Nothing But Quality Learning Within Engineering Courses Will Ensure Holistic Education

January 25, 2018, breaking news: All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) decides to revamp the syllabus of technical education or change the syllabus of engineering. One of the main takeaways was the emphasis on the word quality. The others include the reduction in the number of credits required, mandatory summer internships, updation of syllabus annually, etc.

The most catchy part was a statement made by the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar that it is very easy for a student to pass the exam if he just refers to question papers of the previous five years. Literally, he highlighted the fact the syllabus is quite outdated and rote learning is still encouraged.

Indian engineering students visit Hartlepool College’s aerospace centre. (Photo: Hartlepool College/Flickr)

However, he also mentioned the need for changing the syllabus annually so that engineering meets its requirements. It is also appreciable that practical learning was also given a push through measures like internships and more labs instead of theory.

In my opinion, an engineer should serve society when they graduate. An engineer needs to understand society well, know about the changing needs and be updated on technology. All of this comes with the fact that the majority of students who graduate are not fit for the job adds to the fact that they don’t have those employable skills. This also comes amidst the news of an increase in scarcity of jobs.

Even on my first day in college, there was no one to explain what engineering really is, its scope and benefits, or what 4 years of learning would look like. Straight away on the second day, we started studying subjects like maths, graphics, physics, chemistry, etc.

Also, we have 6 theory subjects per semester compared to just 2 labs. Each subject has 6 modules, with the last two of them having 40% weightage but the first four has only 60% weightage. The professors who teach us will teach the first few modules slowly and properly also hurry with the last two modules due to lack of time.

All theory subjects are just packed theory, taught like boring lectures. No one cares if they really understood it because at the end of the day they will be learning from an online class or YouTube tutorials. Everyone prefers the latter as it is not boring, and also due to its flexibility.

Visual learning which is provided through YouTube by various channels helps students more in understanding and memorising the concepts. The four years, of course, is stable and not flexible with students taste. The A to Z of the syllabus stands already designed. Students often do not get to select the subject of their choice to specialise in.

Civil engineering students, hard at work. (Photo: James Famkima/Wikimedia Commons)

Often, one student will be stronger with one and weaker in the other. I am comparing this with foreign universities, where physics, engineering economics, etc. can be chosen as core subjects along with regular papers. This also allows more specialisation, of course.

With the world changing very quickly, we can’t keep up with the pace until we change the education system – notably engineering – which is a pioneer course in problem-solving, innovating ideas and improving the existing designs.

I would like to see that the syllabus which constitutes six modules to be reduced to just five with equal weightage to each one. New subjects like climate engineering, humanitarian engineering, social engineering, military engineering, etc. should be introduced as optional or an elective to allow students to select new career paths. New areas of technology like the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, blockchain, Arduino, etc. are often not taught in colleges.

Instead, the students are forced to pay high fees and go to workshops conducted by other colleges or professional societies to learn them. Along with basic economics and English, a decent amount of legal studies should also be introduced as an optional subject.

Students at the final year must be encouraged to select the career path of their choice. Proper guidance must be given by the syllabus itself – whether they want to apply for a job, look at higher studies and research or migrate to other domains.

The system of campus placements must be scrapped and replaced with a better system which allows students to work in a corporate environment with selected companies and companies can select the students on the basis of their performance. It will also end the way people look at engineering as merely a job providing entity. This step will allow students with a better learning environment to test their own skills and choose the domain of their choice. Start-ups can also utilise this to provide internships to students directly and then possibly recruit them.

Engineering maths, a subject which is common to all branches in the first two years, must also include practical lab and visualised learning. New courses on MATLAB must be made part of the syllabus. Technical and non-technical internships must be given equal weightage. The industry must directly intervene in the syllabus making to include the latest cutting edge industrial and technological requirements.

Hopefully, the governments of both state and centre will look into revamping the engineering syllabus to improve the technical education in India, sooner rather than later. It is the need of the hour, especially if India’s education, simply beyond syllabi, is to progress.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
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