Trends & issues of 2017

Trends & issues of 2017

Exciting developments that have marked the year point at how we are evolving into a new world of artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and big data. It is generating curiosity, throwing up new challenges, and at the same time confusing students more with the problem of plenty. What has not happened is sufficient awareness and clarity on what these developments entail and how the coming years will unfold. Another aspect that is slowly being taken cognizance of by our educators is that however fast technology develops, life skills will need to be given more importance in order to ensure the holistic growth of students.

Changes in the making

Keeping in mind the holistic development of students, a number of changes have taken place or have been announced this year. Here's a look at some of them:

* Liberal Arts and Management, which was introduced more than a decade ago, has been steadily picking up in demand. Today, there are many universities and colleges offering degree courses in Liberal Arts Education.

* The NEET exam settled down this year after a few hiccups in the last two years, and most students found that merit played a big role in getting a seat in medical colleges. Encouraged by this, the Government of India has taken an in-principle decision to make Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) compulsory for entry into any engineering college in the country - but when this will be implemented is yet to be seen.

Also, the government plans to hold JEE twice a year, reducing exam tension on students. Similarly, efforts are on to create a centralised National Testing Agency that will also change the admission system for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). So, those spending too much time, money and effort preparing for IIT entrance in the years to come need to be aware that there may be a change in the exam process.

* The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has been proactive this year, doing serious introspection on their syllabus and exam systems, and coming up with some changes. They have announced that students appearing for the Class X board exams from next year will have to study six subjects instead of five, with
the CBSE remodelling its assessment scheme. They may introduce a vocational subject with an aim to help students become industry-ready. There will be 13 options to choose from for students as the sixth subject.

* Future of Engineers: The All India Council For Technical Education (AICTE) has announced that more than 60% of the eight lakh engineers graduating from technical institutions across the country every year remain unemployed.

Their survey also showed that less than 1% of engineering students participate in summer internships, and that just 15% of engineering programmes offered by over 3,200 institutions are accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA). Before you seek admission in an engineering college, do check out whether it is accredited by NBA. It may become compulsory for engineering students to undergo an internship for a period of four to eight weeks.

The government is also likely to bring in a revised system of testing the understanding of concepts and skills, rather than just the subject knowledge.

* The good news is that those who are adapting to new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and automation may find very lucrative careers. Those who do not adapt may be in serious trouble. Former US chief data scientist D J Patil expressed concern over the impact of AI and automation on the jobs in India. He said in India, though there were large IT players, certain types of coding jobs were specially developed towards software testing or heavily around small, added features such as upgrading. "I am very concerned that those are the jobs that are going to be replaced by automated processes," he said.

Patil advised young professionals to prepare and train themselves in new technologies in areas such as AI and cybersecurity. The impact of automation is not just limited to the country's IT industry but other areas such as agriculture as well.

New avenues

Many interesting careers have come up for those looking beyond the routine. If students and parents become aware of these alternatives, they need not fear the reduction of 'scope' in traditional careers. Here are a few that have been announced this year:  

* National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru has launched a fellowship programme for SSLC and Class 12 students. This includes a Rs 50,000 scholarship and mentoring from experts for five years.

* Niti Aayog, the highest planning body of India, has recommended that foreign universities should be allowed to set up campuses in India, and the Prime Minister's office has already given its clearance for this proposal.  

* Harvard University, USA launched the 'Young Scientist Development' course in collaboration with Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Bengaluru, in India. As part of the programme, 25 engineering students were selected from across the country and given a two-week residential training at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru. During the course, the students were introduced to neurosciences and how they can apply their engineering skills in the field.

And finally, a word of caution to those who get swept off their feet when some seemingly exciting untested opportunities come on the horizon. More than 200 start-ups closed down this year, compared to about 150 in the previous year. Mohan Kumar, executive director of Northwest Venture Partners India, said, "When you look at the ecosystem, not more than 20% of the start-ups succeed. Two to three years after a start-up's inception is the time when you see high mortality. There is too much competition, and only a few survive."

The key to success, as proven this year, is to keep eyes and ears open to different promising opportunities, but only after whetting them properly, taking expert advice, and checking out one's aptitude for the career.

Top courses

* Biomedical engineering

* Occupational therapy

* Structural engineering

* Web development

* Translation and/or interpretation

* Computer science and mathematics


Top careers

* Growth hacking

* Social media management

* Digital marketing

* Psychiatry

* Chartered Accountancy

* Business Analysis


Top Apps

* Gradeproof: While writing assignments, GradeProof's AI helps students improve their style, check for originality and identify complex grammatical issues that may be missed.

* Brainscape: This app helps you increase your learning speed by using flashcards.  

* Unacademy Learning App: This app has over 2,000 online lessons and specialised courses on cracking various competitive examinations.  

* Lifeliqe: This app is a digital science curriculum platform that engages students with interactive
3D models.

* TED: The TED app lets you peruse the entire library of over 1,700 TED Talks videos. These introduce students to intriguing ideas from various fields.

* Khan Academy: Khan Academy provides more than 4,000 free downloadable videos in various subjects like Maths and Science.

(The author is founder and chairman, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)

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