December 15, 2017 12:43:16 am
The engineering profession in the country is riddled with paradoxes. India produces more engineers than China and the US combined. But in the past seven years, several reports have pointed out that India’s engineering institutes do not provide state-of-art skills. A NASSCOM survey of 2011, for example, pointed out that only 17 per cent of the engineering graduates in the country are employable. This signaled a mismatch between the demands of industry and the technical education system, which the then UPA government did little to address. But the NDA government has done no better. Last year, the National Employability Report revealed that more than 80 per cent of the students who passed out of engineering schools in 2015 did not have the competencies required by industry. An investigation by this paper, this week, has highlighted another paradox and shown that the rot runs deeper. In 2015-16, eight lakh BE/BTech engineering students graduated, a little over a quarter of those who finished the science stream that year. Yet, there are no takers for more than 50 per cent of seats in the country’s engineering colleges, the investigation has revealed.
The state of engineering colleges could have a bearing on the Make in India programme that aims to bolster the country’s manufacturing capacity and generate 100 million jobs by 2022. According the programme’s website, Make in India will “foster innovation, enhance skill-development and build best-in-class infrastructure”. This will require highly-skilled engineers who can design products to meet the requirements of international competition. The poor student intake in the country’s engineering institutes presages a shortage of human capital for the project.
Globally, higher education has expanded in two contrasting ways: Through strict regulation with rigorous insistence on quality, resulting in gradual growth of high-quality institutes or alternatively, low entry barriers, leading to a proliferation of colleges, but of lower quality. When it comes to engineering colleges, India has taken the second path. The All India Council of Technical Education’s (AICTE) criteria for setting up such colleges pertain to infrastructure, such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries and student-teacher ratio. The AICTE also has a model curriculum, revised every five years, that affiliated universities use as a base to prepare their own syllabus. But this newspaper’s investigation shows that most colleges follow decades-old programmes. With the challenge of automation looming large over manufacturing, the AICTE, and its affiliated institutes, will have to pull up their socks in order to ensure the competitiveness of Indian industry.
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