[MTC Global] The way forward

Anand A Samuel, vice chancellor, VIT University, Vellore

Engineering education should be updated consistently with changes taking place in the industry. However, it should be understood that it is the outcome of research carried out in higher education institutions that drives the industrial revolution. The interdependence is being felt now and interactions between institutions and industry are growing. This will be the key and critical element in the growth of higher education institutions in general and engineering institutions/ departments in particular, in India. Both, industries and institutions should collaborate for coexistence because the former will not find the required human resources without the latter. 
The world is becoming highly competitive. Conventional academic processes will not do any good any longer. The focus should change from teaching to learning. This requires many changes in academics. This is more so because today's students — referred to as Gen Y — and their interests are entirely different from that of 
Gen X and the boomers of yesteryears. Even though it is a Herculean task, all engineering institutions/departments should effect the needed changes. For learning to be useful, interesting and effective, experts from industry, should be made to interact with students in the classroom. Incorporating this component into the syllabus will make it mandatory (a module of two to three hours in every subject to be handled by industrialists). A difficult task to accomplish, but once implemented, it will bring about a paradigm shift in the concept of learning.

Classroom teaching and the dependence on chalk-and-talk mode are losing their importance as they no longer interest Gen Y and don't ensure learning. Classroom interactions with the aid of smart boards, conducting challenging experiments in laboratories or fields and taking part in activities outside class with specific objectives, involving oneself in small projects with defined learning outcomes and assessment schemes have been proven to enhance learning. So, institutions should switch to project- based learning, which improves problem-solving skills and boosts students' confidence as well. At the same time, learning will become easy and fun. Outdoor events such as hackathons, makeathons and codeathons, which are non-stop activities lasting at least 24 hours in the presence of a few industrialists and professors, are important. These events train students in time-bound problem-solving with resource constraints. 
In addition to making students good citizens, universities should impart multitasking skills, offer multi-ethnic exposure, instill ethical values and ensure students work on digital platforms. Given the demographic dividend to our advantage, with the largest number of working people to be in India by 2025, the Indian government, too, is keen to educate the masses. This is evident from the new schemes it has announced. If each individual player in the sector decides to follow an ethical, transparent and self-regulated system, then growth is assured. This growth will make Indian institutions globally competitive. This, in turn, would help to mould students to be reliable for the 2025 world marketplace.
V Jagadeesh Kumar, dean (academic courses), IIT-Madras
In India, students frequently end up disliking the courses they take at college. The reason for this is that the education system in our country is yet to mature. The selection of a career after school comes with its set of problems. Students choose something based on not what they want but what they think will give them maximum opportunities in the future. I know of students who have chosen an engineering discipline they were not interested in merely due to parental pressure and the perception that a particular discpline is more sought after than another. This approach is incorrect.
Institutes worldwide are aware that students may or may not end up liking a course they take at college and that if they pursue a course they were never interested in anyway, their commitment towards the programme will wane affecting their performance. They thus are flexible and allow students to switch disciplines in case the need arises. Take the example of a friend in Germany who switched from maths to physics at the undergraduate level before finally finding his calling in electrical engineering. He now has a PhD in electrical engineering and is doing well in the field. Indian universities should offer such choices.

Emerging areas of engineering in India include renewable energy and battery technology that may foresee disruptive innovations in the future. Indian students, like their counterparts abroad, must pursue a course out of genuine interest and have a willingness to learn the subject.   
Source: Education Times

Prof. Bholanath Dutta
Founder &  President 
MTC Global: A Global Think Tank in 
Higher Education, ISO 9001: 2008
Partner: UN Global Compact I UN Academic Impact
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