Engineering a two-language system

An amalgamation of English and Tamil can produce better-equipped and qualified engineers, and bolster their employability

July 17, 2021 03:20 pm | Updated 03:20 pm IST

Teaching Engineering in regional languages and English would be of great use to students.

Teaching Engineering in regional languages and English would be of great use to students.

Mechanical and Civil engineering programmes in Tamil medium were introduced by Anna University over a decade ago. Currently, the College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG) and the university’s constituent colleges offer one or both these programmes. The courses are not popular in other colleges despite 20% reservation in government jobs for the students.

In the 1970s, efforts were made to introduce Engineering courses in Tamil, and many textbooks were prepared in the language. However, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) did not permit Engineering courses in Tamil as it had to evolve a national policy on the subject. In a recent survey, however, the AICTE discovered that 42% of the students surveyed nationally, favoured pursuing Engineering in regional languages. The Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench recently reiterated the 20% reservation for Tamil-medium candidates, in every stage of recruitment, in government departments.

Demerits

Even for the courses available in Tamil, textbooks are unavailable and capable faculty scarce. Material on advanced topics and research or postgraduate programmes are rarely available. Given that NASSCOM surveys report that 75% of English-medium engineers are not adequately equipped with soft skills, job prospects for Tamil-medium candidates are rarer still.

Rejuvenation

Given that these courses have been in existence for 10 years, many textbooks in Tamil should have been prepared. In fact, this can still be done. Capacity building programmes can be implemented for the faculty, who can be trained to design and popularise Tamil equivalents for the technical terms. English need not be tabooed; it can be used alongside Tamil as it will serve a dual purpose of clarifying the subject and preparing the students to face the world better. Soft skills programmes can also be offered to the Tamil medium students.

PG/Research programmes

Relevant PG and research programmes must also be designed and introduced, with proper study and reference material. Universities, the Tamil Nadu government, and educationists can help create/translate quality research material into Tamil. Two decades ago, a Tamil Nadu Science Congress founded by Kunrakkudi Adigalaar, conducted an annual international congress in Science and Technology, where local and foreign researchers participated. Significantly, the proceedings were in Tamil. Revival of such an activity will help enrich research material in Tamil.

The writer is Former Professor and Head, Entrance Exams and Admission, Anna University, Chennai

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