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February 19, 2019
In ways more than one, engineering education in India is at a crossroads: set to become the third largest economy by 2030 and in a gradual and steady shift towards the manufacturing and services sector, educators and administrators of engineering and technical institutions face a rare challenge of sorts. Statistics show that there are more than 6200 engineering and technical institutions enrolling close to three million students with about 1.5 million of them in the job market every year. That being the case, educators and senior administrators have to look for ways to not only further fine tune the parameters of academics but also in ensuring that newer courses are added to the curriculum every so often so that the graduating student is ready for the market.
At the start of every academic year, there are the routine media reports on popular courses, degrees and institutions; and every once in a while also, the temptation to say which field or specialization is on the “way in” or “way out”. The field of engineering and technology has also come under scrutiny at this seasonal analysis-- very many times reminding readers that a number of engineering institutions have been shuttered for want of students. What is conveniently forgotten in these sweeping statements is that many of the shuttered institutions should not have been opened in the first place; and that regulatory agencies like the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have done what is required for quality of engineering education by closing or issuing notices to institutions that did not measure up to either the academic rigour or the needed infrastructural facilities.
To say that all is hunky dory in the realm of engineering education is as naïve as it is wrong. Yes there are problems that have to be grappled by educators and vice chancellors in institutions especially pertaining to providing high quality academics combined with potential for research and hands-on experience by way of project and internships in relevant industries. For a soon-to-be fully developed India, engineering is the fulcrum around which the wheel of growth will revolve and the country has all the potential for this to happen.
With an accent on quality supervisory bodies like the AICTE and the UGC (University Grants Commission), stringent measures have shown shoddy and shady engineering institutions the door. On the other hand, these regulatory bodies have also come up with different measures of autonomy for Institutions of Excellence, be it Category One or Two, all with the singular intent to push Indian institutions into the global arena of excellence, something that India is yet to achieve in a fulsome fashion but certainly within striking distance.
In spite of all the challenges, it is safe to say that engineering is a better skill and area to prove your mettle. It is a field that has varied employment potential ranging from the core to allied fields like Informational Technology. Further it has to be understood that a field like engineering is never static, rather it is dynamic and always looking for ways to add many newer areas beyond the conventional. With new curriculum on the cards as and when necessary, students now have a high level of leeway to sign on to new courses and open electives like languages, product design, sports, law, intellectual property rights, philosophy, hospitality management, etiquettes and mannerisms and public speaking, to mention a few. Further engineering education being what it is today, a student can tailor his/her own specialisation and sub-specialisation.
What has to be borne in mind is that an engineering degree is becoming more effective through a number of measures that are slowly finding its way into the academic framework: induction of training programmes; a percentage of lectures from industry experts; the prospect of taking 20 per cent of your coursework from any institution irrespective of where one is enrolled; hands-on experience; and of course, the potential for research, innovation and entrepreneurship. If the young and inquisitive minds make a bee line for engineering schools of repute it is not without good reason.
Engineering and technical schools in the West and in the Asia Pacific are said to have quickly adapted to newer technologies as well as to the significant shift in technologies to make the budding engineering graduates market-fit. Realising the inherent strengths of mobility, top tier institutions have placed an emphasis on student and faculty exchange programmes along with twinning opportunities; and at the same time gone in for collaborative arrangements with high ranked institutions overseas by way of Memorandums of Understanding. What needs to be further pursued from an academic point of view is for top Indian institutions pushing for foreign campuses or for allowing globally top notch institutions to come and set up their operations in India.
With more engineers than the United States and China, engineering institutions of India are rated among the best in the world and this country’s graduates are able to shine internationally. Many premier engineering and technology schools have already identified many of the challenges that lie ahead and certainly are not shy of taking further steps in a globalised world primarily challenged by revolutions in information technology.
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