Anita Joshua

Technically billed as “mentoring,” this will help the institutions raise their standards

Public-private partnership mooted to correct regional imbalance

Mobility between science and engineering streams favoured

NEW DELHI: The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) would like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to adopt lesser-known engineering institutions to help them raise their standards. Technically billed as “mentoring,” this is one of the key recommendations made by the Commission in a note to the Prime Minister on engineering education.

In the communication sent on Tuesday, NKC Chairman Sam Pitroda said elite institutions should consider some additional responsibilities such as adopting a few engineering institutions of their choice and helping them raise their standards, creating and making available educational resources in the public domain for use of all students and conducting distance education courses, especially for students at the post-graduate level and for working professionals.

By way of an example, the NKC has pointed out that existing IITs could mentor the ones that are being set up and the National Institutes of Technology could adopt engineering institutions in their regions.

“Mentoring by its definition is a voluntary activity, but if we can create an atmosphere where institutions of distinction feel a sense of calling in the interest of the larger national good, it would transform our education.”

Lamenting the “glaring regional imbalance” in the availability of engineering education, the NKC has suggested the public-private partnership route to correct this.

In recommending this, the NKC has pointed out that the recent proliferation of engineering institutions in the Southern states and Maharashtra — which together account for two-thirds of the engineering institutions in the country — is largely due to private initiative.

As for the problem of unemployability of engineering graduates, the Commission, through its consultations, found that it was largely because curriculum and syllabi were not compatible with industry requirements. To address this, the NKC has called for providing greater flexibility, inter-disciplinary perspective and choice of electives. Also, in view of the fact that the distinction between the sciences and engineering has “all but disappeared,” the NKC is in favour of creating mechanisms that will allow mobility between the two streams.

And to address the dearth of well-qualified faculty, the Commission has suggested that institutions be encouraged to create adjunct positions and invite professionals from industry and research institutions to participate in the teaching process.

Besides, the Commission said, institutions should not insist on a Ph.D for teaching undergraduate students, and special efforts should be made within the student community to identify and motivate those who have the potential as well as the inclination to teach.