.Tech (Honours), student activity point system, entrepreneurship and similar subjects as minor, etc. were introduced to facilitate students to excel the students in curricular and co-curricular activities and to enable him to be a job provider than a job seeker.”

KTU has introduced new courses like Design Engineering, Sustainable Engineering, Life Skills, Business Economics, and Design Project for all branches. This initiative has reduced the academic burden. Now these courses are considered as a booster to the overall CGPA as they are easy and scoring subjects.

The time gap between the exam and the publishing of the result has been drastically reduced to over just 45 days. A strong push for co-curricular activities has been given with student activity points system which makes it mandatory for students to get a minimum number of points to qualify for the degree which includes giving points for attending conferences, workshops, doing an internship, starting your own company, etc.

This initiative has forced students to move beyond academics, start organising talks, workshops, hobby clubs and go for internships. Students now are more skillful than before and have started to focus more on improving oneself alongside academics. Although the students are also mad for getting activity points and having to keep academics on the other side.

KTU has also brought new initiatives like staff advisor mentoring, compulsory 75% attendance, summer courses to cope up if one has failed in any course and even to take a two-year break from academics for the start-up. On this part, KTU has done a tremendous improvement taking into account of giving more importance to the need of the students and a push for job creation but 75% compulsory attendance is not accepted by the student community calling this an apolitical move and a move to force students to sit inside the class.

KTU has also made practical exams internal, or that means that college will be conducting the lab exams and not the university. This move is controversial and mostly not preferred by many of them as the quality of assessments and the evaluation will be affected. This also shows that KTU values theoretical knowledge more than practical knowledge.

What Hasn’t Worked

Being a new university, they are just catching up. There are a lot of problems faced by university employees, teachers and students as well. The exams were conducted in an improper fashion, and were postponed multiple times in the first and second year. There were a lot of complaints on unsatisfactory evaluation, tough question papers and errors in the question paper.

There were also rumours that the placements which used to be college-based will be pooled up. We also had seen a massive outrage on the KTU year back policy triggering massive protests from various colleges across the state. It also attracted the attention of political groups and students unions.

Students at KTU clash with the police. (Photo: Vineeth Thampi/Facebook)

Teachers always complain that the syllabus is vast and that 72 working days in a semester is not enough to finish teaching the subject and also for students to learn them. Within 72 days, there will be college fests, competitions, student activities, internal exams, lab periods, lab exams, which is stressful. The duty leave system which students could have availed for attending Inter-collegiate events has been scrapped. Despite all this, there is a hope in each and every student that all issues will be rectified as soon as possible and their future and career will never be affected by this.

As an engineering student studying in KTU, I feel that we still continue with a lot of rote learning just like we did in our school. Nothing much has changed in the engineering syllabus, as we still learn almost the same things our parents learnt. Each time I discuss something related to studies to my engineering parents, they mention that they had the same syllabus.

The updation required in the syllabus, with the passage of time has not been adopted to the fullest. The technology we learn and use is still the same as before. The teaching methods have just changed from the use of chalk and board to PowerPoint presentations which is not a complete solution. Teachers need to enforce more innovative techniques to engage in a class which can also help in the learning process and also reduce the attendance issues.

Even today, with regard to quality of education, the 50% empty seats in engineering colleges in Kerala still remain an important concern.

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