While the entire country is hopefully expecting a technological sea-change with programs like Digital India and Make In India, the quality of engineering education, which is at the base of these digital advancements, is slowly degrading.
India’s struggle with the production of high-quality engineers is now evidently known. Except for some elite technological institutions like the IITs and BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science), other engineering colleges are continually failing to provide ample exposure to their students. The result, they are not even able to bag a usual engineering job.
National Employability of Engineers Survey 2019
The National Employability Survey 2019 report by Aspiring Minds reveals that 80% of Indian engineers are not fit for any job in the knowledge economy and only 2.5% of them possess tech skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that industry requires.
Comparing Indian engineers to that of China and the US we notice that we are lagging way behind the US market but somewhat close enough when it comes to our neighbour.
|PROGRAMMING ABILITY LEVELS||CHINA||INDIA||USA|
|Writing functionally and logically correct code||2.1%||4.7%||18.8%|
|Writing functionally correct code with few anomalies||6.5%||5.2%||15.3%|
|Not able to write functionally correct code||81.0%||52.5%||61.8%|
|Not able to write compilable code||10.4%||37.7%||4.1%|
Source: National Employability Report 2019 (Aspiring Minds)
India does much better than China in terms of a number of candidates who code well, we find that a much higher proportion of Indian engineers (37.7%) can’t write compilable code, as compared to China (10.4%). This means India needs to do much more work to impart coding skills to the masses.
The US engineers, on the other hand, do four times better than Indian engineers in coding and have only 4.0% of candidates who can’t write a compilable code. Interestingly, the base of the engineering population in the USA is approximately four times smaller than India. In the global talent war, India needs to significantly up its game in IT skills.
Further, when it comes to the core engineering sectors like chemical, civil, electrical, electronics and mechanical, the result is as disappointed as it was in the global code war.
The engineers belonging to civil, chemical, electrical, electronics and mechanical backgrounds were analyzed for their employability for a design engineer role.
Herein, the chemical design engineers were found to be the most employable of the lot (8.11%), followed by engineers with a mechanical engineering background (7.03%). The lowest employability among these roles was recorded for civil design engineers (5.03%).
The reasons for the same can be attributed to the current industry and market needs which in effect decides the prospects and pursuits of these trades.
Report by the All India Council for Technical Education
The AICTE or All India Council for Technical Education surveyed all the engineering institutions of the country and tried to understand the basis of this ongoing issue. They analyzed the student enrollment trends, skills required by the industry, availability of jobs, and the gap areas to be mended.
According to the reports of AICTE (2017-18), the capacity utilization of engineers is 49.8% at under-graduate and postgraduate levels, in comparison to the enrollment. This low level of capacity utilization is the prime reason of unemployability.
To overcome this, AICTE is working upon the reduction of capacity requirements in the engineering colleges of India, so that more weight is given to the streams that offer future employability.
The market trends show that traditional engineering disciplines like Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Electronics witness a capacity utilization of only 40%. But the engineering streams which contribute to technological advancements like Computer Science, Mechatronics, Aeronautics, Information Technology, and others have a capacity utilization of 60%.
It is also essential to focus on the technological advancement of our education systems which produce better engineers by amalgamating technical skills with orthodox/traditional engineering knowledge.
Issues with Indian Engineering Education
The engineering principles being taught in the classrooms are rarely applicable in the job industry, and the entire system has been struggling with this for quite a while now.
Subsequently, fresh graduates are not capable enough to take over the leading global companies that look after the technical and digital needs of almost the entire world. There are several factors behind the gradual decline of the engineering education system, which have been discussed as follows:
1. Lack of training and skill development
A vast majority of Indian engineering colleges suffer from the lack of training in their curriculum. Their students are not well equipped with the most basic skills of communication, which accounts for unemployability in the long run.
No multinational or renowned company is eager to hire freshers who are utterly unaware of the working mechanism and are also not presentable at all.
Alongside this, the fundamental technical skills like quantitative ability, reasoning, logical thinking, and computer programming are somehow inferior in many engineering students.
This proves that the institutes lack in honing practical skills in their students, which are later going to be the base of their bread and butter in the IT industry.
A vast gap is reflected in the core engineering skills and the education being imparted. It merely proves that the education system is mostly relying on theoretical knowledge and rote learning which are not helpful in the practical work field.
