The regulators are perhaps perturbed at the decline in admissions and to boost the admissions, a radical decision to make engineering open to all irrespective of the prior knowledge of science and mathematics at senior secondary levels has been taken.
The recent pronouncement of AICTE on admissions in colleges of engineering and technology without Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics is nothing short of a recipe to disaster for technical education and that too at a time when science, engineering, and technology are the drivers of growth and advancement of nations economy and a powerful means for improving both the livelihood as well as the wellbeing of the people at large.
The regulators of technical education in India are perhaps perturbed at the decline in admissions in engineering colleges around the country and in their desire to boost the admissions alone that a decision so radical as to make engineering and technology courses open to one and all irrespective of the prior knowledge of science and mathematics at senior secondary levels has been taken.
This is not the way to save technical education in the country nor is good for the future of those entering engineering without a strong foundation of science. If not checked it shall further multiply the heaps of unemployed engineering graduates in India, that we can no longer afford. Better to close such poor-quality colleges and save technical education and its credibility.
During my days as the Vice-Chancellor of RGPV Bhopal in the early years of the 21st Century, I repeatedly suggested that all those Engineering colleges where first-year results are less than 50 percent, the increase in intake or addition of new courses should not be allowed. But under the disguise of massification of technical education, new colleges and additional intake and additional courses in poor quality engineering colleges were sanctioned. The net result has been mushrooming of Engineering and Pharmacy colleges around the country. So long as increasing GER remains the sole goal, the quality of education shall continue to suffer. We need to consciously understand that it is not the degree but the capabilities and skills that matter most. The way to boost GER is not to push a large population of youth to get a degree of any quality but to make them capable and skilled. As we move forward in the world of work dominated by a technology-intensive work environment the capabilities, competence, and character skills will matter most. The regulators of technical education are to cater to this need rather than filling the vacant seats by anyone with whatever schooling to take admissions in engineering colleges.
May be, it is forgotten that engineering and technology thrive on the foundation of science and the analytical mind created through the pursuit of mathematics. Diluting the science and mathematics base of engineering would destroy whatever little quality of engineering education we have in a country of 1.35 plus billion people in India. This will also cause the ripples of disaster in nations around the globe as India is a recognized feeder for higher education in engineering and technology postgraduate courses in many great universities in advanced countries.
In an age that needs a scientific mind capable of deep analytics for sustaining the growth of new and advanced technologies, we in India are planning to give a death below to engineering and technology education, despite the fact that India rose to great eminence in science and technology on the prowess of science and technology education in colleges of engineering and technology and institutions of higher learning in India.
While I fully acknowledge the all-pervasive nature of science and technology right from higher-end research houses to the kitchens in the households, I see no tangible reason to destroy the niche advantage India has in technical education by diluting admission standards, least to destroy the scientific temper and analytical bias with which engineering and technology profession has excelled so far. It is all the more important to recognize that technical education is creating a new technology-intensive world of ever-rising interest in science and technology that has a promise to solve today’s as well as tomorrow’s challenges of eradication of poverty, hunger, diseases, climate change as also to create millions of jobs and startups to foster the layers of inclusive prosperity and purposeful engagement in making life a celebration of divinity.
The need of the hour is to strengthen the interdisciplinary teaching-learning environment and to focus on nurturing research and innovation in engineering institutions as also to pay attention to new and emerging technologies. It is also the time to recognize the need for a greater space for self-learning, collaborative learning, and learning by doing, much of this outside the classrooms. This calls for a thorough review of our curriculum design and delivery systems, now that we have tested the benefits of online education at all levels. The days of autonomous learners and collaborative learning in network communities have arrived. In this new environment, both science and engineering shall flourish in a seamless manner fostering a culture of technology mindset for the pursuit of science and scientific mind for the study of Engineering and Technology.
Integration of education with research will form an important aspect of new-age innovations in engineering and science education hereafter so that the glaring gap between the science and technology advances and the knowledge disseminated in classrooms including online classes is greatly minimized. For this, we shall need to prepare a cadre of research-driven, enterprising and innovative minds of faculty having a deep interest in teaching.
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The policy planners and regulators should better understand the intent and spirit of NEP-2020 and act with utmost caution while pronouncing such radical and disastrous recipes like engineering admissions without mandatory Science and Mathematics at school levels.
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About the author
Prof. P. B. Sharma, former Professor of IIT Delhi is currently the Vice-Chancellor of Amity University Gurugram. Prof. Sharma has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of DTU and RGPV. He is also the Past President of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU).