The aim of education is to equip us with the ability to analyze any situation logically, systematically and gracefully. Once the objective of education is clear, we can develop ways to inculcate it in students through their area of interest. One’s passion, priority and property -aptitude/inclination (3 Ps) should decide what one chooses to study.
Engineering as a knowledge field is valid only when it is supported by application. It calls for passion and a knack for lateral thinking. Engineering is the sum total of techniques, logic, design, analysis, statistic, probability, etc. The coordination between all these aspects result in products useful for the mankind.
However, lately engineering education has fallen into despair and seems to be losing its relevance. Most of the engineers are collecting degrees without learning the essential skills to handle core engineering tasks. According to an article published in the India Today, 1.5 million engineers graduate in India every year. Out of which 97 per cent of the engineering graduates aspire for a job either in software or core engineering. However, only 3 per cent have the required skill sets to find employment in software and the product market, and only 7 per cent are equipped to handle core engineering tasks. The rest simply do not have adequate skills to be employed.
This dismal state of engineering education is a result of a number of factors. Outdated curriculum, lack of updated reference/text books, insufficient academic rigor, the demand for readymade solutions, lack of innovation and knowledge-based outcomes, adopting an exam centric approach, absence of pedagogical innovations, ill equipped laboratories etc. are some of the onerous issues that stare engineering education in the face.
Rethinking the approach to education is the key to rectifying the situation.
Excellence in research and good quality teaching are inter-related. Stake holders should encourage fresh ideas and foster them till they see the light of the day. During undergraduate studies engineering students must contribute their knowledge at every level of functionality by identifying real life problems, designing methodology to solve it, analyzing the problem from a user point of view, executing the solution, checking the utility of solution. Mere successful completion of undergraduate study, does not make one capable enough to build any type of usable product. The knowledge and skills gained during undergraduate studies need to be strengthened either by pursuing post-graduation degree or by gaining work experience to successfully build products.
Understanding the basic principles of science is equally important as engineers build applications that are based on fundamental scientific knowledge. E.g. working of robots is based on physics and mathematics, water treatment is based on the science of chemistry. A deep understanding of engineering principles and practices may open you to a wide variety of career opportunities in domains other than engineering and technology. Good engineers may end up building successful careers in finance, marketing, etc.
Indian engineering education needs to take a leaf from the German universities to make engineering programmes more industry relevant. Engineering programmes in Germany run in a close symbiotic relationship with the industry which allows students to learn skills in real life scenario. While engineering education in India is largely theoretical.
Development of a civilization always go hand-in-hand with development of technology. Thus, good quality engineering education was, is and will always be needed in the society. For sustainable development of this field, we need passionate engineers, as passion combined with perseverance will definitely lead to excellence.
Authored by Maya Kurulekar. Assistant Professor STEM, Vishwakarma University, Pune