Deccan Chronicle

Is our engineering craze dying a natural death?

Deccan Chronicle| Dr N Prabhudev

Published on: August 25, 2018 | Updated on: August 25, 2018

It's the lack of quality education that stunts their academic growth.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Is this the beginning of the end of India’s engineering dream?
1.5 Million Engineers Pass Out In India Every Year, Few Get Hired.
Does India need so many engineers?

Is India producing far more (sub par) engineers — than it needs? Is the country witnessing the death of the engineering dream? India’s crisis of engineering education is quite visible. 80% of engineers in India are unemployable, says the National Employability Report 2016. New jobs will come up but Indian engineers may find them off limits. "Layoffs will happen. Graduates need to make themselves layoff-proof, armed with skills. The UR Rao Committee flagged a future glut of graduates. The Rao committee had suggested a five-year moratorium on approvals for undergraduate technical institutions in states where the student intake exceeded the then national average of 150 seats per million population.

Engineering colleges have been springing up like wild mushrooms in India in the last few years- from a modest 1,511 colleges in 2006-07 to an astoundingly high 3,345 in 2014-15.  Only 25 to 30 % are employed. For those who are, the entry-level salary is pathetically low and has stagnated there for the last eight-nine years. 29,000 engineering seats remain vacant in Karnataka. At least 35 engineering colleges in Karnataka have shut down 75 courses. There are 201 engineering colleges affiliated to Visvesvaraya Technological University in Karnataka. 33 private engineering colleges in State have no new enrolments. Overall, around 62% of the total 16,236 seats available under COMEDK went vacant. As many as 43 colleges have less than 25% of seats filled. It’s not just COMEDK quota seats but also government quota and management surrendered seats in private colleges that have gone vacant.As many as 29,303 out of 68,404 are vacant.

It’s the lack of quality education that stunts their academic growth. Only 10 % of engineers have the skills required for a job in core sectors of engineering. More than 70% of engineering graduates remain unemployed-ACTE. Just 15% of engineering programs are accredited by the National Board of Accreditation. 25-35% of the engineers are unable to comprehend English usage in basic conversations. Except IITs and other prestigious technology institutes, most engineering colleges are unable to provide education to engineering student that would get them suitable jobs.

Alarming decline in engineering sciences!
Since 2016, the number of engineering seats has been on the decline - around 75,000 annually-AICTE. In 2016-17, total intake capacity at undergraduate level was 15,71,220, and enrolment was 50.1 per cent at 7,87,127. In 2015-16, total intake was 16, 47,155, and enrolment was- 52.2 per cent at 8, 60,357. AICTE wants to close down about 800 engineering colleges across India. Nearly 150 colleges are closed down voluntarily every year due to stricter AICTE rules. According to a rule of the council, colleges that lack proper infrastructure and report less than 30% admissions for five consecutive years will have to be shut down.

Layoffs and shrinking job market: Is this the end of India’s engineering dream?
It’s mayhem in India’s IT sector’, as major IT companies reportedly are on the look out to slash hundreds of jobs on routine performance-based reviews’. IT is particularly hurt as automation is taking away low skilled jobs. 56,000 IT professionals to lose jobs this year in 7 top IT firms. Headhunters India says that job cuts will be around 200,000 annually, for the next 3 years.  Campus placements are low- 40% in AICTE colleges and 66% in IITs.

Academic inflation!
An engineering degree is better than just another degree. Employers use an engineering degree as a "sign" that the graduate is more talented and capable compared to those who don’t possess one, regardless of whether college education has any direct relevance or implication for the job being offered or not.
The great engineering dream is dying a slow, natural death! Most of students simply want a job — any job, and given a choice, a job with the government even if it is non-engineering and low-salaried. 65% of Indian youths prefer a government job, 7% a job in the private sector. The lure of a government job is obvious: job security, allowances and better pay at the entry level. 18 percent of engineers were employable for the software services sector, 7 percent or less- civil to mechanical- AMCAT Test.

According to the reports, in Tier-1 cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, 18.26 per cent of software engineers are job ready, while in Tier-2 cities such as Pune, Nagpur and Surat, 14.17 per cent are employable. This shows that the candidates from lower-tier cities are not getting the same opportunities as those hailing from Tier-1 cities, even if they are equally qualified.

Where Are India’s Female Engineers?
Engineering as a stream has been a popular option for Indian students.
Almost 11 lakh applied for the JEE Main exam in 2017. Out of these, 72% applicants were boys. The glaring disparity is also reflected in the enrollment ratio of boys and girls in engineering and technology programs.What is the reason for the difference in number of boys and girls who end up in engineering and technology courses?  One can find there has been a difference of over 40% in the enrollment percentage- AISHE Survey. Traditional Gender Roles- One of the Reasons. Common perception that technology and engineering fields are for boys also keeps more girls from engaging in these programs. Way forward for engineering educators.

Engineering educators must tap into students’ passion, curiosity, engagement, and dreams. I envy the next generation of engineering students because this is the most exciting period in human history for science and engineering. Exponential advances in knowledge, instrumentation, communication, and computational capabilities have created mind-boggling possibilities, and students are cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries in unprecedented ways. Indeed, the distinction between science and engineering in some domains has been blurred to extinction, which raises some serious issues for engineering education.

In the long run, making universities and engineering schools exciting, creative, adventurous, rigorous, demanding, and empowering milieus is more important. Universities around the world, especially in Asia and South Asia are focusing on advancing economies and cutting-edge research. Globalization is not a choice, but a reality. We can only thrive on brainpower, organization, and innovation.  Research universities and their engineering schools will have to advance the frontiers of fundamental science and technology; advance interdisciplinary work and learning; develop a new, broad approach to engineering systems; focus on technologies that address the most important problems facing the world.

Something exciting is happening, however, and it comes none too soon. Biologists and neuroscientists are suddenly rediscovering the full glory and immense complexity of even the simplest living systems. Engineers and computer scientists are suddenly as indispensable to research in the life sciences as the most brilliant reductionist biologists. The language in the life sciences today is about circuits, networks, and pathways. In this global knowledge age - we need the best and brightest to enter engineering schools. And we need a larger percentage of them to earn Ph.D.’s in areas of engineering that can lead to innovations that will keep us free, secure, healthy, and thriving within a vibrant economy. Cognitive neuroscience will catch up with information technology and give us a deeper understanding of the nature of experiential learning. Then we might see a quantum leap, a true transformation in education. In the meantime, we must see to it that the best and brightest young men and women become our students and, therefore, become the engineers of 2020 and beyond.

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