Prof. Anil D. Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, AICTE minces no words when he speaks to Careers360 on what needs to be done to put engineering education back on track. Read on to know more what Prof. Anil D. Sahasrabudhe has to say on India’s engineering education.
Careers360: As a regulator, how do you view India’s engineering education in terms of its achievements and challenges?
Prof. Sahasrabudhe: In terms of different types of challenges, one of the biggest challenges was to have more Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), more people to get opportunities, what we call as access and equity. To a great extent, access and equity have been achieved. Now, the main challenge pertains to quality. You must realize that we have such a large number of institutions in our country. Are all of them really delivering quality? We’ve found a large number of them doing well, some are certainly doing very poor, and some are on the borderline. So, we need to have a graded approach.
Institutions that are performing really well should be given more autonomy and we should influence them to do even better. The ones that are on the borderline, should be given a helping hand and also mentorship so that they also cross the barrier and become good institutions and then there are those twenty to twenty-five percent institutes which are not doing well and over the years are not able to succeed. Such institutions should probably wind up.
Careers360: What are your plans as far as promoting those that are doing well are concerned?
Prof. Sahasrabudhe: Couple of initiatives have already started taking movement in that direction. One of them is mandatory accreditation where all colleges have to get accredited by NBA which is in the outcome-based format, unlike in the past which was looking at the inputs like buildings, classrooms and a number of laboratories. AICTE is supporting autonomy and accreditation. So, if everyone starts planning on having their own mission, vision and strategy and start putting in efforts in that direction, quality will naturally improve and this should be reflected in getting good accreditation by these colleges.
AICTE offers lots of incentives in the form of multiple years (5-6 years) of approval for those institutions that are accredited. Thus, they don’t have to apply every year and pay fees. Then, we also fund a large number of R&D projects (Research Promotion Scheme), Modernization and Removal of Obsolescence Scheme, Faculty Development Programmes for which we do funding (Rs. 80-100 crores every year). Such accredited institutes will get priority. We spend another approximately Rs 400 crores on scholarships for students engaged in postgraduate education like M.Tech, M.Pharma. The PhD is mostly Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) in select centres like all IITs, NITs and some good colleges which are recognized as centres for research. Accredited good institutes will also get QIP Centres.
Careers360: Around 8 lakh seats are lying vacant in approved institutions. Do you subscribe to the view that there is an oversupply?
Prof. Sahasrabudhe: Yes, there is an oversupply, otherwise there would not have been so many vacant seats. The number of seats available are in the order of 17-18 lakhs, whereas takers are around 10 lakhs. In fact, in a number of states, the number of students who complete their class 12 science is less in number than the number of engineering seats. Thus, more science education is required. That apart, what is significant is, whoever is coming in should be transformed into productive, good quality engineers. That should be the motive of all these institutions and those who want to do that, all kind of support in terms of skill development would be provided by AICTE, but those who are not willing, should close down. An important thing we would want to start immediately is having mandatory internship. We’ve proposed making internship mandatory which will have credit component plus hands-on experience for the students.
The teachers who join us, only a few of them have their M.Tech or PhD, some are even less qualified but nobody has pedagogical experience. So, we want to evolve a module of 2-3 months’ duration for faculty induction, and unless one qualifies that module, he/she will not become a teacher in an engineering school. So, the way engineering is to be taught and learnt is to be changed with the changing environment. In terms of MOOCs being available, a lot of material being available on the net, how does a faculty prepare himself to teach as it is more of learning now than teaching and how do we make a student learn, be a mentor and facilitator?
Secondly, a lot of changes happen in technology and new inventions are not reflected immediately in the curriculum. So, one part is continuous review of the curriculum; annually or once in at least two years and upgrading that. With teacher training being added in the new curriculum we are looking at in-service training and induction training. We’re thinking of launching this institution at Baroda where Gujarat government is willing to give land. It will offer training programmes round-the-year.
The curriculum revision should be done regularly; both by the faculty of the institution, experts from institutes of excellence, industry and alumni together. Thereby, whatever is latest in the field will come into the curriculum and in turn, students will benefit. We are also putting in induction training for students in their first year, helping them overcome language barrier, communication skills, fundamentals in sciences and maths, creating a level playing field for all entrants.
Careers360: Is AICTE planning to put in place a structure where this will happen or will it be left to the institutes individually?
Prof. Sahasrabudhe: No, we are trying to develop a structure on which a lot of brainstorming is going on. We will come up with a system which states when and what exactly should be done. We have got sub-committees for different disciplines and all committees will give a model curricula. However, since ‘one cap fits all’ is not possible, around 70 to 80 percent of the curriculum should be the one designed as the model curriculum by AICTE and one has a flexibility for the remaining 20-30 percent of the curriculum They can design a curriculum suiting the vision of the institute. It may be based on local needs; or you may have your own vision of creating global engineers.
Careers360: AICTE came up with Srikrishna Commission Report which gave institutions a certain fee structure and so forth. What is your take on this as different states have different approaches?
Prof. Sahasrabudhe: Upper limit is defined by Justice Srikrishna Committee Report which is very reasonable in terms of the amount that is required for training to create good engineers. Now, each State has its own flexibility through State fee regulatory committee because education comes under Concurrent list. So, each of the States has its own regulatory authority that must look at this report and create a fee structure which is tenable to give good facilities to students, salaries to the faculty and good quality education etc.
One of our significant initiatives is Smart India Hackathon wherein 29 government departments gave 598 problem-statements. These were given as a challenge to our young students asking them to form a team of 6 out in which there should be at least a minimum of one girl student. Such 7,551 teams gave their ideas for solving those problems. 1268 teams have been shortlisted and all of them are now called to 26 different cities in centres to have a 36-hour non-stop hackathon for providing solution to the problem by coding or creating a software or a mobile app. So, different government department problems are solved by our young engineers. They will get first-hand live problems; they will have the ability to solve those problems. In the process, they will work in teams involving gender diversity, team work, and time management. They will be required to have communication skills otherwise they will not be able to solve them.
After that, we will attach them with corresponding ministry to find further improvement in that solution and adopt it. Some of them will become entrepreneurs and can go for their own start-ups. Each ministry’s best solution will get first prize of Rs.1 lakh, second would get Rs. 75,000 and third will get Rs. 50,000. So, the students would be immensely motivated and happy since they are contributing in solving our nation’s problems. In every participating college there is a buzz of activity (around 400-500 students are active). Second initiative is MOOCs ‘Swayam’ portal, where more than 300 courses are already available for anyone to take from any location and any device. This is changing the way of learning.
Careers360: You said there will be 20 to 25 percent of weaning out of inefficient institution. Is there any plan, or any norm to evaluate them?
Prof. Sahasrabudhe: We’ve already indicated those colleges where less than 30 percent of admissions have taken place in consecutive five years, we’ll ask them to close down. This is an advance warning which will be in effect from next year. This is part of the approval process handbook. Other plans are also in place.
We also encourage colleges to start skill development programmes under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana since they already have the infrastructure, lab and workshop set-up and the classrooms. They should make use of this facility as they are not getting enough engineering students. They should use it for skill development which is also the dire need of the country.
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