Often considered a rigorous field of study, where students have no choice but to excel with strong commitment and dedication, engineering remains one of the most respected degrees in Nepal.
A few decades back, it would be a matter of pride for the whole community if a member would successfully graduate as an engineer. Any student in the school doing exceptionally well in mathematics and science would be tagged as a future engineer.
Back then, there were limited number of institutions in Nepal offering engineering courses. However, the case is different today. The number of colleges has increased significantly, which has helped in spreading the popularity of engineering amongst students.
Civil engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Architecture and Computer Engineering constitute the preferred choices for a large number of students. Similarly, Industrial Engineering, Electronics and Communication Engineering, Environment Engineering, Hydro Engineering, Automobile Engineering, Geomatics Engineering and Biomedical Engineering are the other choices.
The annual entrance examination, conducted by the Institute of Engineering (IoE), sees the largest number of applicants. Regarded as one of the most competitive examinations in Nepal, it is mandatory for all the students to score at least a minimum pass mark to get placements in any of the Tribhuvan University affiliated colleges – be it a government college or a private one. Kathmandu University, Purbanchal University and Pokhara University also offer different engineering courses.
Primarily, the entrance examination of IoE and Kathmandu University (KU) can be described as the two most hyped entrances examinations to get into the various prestigious engineering schools. Various institutions are established to run entrance preparation courses. The aspiring engineers have no choice but to revise the high school concepts in order to crack the questions during the entrance examinations. They do so for months and in some cases for years.
Nabin Dhakal, a first-year student of Bachelor of Engineering (BE) Computer at Sagarmatha College in Kathmandu, recalled, “Right after the board examinations were over, I joined a entrance preparation class. My only goal was to achieve a good rank for which I spent months with books and a notebook.”
In addition, Abinash Baral, currently a fourth-year student of Electronics and Communication at WRC Pokhara, a regional campus of IoE shared that the scenario is changing rapidly.
“During our times, we were under big pressure to get into a good government college. But now, the students have many colleges to choose, putting aside the quality,” shared Abinash.
He added, “The number of engineers has increased too. If you meet ten random people in a crowd, you are sure to meet at least a few engineers.”
Considering the view of Abinash and the number of government and private colleges offering the degree, engineering has become a trending subject. However, the curriculum, teaching methodology and the job placement are much discussed and often criticized.
Khemraj Pokharel is currently teaching Applied Mechanics at the Thapathali Campus. For him, engineering can only be understood when one participates in different research experiments. He also considers the lack of exposure and internships platforms as other major problems.
“Engineering is not just about reading a bunch of photocopies and memorizing the formulae. The teachers are more into finishing the syllabi and the students are put under examination pressure. Such a course the aim of which is to produce competent manpower, who can use mathematics and science for human benefits, should be learned with practice and exploration,” opined Pokharel.
A significant number of students are discontent with the curriculum and the teaching-assessment process.
Ashu Adhikari was a student of Electronics and Communication at IoE Pulchowk, a dream college for many students here in Nepal. He feels that there is no provision to check if the students are in fact learning something new and are progressing with time.
“The four months of teaching followed by three hours of examination decides everything. I am not against derivation or definition. However, the questions are so lame that if the students have mugged up photocopied notes for three days (gap days between consecutive exams), it is enough to secure a respectable percentage. Since the exam is designed as such, it seems futile for even hard-working teachers to try to break the pattern and teach something unique. This has made them complacent,” he pointed out.
While we talk about the problems, it is necessary to discuss the positive steps taken to promote practical-based learning and create platforms to exhibit the talents and innovation of young guns. Different events and competitions are being organized under the initiation of colleges. Surprisingly, students themselves have come up with such ideas and are hosting various events on their own.
Diwas Dahal is one of such student from Thapathali Campus, who is enthusiastically preparing a robot for an upcoming competition. He shared his excitement with edInbox. He said, “As a first-year student, I see countless avenues to tackle the equations and theories. I have observed three different competitions within two months and this time I am participating in one.”
Talking about the opportunities in Nepal, the country is in need of engineers more than ever. After the devastating Earthquake of 2015, reconstruction and well-planned urbanization have become the major agenda.
Similarly, as we are near the end of long-rooted political instability and are about to see the implementation of federalism with the aim to establish good governance, economic prosperity will be the top priority.
Development of large-scale industries, hydro plants, buildings, towns and cities will only open the doors for long-dreamt economic prosperity. The political parties have started to speak about smart cities – a promise to digitize the administration of every city.
Hence, it is the engineers who have the responsibility to stand in the frontline of transformation. Under the suitable plans and policies, their works will get credit as never before.
Aashish Parajuli, a recent pass out of Architecture Engineering, stressed, “Our teaching methodology might not have prepared us to lead different projects. However, this does not mean that we can outshadow the prevailing chances. As an engineer, I see many possibilities within Nepal and I am committed to pursuing my career within Nepal itself.”
As discussed above, Nepal has problems in its engineering curriculum and teaching procedure. There is still speculation if the private colleges are really into teaching or commercialization.
Nevertheless, the importance of engineers cannot be put aside. The government, education experts and the students should come together to address the existing problems. Hence, the practical-based approach of teaching, internship opportunities, a tie-up with international universities, labs and collaboration with different industries and different platforms to groom the creativity stand as the prerequisites to improve engineering education in Nepal.
Reporting by Prashant Bhandari, Glocal Khabar Special Correspondent, Kathmandu, Nepal