The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t just killed millions, it has left several people clutching at straws. Engineering colleges are no different and as many as 63 institutions shut shop this year. Several others have reduced their capacity leading to a reduction in 1.46 lakh seats.
According to latest data by AICTE, there are just 23.28 lakh seats available for engineering aspirants (at diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate levels) which is the lowest in the last decade. The decline started after 2014-15 when engineering seats had reached a record 32 lakhs.
The decline in seats could also be attributed to the fact that more than 50% of seats would find no takers especially in unaided private colleges. Even when it comes to placement, engineering colleges are doing far from perfect. Out of the 1.4 million students who enrolled for placements this year, only 605,000 got placed. A lot of experts have asked for skill-based training to be imparted in order to help the students secure jobs.
In his column for Deccan Herald, K.V. Chandra Mouli (the former director of Boilers) argued that engineering students need to brush up their communication skills in order to be employed for IT jobs. English speaking is an important component as they might have to interact with international customers. He also said that engineering colleges don’t offer enough practical education which contributes to the unemployability of their students.
Rising competition from premier institutions like IITs creates a culture where other colleges aren’t given the same status. IITs have an acceptance rate of 0.97% (in 2017) which is incredibly low.
A lot of colleges compromise on the quality of their education because of lack of funds. While an IIT may get Rs. 500 crore per year to accomodate 1000 students, an average state level college gets just Rs. 20-25 crore. If you look at all these factors, you’ll feel that engineering colleges need to rethink their strategy.
Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, the chairman of All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), spoke about the challenges faced by some colleges in an interview with The Indian Express. “It’s difficult for a college to meet expenses, maintain standards and pay government-scale salaries to teachers even when 80 per cent of the seats are filled up. So it’s impossible to run an institute without compromising on quality with just 30 per cent seats being filled. There are as many as 370 colleges where admissions have been less than 30% consecutively for five years and as many as 1,490 colleges where admissions are less than 30% during the last three consecutive years,” he said.
With the advent of AI, some conventional-rule based jobs may also be disrupted and it is already happening in accounting, manufacturing and banking sectors. Evolving engineering education to meet future demands is the need of the hour. According to a research published by SHL (then Aspiring Minds) called National Employability Report Engineers, 2019, only 3% of engineers in India are skilled in AI.
As a society too, we need to stop forcing children to study engineering against their wish. It’s common knowledge that most middle-class parents want their children to study engineering or medicine. While these parents might wish the best for their children, they often end up doing a lot of damage. A lot of students drop out and resort to doing non-technical jobs at a pittance.
The road ahead is paved with difficulties but it’s not a problem without a solution. The focus should not be on increasing the number of seats, but improving the employability of the students. In a research paper called ‘Changing Paradigms of Engineering Education – An Indian Perspective’ published in Elsevier, a few steps were recommended to authorities for improving the quality of engineers. “Curriculum for higher education should be developed to encompass the objectives of curriculum, subject matter, mode of transaction and assessments. Traditional practices of lecture and demo methods were highly teacher-centric approach, which should evolve to student-centric approach to meet the current demands. The learning experience of the students should be enhanced through methods such as experiential learning, participative learning, project-based learning, industrial visits, guest lectures and problem-solving methodologies,” the researchers wrote.