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  • Sulakshya Gaur

5 Pitfalls in India’s Engineering Education and why it needs to be addressed

The education system is generally divided into two categories a) School Education and b) Higher Education. Being such a large country and supporting a huge population the Indian government spends 4.6 percent of its GDP on education and ranks 62nd in total public expenditure on education per student.

Is this amount sufficient???

Well, that discussion is for some other day.

But what we need to discuss is the challenges the education system is facing in the current era. Although it is true the government along with policymakers is working to improve the quality of education system both at school level and in higher education. It has called for bringing a new education policy that was framed in 19826 and last updated in 1992. Through the New Education Policy, the government might take some steps to enhance the quality of education at all levels. It is believed to be more tech-savvy to keep the students in tune with the current scenario. The government, however, has taken certain steps in this direction and various portals such as NPTEL, SWAYAM, DIKSHA, and e-PATHSHALA () are serving this aim efficiently and especially during COVID lockdown. However, there are certain things that should be considered for upgrading the education system especially higher education and bringing it at par with some of the developed countries. Yes, it will take some time and definitely a lot of effort from all the stakeholders involved but it would be definitely worthy enough. Here the discussion mainly points to the challenges posed towards engineering education in the country. It might be true that other streams of education might have some pitfall but engineering is currently the most preferred degree students go for and frankly the system has made the mockery out of it.

1. Taking action on setting up of new engineering colleges and universities.

There are a lot of engineering colleges in our country which does not have the proper infrastructure in form of labs, library, classrooms, etc. Apart from this, they don’t even have a proper faculty to student ratio. Due to this huge number of colleges the overall quality of engineering education has gone down in recent times. As a result, a lot of seats in these types of colleges remain vacant during the academic year. As per a report published by AICTE around 50% of the total available seats were vacant in the year 2019-2020. Taking these things into account the AICTE decided to not entertain any application for setting up new engineering colleges till 2022. Also, they should inspect the existing colleges and the ones who are not found up to the standard for providing quality education needs to be shutdown. They should make the list of such colleges and make it available on their official website for the general public so that the students remain aware of such types of institutes and in turn can save their future by not taking admissions to such colleges.

2. Keeping a check on marking and evaluation system practiced by colleges

There are a large number of engineering colleges that are affiliated to certain universities, who don’t have a proper evaluation system. They have a very poor evaluation system where their only aim is to pass all the students appearing in the exams. Because of their crappy evaluation system, a lot of underqualified/unqualified engineers are coming out as graduates and they in turn are destroying the entire ecosystem and job prospects for worthy students.

3. Taking stringent action against fake universities and fake degree holders.

There should be strict punishment against the universities and colleges that are offering fake degrees. The colleges which are built on the sole aim of profit maximization should be checked regularly as they are offering degrees (not just B.Tech but also fake M. Tech and fake Ph.D.’s) as a pamphlet for their advertisement, in this case, they charge money for it. They do not conduct a single class throughout an academic year but the students are provided the degrees at the end of their course completion. And thanks to the crappy examination system of these institutes and universities affiliating these institutes, these unworthy students are able to clear the examination somehow.

The problem with this system is manifold:

a) The destruction of the overall quality of education.

b) These fake degree holders are ready to work at a very meager salary (as they know they don’t even deserve that), which results in the decreasing job opportunities for the deserving students.

c) If these fake degree holders get into the education system, they are not able to teach the students relevant things as they themselves have a very poor/no understanding of the concepts of subjects.

Although time and again the government looks for these predatory colleges and students but they need to be identified on a much larger basis and more frequently. Yes, it will take some time as this system has corrupted our education system very deeply.

4. Focusing more on practical oriented learning as opposed to rote learning

The primary focus of a lot of engineering colleges is based on rote learning, the faculties in these types of institutions are made to give lectures as if they are teaching school students. This practice not only harms the students’ knowledge and their analytical skills but also the “Good” faculties teaching abilities in the long run. The colleges should focus more on practical education and lab work (keeping a good balance between both practical and theoretical knowledge) as it helps the students to gain the necessary knowledge to solve real-time problems. This will also benefit the “Good” faculties to be up to date with the changing technology and imbibing new skills and knowledge that can be then passed on to their students.

5. Keeping a tab on the quality of faculties recruited in colleges

The regulating agencies should make strict rules for faculty recruitment and the college administration for once need to grow up from their motto of increasing profit and appoint deserving quality faculties as opposed to thinking of some cost-cutting measure in terms of salary (There are a lot of excellent private engineering colleges who have to notch faculty in terms of their academic qualification). A good faculty will definitely help in providing quality education to the students and thus will keep up the quality of overall engineering graduates. Also, through a proper mechanism, the pay of the faculty members in private institutes needs to be monitored which is at least synonyms to the academic qualification they possess.

Special Point: Eradicate/change the reservation system.

The policy of reservation in India needs to be tweaked a little and the political parties should grow above this for gaining political mileage. Initially, the caste-based reservation was planned for 10 years with the possibility for its extension and that possibility has definitely been made true, as here we are in 2020 and the reservation system has only grown. Forget about the reservation in jobs and the means for promotion, this reservation system has alone created a huge dent in the Indian education system. The students of a particular caste are provided reservation benefits in multiple stages:

Stage 1: During the filling of forms for entrance exams. Either the form fee is reduced by at least 50% or in some extreme cases it is completely withdrawn. Whereas a General category student has to pay the entire fee irrespective of his/her financial background.

Stage 2: During deciding the cutoff marks in various top qualifying exams. The category qualifying marks is reduced by nearly 45%-50% as opposed to cutoff marks of General category student.

Stage 3: Once in the college, they enjoy a full tuition fee waiver irrespective of their financial background and a similar General category student needs to pay the full fees irrespective of his/her financial background.

Then come the reservations in job and promotions. So, a particular student enjoys multiple benefits of this reservation system. And to be very frank, this system is not going to end ever in our country, but the government should take sufficient measures to keep all sorts of reservations within the prescribed 50% cap. When the EWS reservation was introduced this 50% cap was also removed. However, the government can change the caste-based reservation to financial-based one so that the benefits of reservation can be made available to financially weaker people irrespective of their castes. As in the current system, the benefit of reservation is reduced to economically sound families for multiple generations. Also, a student of any reserved category in educational institute may be provided fee waiver or any other financial help, but reservation on the cutoff marks for selection should be scrapped. As they can get into a particular institute on the basis of that marks but will have difficulty in surviving the academic pressure there.

The above points may not be true for the prestigious engineering colleges in India such as IIT's, NIT's, IIIT's and some of the CFTI's, but these colleges account for approximately 40,000 seats. If some other top colleges, be it a state government institutes or some good private colleges account for another 10,000 seats, then to a large chunk of students remain that study in some private institutes or maybe even some government institutes that are marred by these issues.

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