Though high marks can tempt you into choosing a particular course of study in engineering, let your choice be determined by your interest.

As parents and students are at the crossroads trying to decide which course and college to choose, there are many debates going on about engineering education. On one side are those who really curse engineering education for every problem they see in society and on the other are the people who see engineering education as the only way forward in life. Both these stances are not really true.

Some systemic flaws

A big fallacy in our education system is that scoring high marks in core subjects such as Chemistry, Physics and Maths (CPM) is the only qualification for a student to pursue engineering. In reality this is a misconception.

In truth, the qualification for becoming a real engineer is truly much more than just academic marks. When I asked a student, “Why did you choose engineering?” the answer was, “I really don’t know why, just because I scored good cut-off marks I was pushed into engineering”.

Students who score high marks by rote learning are struggling to survive in engineering colleges. It’s no wonder then that students who scored 200/200 in Class XII math flunked in the first semester math exams in engineering.

The lack of a specific course-based or interest-based selection process to various engineering courses is another setback to our education system. If a student is expected to select the branch of study at the time of admission, it is also important to ascertain whether the student will able to continue with that and complete the course successfully.

For example, a student, with 100/100 in computer science in Class XII, who has a passion for studying computers, cannot join computer science engineering in a good college if he/she has got low scores in chemistry. In practical terms, if a computer science engineering graduate were to look for a job in an IT company (regrettably that seems to be the ultimate goal of engineering education today), he or she would hardly need even a bit of chemistry or even all the math and physics they learn in their school and college curriculum.

Traditional engineering courses such as mechanical, civil and electrical engineering required physics and math, with a little chemistry, while courses like chemical engineering and petroleum engineering needed a thorough knowledge of and interest in chemistry.

In the last decade, with major employment opportunities for engineering graduates being generated by IT companies, people were flocking towards computer science, information technology and software engineering courses. But the pertinent question we failed to ask is, “do these courses really need the current rigorous focus on CPM in Classes XI and XII?”

An engineer’s role

An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, physics, mathematics and creativity to develop solutions for technical problems.

The essential qualities needed for one to become an engineer are the following:

Ability to understand and comprehend scientific principles

Aptitude for asking pertinent questions

Eagerness to experiment

Inclination towards problem-solving

Logical thinking, capacity to imagine and visualise

Ability to conceptualise and find solutions

Passion for engineering and technology

Willingness to focus and work for long hours

Parents should not force their wards into engineering unless he/she has some of the above qualities. Joining an engineering college might seem to be easy, but becoming an engineer is not so: it involves hard work, sincerity and commitment.

The writer is the author of the book ‘Become an Engineer, Not Just an Engineering Graduate’.