It’s not always about tech 

It’s not always about tech 

Today, India is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Technology has a foothold across all industries including crucial infrastructure sectors. This has pushed forward engineering and technical education over the last few years.

In global perspective, it is important to ask if the world seriously needs so many engineers and scientists. The answer is probably ‘Yes’. The world needs lot many well-equipped, technically skilled graduates. There are and there will be numerous job opportunities for those who have the potential. In addition, opportunities for self-employment are also immense especially for those who have innovative and energetic mindset.

Engineers must be well-equipped to deal with real-life problems, a trait that’s missing because computer simulated problems are all that the youth encounter these days. Numerous young people nowadays don’t realise the impact of practical consideration. Later, when they become experts, they either design low-grade products or over-engineered ones. While it is good to have an engineer who can work on comprehensive problems, it is preferable to meet someone who sees developing and underdeveloped countries as a part of the world.

What’s to be taught

To deal with this unfilled space between requirement and ground reality, we need a completely new syllabus that syncs with the future needs to help students hook up to the society, recognise realistic considerations, promote creativity, innovation and hands-on work.

Courses must contain laboratory projects and term papers. Preferably, labs can help prepare students in skills such as managing software and tools. It can also persuade students’ creativity and help them put it to use later in life. Studies have revealed that there is a complete lack of subjects that bring about a habit of learning on one’s own and that help in improving communication skills. It is also important for us to start preparing students in a way that they are able to relate to the world around them. 

To understand the craft of problem- solving, one doesn’t need to move too far from the campus. On-campus problems, such as availability of water, power and communication, may be worked upon to begin with. For instance, students can develop software programmes to automate administration processes within a campus. Interesting projects, such as rainwater harvesting or establishing wireless links between buildings are educative, challenging and productive. 

Include liberal arts

Courses pertaining to liberal arts should be encouraged in colleges and universities, as they train students to work in teams that are diverse, this adds to global interaction. To focus on usability, it is essential that we bring in a course on design, which was used as a part of the programme a few years ago. But, due to the shortage of teachers across the country, the course was removed. Now, there is enough material available online and in books. If any interested faculty member takes up this initiative, it can really be helpful to enhance creativity and innovative capabilities of students.

A basic feature of understanding the fundamentals of a substitution is economics. Engineers need to appreciate business. Therefore, a fundamental course must be accessible to them as an obligatory agenda. 

That said, the only reason for learning is not restricted to problem solving. At times, it is about accepting the fact that problems exists. When a scholar works with a neighbourhood outside the campus, she realises that an engineer’s job does not stop with just technology, it also engages people. A vital part of an engineer’s job is to recognise trade-offs and find out solutions with the best cost-benefit ratio that promotes neighbourhood. If you ask a student to create a website, she could almost certainly use all the latest tools to design a splendid one.

In the real world, however, there will be resource constraints and that would be a challenge for her to use the assets and create the best product. Therefore, students need to be taught to work with limited resources. 

It is also important to understand that an engineer be aware of the language of other disciplines. It should be feasible for a team consisting of people from different disciplines to work together to solve problems. To become a truly global engineer or employee, a student must be confident to study a minor stream with her major. For instance, a student of computer science, simultaneously, can complete a course in electrical or mechanical engineering.

Society, nowadays, looks at its engineers as not just job-seekers, but creators, too. So, engineers need to understand product design, economics and business. A long list of demands possibly, but all these could make an engineer an inclusive citizen. 

(The author is with Manav Rachna University, Faridabad)

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