Saturday, 6 June 2015

Engineering A New World Education

Engineering A New World Education
Sanjay G Dhande, Founder-Director of Mahindra École Centrale College of Engineering, Hyderabad and former Director of IIT Kanpur, talks about the current state of engineering education
 Averil Nunes @AverilNunes
How is engineering changing? What are the challenges facing engineers today and the means to overcome them?
50 years ago, engineering was more manufacturing oriented. Today the service sector has grown from 10% to 60%. While the industry needs have changed, the mechanics-focused syllabus hasn’t, leaving students ill-equipped to cope with market realities.
With information technology acting as a major driver of change, the world has become flat, drastically changing the role of management in Engineering. Engineers today are expected to manage teams and social issues as well as come up with effective design and service solutions.
The application context of engineering has changed, but our educational systems still lack the dynamism required to understand what market forces are demanding and to cater to it. With the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) dictating the syllabus, even good colleges that could provide an education on par with global standards are being held back. We need quality educational institutions that are not controlled by political and administrative factors. The government needs to encourage experiments—by both state and private institutions—in the field of education,
Which industries offer the greatest potential?
Aerospace, Automotive and Ship-building offer tremendous opportunities. While Railways have been lagging behind in India, I see immense scope for growth in this sector in the next five to ten years. Defense research is also likely to enter the private domain, increasing the scope for engineers.
Does an Indian engineering education equip students to thrive in a global environment? Which countries offer the best opportunities for engineers?
India would rank amongst the top 10 countries in terms of the quality of engineers it produces. However, of the 9,000-odd engineering institutions in the country, around 8,800 are not quite up to the mark. If we produce 7,00,000 engineers a year, just 1,00,000 of those would be of high calibre. Our regulatory bodies have failed miserably by giving everybody permission to conduct engineering courses and not monitoring the quality of education.
Compensation and challenge are the forces that cause an engineer to relocate. Europe, America and Canada offer the challenges that most engineers crave, as well as generous compensation.
Is there a gap between the skills of engineering graduates and industry requirements? How can colleges bridge this gap?
Analytical skills, effective communication and creative thinking are essential for any engineer. Additionally, we need to develop the leadership potential of our engineers and encourage them to ‘patent and prosper’, not ‘publish and perish’. If our education systems and regulatory bodies do not become more dynamic in understanding and adapting to industry requirements, colleges will have to work around the prescribed syllabus to impart these abilities to their students.
Investing in training faculty and in technology can also improve the quality of education. For instance, Mahindra École Centrale’s (MEC) FLIP-education program offers blended (onlineoffline) learning options that focus on tutorial sessions as opposed to lectures. This makes subjects less discourse-oriented and more discussion-driven.
Industry experience is a great teacher. MEC offers two summer internships, one at an international organisation and one at an indigenous one. Students are likely to be absorbed by the companies they work with, so we don’t have to worry about placements.