Is Engineering as a Career Still an Attractive Option?

    Is Engineering as a Career Still an Attractive Option?


    Last year (2016-17), there were 6472 engineering & technical institutes; 3359 management institutes and 1233 MCA institutes; and 3925 institutes offering diploma. 7 lakh enrollments in diploma streams, only 1.6 lakh find placement (see table). This shows a very pathetic state of technical and management education in the country. Who are responsible – the government policies, AICTE, politicians, bureaucrats, people who made education as a business, parents or students? Or, is it just the whole chaotic system!



    Historical background

    In the sixties, technical education was either a 4-year course after 10+2 or 5-year course after 11th standard. University of Roorkee (now IIT), BHU, AMU, Osmania, Sibpur, Guindy and many other universities were already offering quality technical education. IITs and RECs were newly established under MHRD, Delhi in various states to offer quality education. There were mainly three options: (i) pursue a 2-year B.Sc. / B.A. course and then state or central government services, or law or teaching/research or any other career; (ii) engineering course, or (iii) a medical course. In reality, the conditions across several universities with affiliated colleges was very bad. There were delays in conducting timely admissions and conduct of examinations leading to a total disruption in academic calendar. Thus, a 2-year B.A. / B.Sc. course essentially became a 3-year course in many universities.

    In early seventies, the Government of India came up with the new education policy: 10+2+3 years for graduation along with semester system. Thus, a 2-year B.A./B.Sc. course officially became a 3-year course. In the meantime, private technical institutes started mushrooming mainly in Karnataka and Andhra to begin with. People lost interest in 3-years B.A. /B.Sc. and preferred a 4-year engineering course. The former had no relevance to finding a decent job. The commercialization of technical and management education was complete with the establishment of AICTE separated from the UGC in late eighties.

    Explosion of IT and finance sector

    Towards, the middle of nineties, there was huge demand for IT and finance sectors mainly in USA and Europe. Many multinational companies opened offices in India and were willing to pay several times more than the current salaries in the private and government sectors in the country. The concept of outsourcing and call centers was born. Indian IT companies started hiring gra-duates from across all engineering bran-ches rather than limiting just to computer science or Information technology. The demand was simply herculean and so was the money. It had a cascading effect on the whole system. More engineering colleges, more enrollment, and air-conditioned class rooms, hostels and mess but the most important ingredient was missing – infrastructure and competent & qualified faculty members. No body complained. Everybody wanted to board the train to make money. The AICTE had neither the competence nor will to tame the madness. In AICTE, most of the staff was on deputation; the so called subject experts were borrowed from various colleges on visit basis depending upon their bendability to submit the desired assessment reports. The IT/ Finance industry was simply looking to multiply their balance sheets. They just wanted a reasonably good person with engineering degree willing to work round the clock in any part of the world. The hiring criterion was simply an aptitude test followed by interview – no test to test the subject knowledge including programming skills or any background in finance what so ever. In return, the engineers wanted the best of salaries, perquisites, luxuries and opportunity to settle abroad.

    Lack of Technical Education and Troubled Core Sector

    In this whole process, the core-engi-neering sector and technical education took a very heavy beating. There was no way they could match either the working environment (that is air-conditioned machine floors or concrete casting yards etc.) or salary and perquisites. The students were no more interested in knowledge or learning even in IITs/NITs; they just wanted a paper degree and get onto the bandwagon. They were confident to beat the system. Unfortunately, this attitude of the students also suited the teachers – teach minimum and award maximum grades to please the students, parents, head of department, and the Director. The dismantling of the robust frame of technical education was complete. It is difficult to say at this point of time if it is irreversible. This is evident from the data: none of the IITs / universities is in the top 100 worldwide, over 90% of the graduates are not employable. What a shame! Is it fair to blame the commercialized private education sector alone? The core sector is complaining they cannot find competent fresh graduates who know what they were talking.


    Party is over

    The euphoria and the party is nearly over. There is widespread firing in IT and finance sector all over the globe. The Americans and Europeans are facing widespread resentment against immigrants and outsourcing. Their economies are struggling. Many smaller countries are now offering their best graduates at competitive prices. The cycle is complete. The remedy is to put the house in order before it is too late. The educationists, policy
    makers, parents and students have to take a very hard look. The education shops need to shut down. There is an urgent need to
    improve and expand the infrastructure of the country (core sector) that require people who understand engineering and are competent to face the challenge. The answer to unemployment is knowledge resource with cutting edge technology. Artificial intelligence is one of the keys!

    There is acute demand of only the best product. The future is certainly bright for such minds. Only the best will survive.There is acute demand of only the best product. The future is certainly bright for such minds. Only the best will survive.

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    Ashok K. Jain