By Ruma Dubey
A couple of years ago, so many youngsters were queuing up to get admission into engineering colleges across India. And today’s news says that BE/BTech seats are going vacant in the engineering colleges across the country - 51% seats were vacant in FY17.
Last week’s news was that the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was asking more than 300 private engineering colleges to stop functioning from the 2018-19 academic session as they have less than 30% enrolment for five consecutive years. The AICTE website states that there are around 800 engineering colleges whose enrolment percentage is less than 50%.
Pulling in all this news together is the truth which Abdul Kalam stated in 2008. He had said, “It is not unemployment, which is a major problem; it is the question of ‘unemployability’, which is a bigger crisis.”
The AICTE report has cited its reasons for these seats going vacant. It has called it a “glaring gap in regulations” and this includes, corruption, poor infrastructure, poor labs and faculty, no linkages with industry and complete absence of a technical ecosystem which will nurture the classroom.
There is no doubt that the engineers, even those who graduate from some of the best institutes are unemployable. What is taught in the curriculum has no co-relation whatsoever with what the industry wants. And this can be attributed to two reasons – firstly, the curriculum is outdated and needs to a complete overhaul, keeping upto-date with changing dynamics of the industry. The colleges are not quick enough to add the new revolutions of the industry – like say in IT, very few offer courses in Artificial Intelligence (AI). And the reason for this lay in the second reason – very poor quality of teachers. Most of the times, it has been seen that those who do not get employment anywhere are the ones who opt for teaching jobs. People with that passion to teach, with that fire in their heart to nurture the youth of the country do not exist or are very rare to come across. So even if the college wants to start a course in AI, who will teach?
Yes, the AICTE has modified its curriculum – from next academic year, engineering students, except those at IITs and NITs, will have to study humanities, social sciences including management, environmental sciences, Indian Constitution and “essence of Indian traditional knowledge”. IIT colleges curriculum does have almost one-fifth of the credits are dedicated to humanities, social sciences, economics and management. The logic – engineers create thus they need to be taught psychology, aesthetics, social studies and also ethical implications of their creations.
The modified curriculum has also brought down theoretical classes from 30 to 20 every week and final year students will get free time to pursue project works to understand industry requirements.
This sounds good but what about the sub-standard teachers? The AICTE has stated that it will start teacher training courses too….
Having said all this, is the problem only about unemployability? Why are lesser and lesser studnets opting for engineering? Blame it all on USA. Ever since the row over H1B visa’s started there was a sense of unease, indicating dark clouds on the horizon. And after Trump, the nightmare became a reality. All this talk about engineering colleges is actually about IT/computers. The reason why so many engineering colleges mushroomed is because Indian youth were required for coding and the more they gave, the better the IT companies earned. Today, that demand is coming down. The lure for the youth to join IT was only one – go and settle abroad. Those dreams have been nipped and thus less demand for IT, which in turn is also leading to lower students seeking admission in engineering.
For majority of Indians, engineering means only IT as lesser number of students opt for other streams like mechanical or civil or chemical – yes, there the problem of unemployment and unemployability is even more acute.
India has way too many engineering colleges, much more than required and very poor quality of teaching. So we are seeing a churn now, a consolidation; that’s a good thing.
PS: Wish the BJP and Congress wake up to these issues, debate and fight about real problems of real people rather than mud-slinging and berating each other.