“What is wrong with the engineering courses in India?” – when someone asked this question on Quora, it received over 100 responses and the most popular one even had photographs attached to it. The photographs showed a Chemical Engineering class of IIT Bhubaneswar where most students displayed a clear lack of interest in what was being taught by the professor. While some of the students were busy with their phones most of them looked drowsy and sleepy. This is particularly strange and to an extent, unexplainable as here we are talking about the most premier engineering institute in the country. Students wanting to pursue engineering strive hard to join the IITs. And the photos just depicted the cream, literally, melting away!
Though the first reaction of most would be that the students are at fault because they ought to be concentrating, the problem is rooted more deeply. Concentration does not come with choice and Indian students enter engineering courses with the mindset of bagging high-paying jobs at the end of the 4 years. This apart, the system suffers from various ulcers under the skin. Let’s find out what they are.
Around a year ago, on 9 April 2018, a leading english daily reported that there was a drop of around 80,000 seats in engineering colleges that year. The portal also estimated that this would lead to around 3.1 lakh fewer seats in the coming 4 years. Why? Experts argue that barring a few niche colleges in the country, most engineering colleges provide training that is incompetent in the job scenario. Moreover, private engineering colleges are growing like mushrooms across the country. Most of these colleges offer courses that are not linked to placement. Nearly 200 such colleges applied for a shut down last year, says the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). AICTE also stated that from 2016, around 75,000 engineering seats have reduced annually.
The engineering degree is perceived by most Indian youth and parents as a coveted tag that will add more weight to the resume of a candidate. It is believed that employers consider candidates with the engineering tag more capable than others. It is also believed by many that an engineering degree will fetch more returns in terms of salary as compared to a Graduate degree in mainstream science or humanities. Though this logic in itself is questionable, it dissolves under the pressure of the numerous engineers who pass out every year in India. Thanks to the mushrooming of engineering colleges everywhere candidates in the past few years have rushed for the tag and not checked the quality. As goes the economic rule that price reduces with the increase in supply, the perceptional value of the degree is lost. It is now difficult for employers to distinguish candidates having skill and insight into engineering from those who are simply tagged as that. The increasing use of automation and artificial intelligence is also changing the labour scenario in the country. It is doubtful if these engineers will at all survive in the career rat race.
Last year, a Delhi-based employment solutions company, Aspiring Minds, conducted a study to find out if engineering graduates from India were at all being able to face or survive the job market. The study was conducted using 2013 data and it revealed that around 93 per cent of 2013 engineering graduates were unemployable. It also revealed that while 97% of these graduates sought jobs in software & core engineering professions, only 3 per cent was considered suitable for the software industry and related products and 7 per cent was found suitable for core engineering.
A few factors are considered vital by experts for the employability quotient of an engineer. The first factor is the spirit of innovation through the application of the concepts learnt during the course. The second factor is the ability to understand English. This is vital especially in case of software or IT engineering, as computer programming consists of a major part of the job. Another factor revealed by Aspiring Minds was that candidates in metro-cities displayed more employable skills than those in other cities. The overall economic condition of the country also casts a shadow on the ‘engineering course to job’ scenario of the country. But the faults with our engineering courses can’t be ignored.
The stark fault with the curriculum, first of all, is a syllabus which is not updated. It is not in sync with the post-engineering job scenario. The gap between the market needs and the actual syllabus is in one word, huge. It is so inappropriate that in this age of digitalization, most courses do not even touch upon mobile computing. In such cases, it becomes mandatory for the employer to train the candidates after selection. Many companies don’t want to do it which automatically brings down the rate of employment.
The teachers are either not competent or there is a sheer lack of faculty in most colleges. It is a trend today that when engineering graduates or MTech candidates don’t get jobs, they end up as part-time faculty in engineering colleges. As colleges have to pay them much less than those who hold PhD degrees, the institutes to don’t insist on better candidates for teachers.
The curriculum in engineering colleges is still more theory-oriented. Except for a few niche colleges, students are not encouraged to innovate by putting the learnt theories into practice. Some experts argue that even today students can pass engineering exams through rote learning.
Most engineering courses fail to give the students deep technical know-how on subjects. In other words, the curriculum is not skill-based. In certain cases, both students and teachers need to get used to the semester system. All these problems arise from a motive-based system where both students and teachers are concerned only with grades.
When it comes to jobs, most employers prefer to go for recruitment drives in the top colleges only. In the long run, it creates unemployment in the country as all candidates don’t get equal opportunities.
Another disparity in the entire system is the fondness that candidates have for IT engineering. But as per the study of Aspiring Minds, only 18.43 per cent of all engineers are equipped to work there and 3.21 per cent are competent enough to work in roles that deal with IT products.
Courses in engineering colleges are so curriculum based that the candidates are often not groomed enough, especially when it comes to English language and soft skills.
All matters related to the engineering sector like engineering jobs, employment etc is going through a crisis. A study conducted by Stanford University and the World Bank revealed that in the first two years of the engineering course, Indian students performed better in Mathematics and critical thinking skills. But in case of overall higher thinking skills, Chinese and Russian engineering students left behind their Indian counterparts by far.
It can be pointed out that it is essentially the lack of quality education that is restricting the growth and development of the engineering curriculum and colleges in India. To combat this crisis, the AICTE had planned last year to close down as many as 800 engineering colleges. Colleges that lack proper infrastructure and can’t fill up at least 30% of their seats in five consecutive years, need to be closed. AICTE has already approved the closure of over 400 colleges from 2014 to 2018.