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  • Engineering education in tatters - problems, jugaads & solutions!

    ďI got placed in Infy today. The Infy team visited my campus for recruitment and selected close to 135 students; 75 from CS & IT, 60 from other branches. Wait a sec, so many from non-CS/IT background! And these are students, who canít even write a simple C program. Did I just waste the last 4 years of my life? Did these core branch students also waste their 4 years as now they are getting into an IT company?? And wait, after finishing college, I will have to undergo 6-month training at Infosysís Mysore campus. Oh ****!Ē

    The education system in India is literally in tatters. Core branch students are willing to go any length to get in an IT company, worse still, these IT companies have setup their own institutes where they train these so-called professionals to make them employable. Does this mean that the 4 years spent in the college are completely useless & an utter waste? Is our education system completely irrelevant?

    Letís take a macroscopic view of the problems and try to find out solutions for them.


    A. Unemployable students
    : A survey was conducted among technical graduates who graduated in 2011 from various parts of the country. It revealed that among the 5 lakh engineers who graduated last year, only 17.45 per cent are employable.

    It further revealed that there are considerably more number of male students pursuing engineering and that the ratio of male-to-female engineers (1.96), is much lower than that of other countries, such as United States of America (4.61)

    The report was compiled after sampling more than 55,000 engineering students who graduated in 2011 from 250+ engineering colleges across multiple Indian states. The report stated that the proliferation of engineering colleges in southern and western India has brought down the employability figures.

    In comparison, there are far fewer engineering colleges in Delhi and Kolkata. This is despite the fact that the population of Delhi is much more than Southern cities being comparable to that of Mumbai

    Unemployable students

    B. Outdated Course curriculum: The students are not gaining adequate skills due to lack of investment and a dated curriculum. The new technologies, discoveries & inventions are not covered in the syllabus; we are still stuck in a time warp, still studying the age old concepts laid by Einstein & Newton when in reality we should also be touching base with the concepts laid out by great engineers like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg etc.

    The engineering syllabus barring the IIT is outdated and needs a revamp. For example, there is a course called professional ethics. This is crucial but if you ask any engineering student, he will laugh at what goes on in this class. The person teaching the subject is clueless and would be reading a bunch of rhetorical monologues from a book throughout the course. On the contrary, the coursework should be more interactive, and not just theoretical in nature, aiming at showing the student how much he/she could relate it to his or her future profession. The emphasis should be not on how much you memorize, but on how much you apply what you memorize.

    Courses should be based on industry-student interactions and have a broader outlook on life, not the narrow mindset of passing an exam. One of the major changes that can be done is to bring young professors in the university on the review committee for syllabus change. A perfect amalgamation of the young and the old would help revamp the syllabi in such a way that it fits into the youthful dynamics of today and yet retains the wisdom of the stalwarts of yesteryear.

    C. Foreign universities not allowed to setup campus: The Indian government doesnít allow the foreign universities to setup their campuses here so the students never get to know the western way of working, syllabus and the education system preached there.

    At present, foreign universities are banned from offering degrees in India and legislation to allow them to set up operations is pending in parliament. Some including Kellogg School of Management and Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, have partnered with Indian colleges who issue a local degree at the end of the course.

    D. Attitude of the society: However, the poor quality of education is not the sole reason for the current situation in India. The other driving factor is the attitude of the society. While, in the US, students are comfortable taking up courses like Humanities and Social Studies, Communications, and Media Arts, in India, most students believe (or are forced to believe) that the only two real career options before them are to become a doctor or an engineer.

    As a result, students who donít have the will or the aptitude to become an engineer enroll for an engineering degree. This increase in demand has led to the increase in the number of colleges, which in turn has led to the lowering of the bar. Itís the lure of an offer from TCS and Infosys, rather than the attraction of building something that motivates engineering students in India. Even the criteria for getting into these colleges are misplaced. If you can mug up a few organic chemistry formulae, and have practiced enough to solve some mechanics problem in Physics, chances are that you can get into a fairly esteemed institute of engineering.


    A. Companies have setup their own training schools
    : Failure on the part of the existing universities to prepare students for India's new industries risks squandering the nation's biggest competitive advantage, the youth, and has forced companies to build their own colleges. Indian IT firms depend on campus recruits for a bulk of their hiring every year, making job offers to thousands of students every year. In this financial year for instance, Infosys is hiring over 35,000 students from campus while TCS is hiring over 30,000. To fulfill their requirements, these companies recruit students from any trade because in any case, they have to impart training to the CS/IT students, along with them; they train these non-IT background students also.

    In fact, Infosys has taken matters into its own hands with its 350-acre (140-hectare) campus on the edge of Mysore, India's ancient silk-weaving center. Infosys's Global Education Centre is a $330 million response to the education deficit, putting about 20,000 graduate recruits through the 23-week residential course each year to get them up to speed. Infosys spends about $6,000 per student, equivalent to about $120 million or roughly 8 percent of its $1.5 billion profit in the financial year ended March 2011.

    HCL has also opened a university which is 50 km from the capital, Shiv Nadar University, having research tie-ups with CMU. Its 300-acre campus is more than twice the size of the main campus at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), considered among the new ĎIviesí. Like the latter, it aspires to be a multidisciplinary research university offering world-class arts and engineering programmes. Also, its founder is a sexagenarian, roughly the same age as Andrew Carnegie when he incepted CMU. At the Shiv Nadar University (SNU), which offered both graduate and postgraduate courses, an engineering student will enjoy the rare chance of taking courses in economics or sociology. Or an arts student can take a technical elective. Discovery will be a big part of SNU.


    To solve these issue, the government should take some concrete steps as menioned below:

    A. Update syllabus:
    The syllabus should be updated according to new technologies and developments and it should be in sync with the requirements of the recruiters.

    B. Allow foreign universities to setup their campuses in India: The government should allow foreign universities to set-up their campuses here. This will allow students to experience the western way of learning, research and methodology first hand. After-all this is what is applicable in most major IT companies in the country.

    C. There should be an interface between companies and colleges: The recruiters should be encouraged to provide regular seminars and projects to students so that they remain abreast with the latest technologies and developments in the corporate sector.

    D. Upgrade labs & Infra:
    There should be proper practical labs in the colleges so the students get to know how the work will going on in the companies after B-Tech. Although the govt. is trying ot do its bit by announcing new IITs, IIMs & NITs, but it must also ensure the quality and standards for which these institues are popular he word over.