Getting ready for a B.Tech. programme? Looking out for information on new colleges and courses? Worried about the prospects of the branch you would like to pursue? Want to know more about the skills that you need to acquire before passing out from the campus? Searching for tips on how to approach your semester examinations?

These and several other queries might be popping up in the minds of youngsters preparing for an engineering programme in the State and outside. The Hindu-EducationPlus approached experts in the field for the answers. Besides listing several interesting tips for the benefit of the budding engineering talents, the academicians also recommended that the managements step up the quality of teaching and learning process on the campuses.

Explaining that students should realise the fact that the teaching and learning process in the B.Tech. programme is entirely different from what they had acquired till the Plus Two level, K. P. P. Pillai, former Executive Secretary of the Indian Society for Technical Education (ISTE), said that they will have to take up several new tasks. “For example, engineering students will have to do surveying and attend drawing classes. Develop a sense of precision right from the beginning. It is an essential quality for an engineer. You cannot compromise on precision, accuracy and meticulousness,” he said. Prof. Pillai, who was the former Principal of College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram, said that students who have aversion to learning mathematics should not be pushed into engineering. He said that students drop out due to lack of motivation, as they do not realise the relevance of the engineering programme they pursue.

“Take the example of a student who wanted to learn psychology but took up an engineering programme. Counsellors could always recommend that he could take an MBA programme (with specialisation in human resources) having a lot of focus on industrial psychology after the B.Tech. course. His interest in the engineering programme will go up after getting this advice. Another student wanted to pursue a film-acting course. We told him about digital filmmaking and digital processing. We also encouraged him to learn computer science, as it would help him in understanding digital filmmaking better. We have to tackle the lack of motivation among the students,” Prof. Pillai said.

Suggesting that colleges need professional counsellors, as students come from different family situations, Dr. Pillai said that managements should take care to step up counselling activities on the campuses. Urging the students to develop the skill to meet deadlines, he said that they should also start using the college library from the initial days. “Many students are unaware about leading publishing houses. Teachers should also refer good textbooks. For instance, MIT has put about 2,800 course notes on its web site free of cost. Teachers and students should make use of it,” he said. Explaining that those who are appearing for Common Entrance Examination need not worry about semester exams and placement thereafter, V. Chander, former Director of the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) under the Defence Research Development Organisation, said that “first let them like (or even feel like) doing (or even ‘exploring') engineering.

“Willingness for hard work and readiness for life-long learning are the only requirements. All other things as students - in grades, jobs and then becoming industry or research leaders - will follow automatically. Our students have learnt but they have not been educated, one can say our engineers have ‘employment' but not ‘employed as engineers',” he said.

Pointing out that voluminous bookish-knowledge is updated in the name of ‘syllabus' up-gradation making teaching nothing more than just transfer of ‘facts or information', Mr. Chander said that there is no commensurate ‘learning' experience through strengthening the foundations/ fundamentals, hands-on experience, reading, presentations to reveal understanding, design simulations, continuous evaluation and ‘tutoring', and adequate time available for teaching and learning.

Reminding the students to look into the general academic and extracurricular achievement of an institution before joining, M. V. Rajesh, Head of the Department of Electronics Engineering at the College of Engineering under the Institute of Human Resources Development at Cherthala, said that other factors include faculty strength, infra structure facility, mode of admission, fees structure and placement records.

“It is worth noticing that many colleges have become just coaching centres for university examinations, with almost no environment for growth as a complete engineering professional. This is totally against the concept of engineering education. One should therefore look into the professional growth environment including the presence international and national professional bodies like IEEE, IETE, ISTE and CSI,” he said. Referring to the reasons for drastic decline in pass percentage among B. Tech. students in various universities, Prof. Rajesh, who is also the Honorary Secretary of the Kochi centre of IETE, said that it is obviously due to the increase in quantity of admission, which in turn has affected the quality.

“There are situations where students with very low/ no entrance rank is also admitted with spot admission, as seats are vacant even after the last phase of official counselling process. Like finishing schools, engineering students need pre-B.Tech. schools/ orientation. It is also important that the first year is more critical in deciding the percentage of marks one could score, as there are more papers (almost double the number of papers/ semester), including physics, chemistry and general subjects included in the first year,” he said. Prof. Rajesh said that students must develop the ability to communicate (both oral and written), which is critically important. Other skills essentially include the ability to work in group assignments, leadership quality and the ability to discuss and develop mechanisms for problem solving, he said.

Strong fundamentals

Recommending that students should study fundamentals of the subject thoroughly from the beginning, K. Vasudevan, Professor of Electronics and Dean, Faculty of Technology at the Cochin University of Science and Technology, said that they should be encouraged to solve problems independently.

“They can do assignments independently and should gradually be guided to refer only standard textbooks. Only this will help them to improve their skills. They should be discouraged from learning in the form of capsules prepared by tuition centres, just for exam purpose. Students should be encouraged to take small portions of syllabi as seminar lectures. This will help them to understand more about their topics. Solving end of chapter problems in standard texts will enhance their capabilities. Continuous and systematic studies should be advised from the very beginning,” Dr. Vasudevan said.

Describing that a cell in college/ university should be constantly in touch with industrial establishments to know about their requirements, Dr. Vasudevan said that they should update their syllabi in a regular manner.

Dr. Vasudevan said that more personnel from industries should be included in academic bodies of universities/ institutions. “Guest lecturers from industries should come to colleges on regular basis in order to get students an exposure to their ideas. If possible, small projects for talented students can be given in industries,” he said.