Thus, it becomes essential that the students are upgraded with technical training as per the industry standards to make them employable.
2. Unavailability of quality resources and faculty members
The AICTE recognizes that the root cause of the unemployability of engineers is the deteriorated quality standards of faculty members and pedagogy. The current demands of engineering institutions are not just a person with a Ph.D. degree, but also someone well-versed with the ongoing and upcoming technological advancements.
The faculty needs to keep up with the market requirements and motivate students with their innovations and research. However, this basic necessity is missing from most of the faculty members, and in some colleges, teachers of different majors can be seen teaching altogether different subjects.
Most of the current faculties are those who could not get anywhere else with their skills. Such an environment is not at all suited for an aspiring engineer, as they are being kept away from the knowledge they deserve.
To overcome these gaps of quality teachers, AICTE has recommended developing competency in the faculty members regarding the new age technologies and research. It also suggests the usage of QIP or Quality Improvement Programs and conducting several sessions with the premier teachers of IITs and NITs. Factory visits for teachers should also be mandatory to provide them with hands-on exposure to the latest technology being used.
3. Backdated curriculum
As per the survey of AICTE, the venture capital investments by large companies are conducting future technology forecasts, and an apparent inclination towards AI can be sensed. Concepts like the Internet of Things (IoT) embedded SW, mobility, analytics, internet SW, and cloud computing are getting prominence in the internet and software industry, medical devices, semiconductor industry, and healthcare services.
These emerging trends are not a part of the traditional curriculum, and thus, the students remain unaware of these developments until the time of practical application comes.
Today, the most crucial streams of engineering are robotics, blockchain, data sciences, quantum computing, aerospace, environment, and agricultural engineering, which should be given more preference and seats than the traditional streams. Further research on these subjects will enable students to make a stand in the global competition.
Therefore, it is vital at this point to upgrade the engineering curriculum and seek international support, if required, to develop a study plan suited best for future engineers.
4. Innate focus on grades
The education system has just become a blind follower of grades. Marks are the base of employability and not the skills. This is yet another factor which is degrading the quality of engineers as their logical thinking capabilities are not being evaluated. They are being judged on their memory of theoretical knowledge, which will not be required in the job industry.
According to an international study conducted by Stanford University and the World Bank, the engineering students of Russia and China are doing a better job than that of India.
It also said that Indian students are ardently progressive in mathematics and critical thinking, but when it comes to higher-order overall logical skills, they lack vehemently.
It clearly proves that the students have potential. But the requirement of the education system is very theoretical, thus depreciating the quality of engineers.
5. Lack of international collaborations and exposure
While comparing to the global standards, Indian engineers are now very less in demand. A prime reason behind this is the unfamiliarity of Indian students with international standards and work processes. To overcome this, institutions should have more student exchange programs and global conferences.
However, these are being sidelined as institutes continue with their archaic means of teaching. Even the government regulations are not being actively implied, and free-thinking in engineering institutes is least promoted.
6. Parental pressure
Engineering has long been a golden dream for Indian parents as they consider every engineer gets the grandiose lifestyle of magazine covers. At a recent conference held in Hyderabad, a discussion on transforming engineering education was going on, and the international educators asked 1000 students about their future prospects in engineering.
In a shocking revelation, the majority of the students told these international educators that they were pursuing engineering, not out of passion, but for fulfilling the dreams of their parents.
This societal and parental pressure on the Indian students is also forcing many students to take up an education medium they are not interested in, and then end up being unemployed in the sector.
The Great American Dream
Much acclaimed as the Great American Dream of the ’90s, today also, the engineering system needs to follow the international community guidelines to regain its global level of education.
The education board will have to realize that technology is rapidly changing when human beings are having to change their smartphones every two or three years to cope up with the upcoming facilities. In this scenario, a static engineering degree cannot add much value to any prospective candidate. The focus should be on industry-based knowledge and skill training.
In August 2017, an article published in The Wall Street Journal claimed that GitHub acquired by Microsoft Corporation didn’t ask for college degrees before recruiting most of the employees. Even at the chip-making company, Intel Corporation, a college degree is an optional substitute but not mandatory if you are experienced in the job field.
These groundbreaking establishments are laying down new standards where a degree is not complacent for an excellent job in the engineering industry. The Indian education system needs to imbibe these western thoughts and give a hard look at their ongoing operation, so that the engineering industry does not crumble down against the global standards, in the near future.