The debate on performance of engineering colleges can lead to a rethink, changing the situation for the better.
Beginning a month ago, arguments and counter-arguments and debates and deliberations have been flying thick and fast on issues plaguing engineering education. While much of these dwell on the state of affairs related to a section of self-financing colleges in Kerala, the situation elsewhere in the country has been no different.
Insiders have known the problems for some time now, but they kept silent because of considerations not above board. What can be hoped is that the increased public awareness and judicial scrutiny of the performance of the colleges may change the situation for the better.
Every stakeholder should join the constructive debate and ensure a better system, or a win-win prospect, for all — students, parents, managements, industry, staff and society.
As a provider of value-added services to engineering colleges, I have been interacting with thousands of students across Kerala over the past decade. A small proportion of them are “out of place” in a B.Tech. course and this can affect the overall effectiveness of the system. A bigger concern is that this proportion grows over the four years of the course as the malaise spreads to more students because of systemic issues and negative rub-off.
Systems and processes will break down if these issues are not corrected and youthful energies not channelled in a better direction. A B.Tech. student spends 5,000 student hours in the college over the four years. Multiply this with the number of students to understand the mind-boggling quantity of human effort and time that will go waste.
While highlighting the high proportion of youth in the population as a demographic dividend, note that the opportunity can turn into a sword of Damocles if the youthful energies are not channelled properly.
From the perspective of engineering education, ensure that candidates without interest and aptitude are denied admission, while systemic measures are taken to curtail the spread of mediocrity and poor performance during the progress of the course.
Some of the youngsters who have joined in the B.Tech. course are not of the “engineering kind” in the first place — they are passionate about something else. However, parental aspirations, availability of seats and academic competence have forced them into doing an engineering course. It is an unpardonable sin. And here only parents are to blame for not allowing their children’s talent to bloom. Parents should be happy that they are among the lucky few whose children are passionate about something and they should take extra pain to find the best for their child in the chosen field.
Then, there are thousands of students who are indifferent to whatever course they do. For them, no course, not just engineering, makes any difference. Here, the system must screen the candidates by looking at their aptitude and ensuring that those who are sure to fail are denied admission for their benefit and for the benefit of other students.
Once a candidate is admitted to college, then all concerned, especially the management, have the responsibility to ensure that it takes steps to get the student on the right track. There will be students who find it hard to cope with the academic requirements. And those candidates should be identified and given remedial support. It will be good if a bridge course is offered to students who are academically weak before the beginning of the course so that they are able to learn the basics before they get into the roller-coaster ride. If these are not done, they will drop out, taking some of their peers along with them. The teenagers should be handled with care and affection and many a time, counselling by a competent person can save them from tipping over.
At the university level, steps should be taken to reinstate the old “year-out” system, which bars a student who has not cleared the first and second semester examinations from entering the fifth semester and third and fourth semester examinations from entering the seventh semester. This prevents negative rub-off on other students.