The maker unmade

Engineering education is in a bad way and science education worse off. A nation that prides itself on imagined ancient technologies ignores the present.

easwaran

SB Easwaran | April 10, 2019 | Delhi


#students   #IIT   #India   #education   #Engineering   #college  


The bad news about India’s engineering graduates continues unabated. Most recently, a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that American students of computer sciences are well ahead in quality than those from China, Russia and India. The only consolation – if it is at all – is that computer engineering students passing out from elite institutions in the latter three countries are on a par with the average American student of computer engineering.

 
In India, no one should be surprised. Since over a decade ago, consultancies like McKinsey, industry leaders and study after study have tut-tutted at the unemployability of our engineering graduates. And we have a glut of them. In the early 1990s’ talk of a race for development and growth with China, experts had said that our giant neighbour was preparing for its long-term goals by grooming engineers in large numbers. Despite straggling, India rebounded. Engineering colleges came up at street corners and remote hinterland villages, especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Many of these were run by politicians or businessmen who were cashing in on the demand for engineers during the IT boom. Quality was given the go-by: most of these colleges had worthless labs and few permanent teachers. Anyone who had cleared Std XII with science and maths could gain admission. 
 
Simultaneously, successive governments engineered the dilution of elite centres of technical education like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs), now known as National Institutes of Technology (NITs). From the first five IITs (Kharagpur, Delhi, Kanpur, Mumbai, Chennai), we now have 23, with students at many of the newer ones complaining of lack of amenities. Time was when an IIT student inspired awe among peers. Now, the immediate question he will face is, “Which IIT?” The implication is that if he’s not from the top-ranked ones, he’s no better than someone from a ramshackle engineering college. Ditto for students from the NITs and second-tier colleges.
 
From the mid-noughties and through the early part of this decade, we have been creating 15 lakh engineers every year. The figure has since been on the decline as the authorities continue to derecognise inferior colleges and businessmen shut them down for want of students, who have realised that employment prospects for engineers are bleak. Even so, by a rough estimate, some 10 lakh engineers graduate yearly, about two lakh of them in computer engineering. Most studies say 90-95 percent of the lot are not fit for any engineering jobs.
 
The cream of the students from elite institutions anyway proceed straight to business schools and onwards to careers in marketing, finance, stock-broking or hedge funds. Middle-rungers gamble their gung-ho spirits on start-ups. So who are we left with to do the boring work of translating science to usable technology or  slogging the long hours that result in cutting-edge insights and innovation? With science education at school and college level worse than what our policies have done to engineering education, we cannot hope to pursue our sci-fi dreams in the way the West did, and now China and Japan are striving to. The downing of a low-orbit satellite notwithstanding, we will have to content ourselves with the imagined scientific glories of a hyper-golden past. 
 
sbeaswaran@governanceow.com
(This article appears in the April 15, 2019 edition)

Comments

 

Other News

Expanding Eureka!

Abright yellow van with figures of children playing with a whirligig, a Newton’s cradle, a magnetic compass rolls into the Government Higher Primary School in Kittaganahalli, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Students in the playground leave what they are doing and mill about it in excitement. For they

The spark in the classroom

Not many children dream of starting an idyllic school of their own when they grow up. But Ramji Raghavan, founder of the Agastya International Foundation – which fosters the creative learning of science in stude

Trafficking survivors’ votes don’t count

While the entire nation is agog with political grapevine, political parties are weighing on all options to lure voters by touching upon issues that impact their lives. Several parties, including the BJP and the Congress have released their manifestos while many are about to join the bandwagon. The

“I have a bigger reason and motivation to join politics”

Urmila Matondkar joined the Congress party and within just two months into politics, the actor is already surrounded by controversies – from being accused of making anti-Hindu comments to inappropriate poll campaigning. Fielded against BJP’s Gopal Shetty in the Mumbai North constituency, Ma

Campaign trail with BJP’s Manoj Kotak

Dressed in white shirt and pants, three time Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) corporator Manoj Kotak is now contesting from Mumbai north-east constituency. Kotak, representing BJP in the BMC, is ready to rally around Ward 125 in Ghatkopar east area. It’s about 7:30 pm on a hot April e

Modi is now the topic of a PhD thesis

Sunil Bhatt, a Gujarat-based professional, has completed what is possibly the first PhD thesis on prime minister Narendra Modi. The thesis, titled ‘Leadership, Governance and Development: A case study of Shri Narendra Modi’, has been accepted at the Veer Narmad South Gujarat Universit



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter