Engineering education aims to create a society that is technically literate, rational and has a problem solving and innovative mindset. Across ages and civilisations, the technically literate societies have catapulted nations from crisis to leadership roles in industry and economics. The re-emergence of Germany and Japan after being ravaged severely in World Wars testifies and underlines the significance of engineering education. For an outsider, Indian engineering education landscape is in a utopian state. After all, we have a staggering number of engineering colleges dedicated to technical education and professionals they churn out in a decade may exceed the total population of several European countries.
In addition, we have produced well-received technocrats across the globe for the sheer brilliance, knowledge, versatility, and positivity they bring to the table. Ironically, India is yet to realise the dream of a technically literate society that can take it forward. Join us, as we investigate the present state of affairs and issues that need to be addressed earnestly.
The Bright Spots:
There are bright spots in Indian technical education sector that no one can undermine, neglect, or ignore out rightly.
Advancements in Science and Technology:
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. In the post-independence era, the Indian think tank influenced by the Nehruvian school of thought realised the need for proficient engineers who can help resurrect the economy ravaged by the prolonged imperialistic rule. Soon, we witnessed the establishment of Indian Institutes of Technology campuses and Regional Engineering colleges all across the country. The skilled workforce thus created had a crucial role to play in advancements that India made in the field of science and technology. Currently, the world is acknowledging our evolved capabilities in spheres like space and IT.
IITs and their growing significance:
With time, the tally of IIT campuses increased and REC’s were converted into National Institutes of Technology, more often referred to as NIT, gradually. The trend continues. As of now, we have 23 IIT campuses and 31 NIT campuses catering to workforce requirements of the global economy. Quoted as the global benchmark for technical education, skills, and endurance, IIT continues to impress students and recruiter community alike. By Indian standards, all the campuses are well equipped and feature top class infrastructure and credentialed faculty. The other mutual element across IITs is accredited curriculum and focus on immersive learning and research. That many of the IIT campuses, including Bombay, Delhi, and Madras, find mention in the coveted QS World University Rankings is an obvious inference to make.
Supporting global workforce requirements:
A major breakthrough in Indian technical education came when India became one of the signatories of the Washington Accord in the far end of the 1980s. Now, the other signatories of the accord were recognising our talents and offering them an opportunity to further their education and gain exposure. Thanks to their brilliance, knowledge, and guaranteed to deliver approach, our professionals continue to leave a mark on the global arena. Right from start-ups to established names, everyone is vying to gain and retain their loyalty with handsome remunerations and attractive rewards. Here too, IIT alumni steal the show. Currently, the top Indian technocrats, some of whom are at the helm of illustrious corporations, are a product of IIT.
The Dark Side:
The Indian technical education landscape’s dazzle is not good enough to hide its darker side. The chinks in the system are profound enough to be visible without the need of a detailed inspection. Each of these issues needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency and commitment, failing which the engineering education sector may lag behind.
IITs are certainly our brightest spot but they too have their share of challenges. The current average faculty-student ratio is 15:1 against a 10:1 requirement. Just seven among 23 IITs are at par with the global benchmark. As well, a significant percentage of sanctioned faculty positions are vacant. Obviously, the faculty crunch is undermining the IIT’s ranking considerably. The story of NITs and other prestigious private and public colleges is no different.
Low or no Industrial Exposure:
Industry and academia are integral to each other. However, the gap between the two is glaring enough to raise concerns. The faculty in the majority of Indian institutes still uses outdated books and reference materials for teaching and evaluating. Moreover, their approach to pedagogy is theoretical rather than practical. Therefore, the obvious outcome is engineers with considerable command over theories but bereft of industry exposure. Contrarily, the decent engineering colleges globally prefer industry oriented teaching methodologies that keep students upbeat and competitive. Roping in engineers with good industry experience of teaching can be a good ploy to reverse the sorry state of affairs.
Lack of Infrastructure:
When it comes to infrastructure, even our famed IITs do not stand a chance when compared to their western counterparts. Small classrooms, ill-equipped labs, insufficient IT setup, and coffin-sized hostel accommodations are pretty much the norm of the day. Lately, the government has increased the grant but not in sufficient proportions.
Low Faculty-Student Interaction:
Learning happens when minds meet, they say. Contrarily, most of our engineering institutes, including the overrated NITs, do not offer many opportunities for faculty-student interaction. Hence, students with creative mindsets are devoid of the mentoring and guidance they desperately require to make the most of their innovative ideas.
No denying the fact that top institutes merit performance and excellence when come to intake. However, the same does not apply for several tier-2 and tier-3 colleges. These colleges have a high percentage of management quota seats that is diluting the intake quality significantly. Students lacking the much-needed engineering acumen and ability can buy their way into such colleges.
Engineering Colleges in Other Location:
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