Sunday, 16 December 2012

The State of Engineering Education in India

A recent survey has concluded that more than 75% of the engineers graduating from a myriad of technical institutes, engineering colleges and deemed universities are not employable. This claim has been contested, quite understandably so, by the Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education. The Chairman, AICTE says that the NASSCOM survey is misleading and if more than 75% were really unemployable than there would have been a massive unrest on the streets. He, however, concedes that the majority of engineering graduates are underemployed. Of course they are underemployed, Mr. Chairman! One doesn't really need an engineering degree for tele-marketing which is more or less what the work in call centers involves. I am right now looking at a few graduate engineers from CSE/IT background who have no idea of algorithms and can't write a decent piece of functional code for Gaussian elimination! Another post-graduate in Electronics and Communications has no clue about the sampling theorem! No wonder then that the industry finds such engineers unemployable. Naturally, these people are content with desktop publishing/data entry jobs for a "salary" of Rs. 10000/- per month.

Most of the young graduates have only one immediate aim: secure a job and support the family to climb the social ladder. Unfortunately, it is extremely demoralizing for the youth to find the hard way that the promised job security of an engineering degree is a myth. The mad rush for engineering degrees has led to mushrooming of technical institutes of dubious quality often run by fly by night operators. Many parents send their ward to study engineering in these institutes after payment of hefty fees which often eats into their savings of lifetime. These parents are taken in by the claims of 100% placement of graduating students in reputed companies. What they don't realize that a majority of these "hired" graduates are soon fired following a dismal performance in the in-house test after the induction programme in the firms that these unsuspecting souls join. This failure statistic does not make it to any advertisement brochure: for a failure is orphan. These fired graduate engineers then take up jobs as desktop operators, etc. merely to avoid the social stigma attached with a jobless engineer. How long can this continue? Had it not been for the BPO industry, we would have had a massive unrest on the streets. And I am not even referring to the unhealthy work hours of the so-called graveyard shift and its long-term impact on the social fabric. A song by Gulzar in his 1971 film "Mere Apne" succinctly captures the emotion:

"Haal-chaal theek thaak hai
Sab kuchchh theek thak hai
BA kiya hai, MA kiya
Lagta hai woh bhi ainvey kiya
Bas kaam nahi hai baki sab theek thaak hai!"

In 1970s, there was a proliferation of graduates and post-graduates thanks to the state funded cheap college education. But these degrees were not even worth the cost of paper on which those were printed as far as their job potential was concerned. The situation today is similar, except that we may now replace BA and MA with B.Tech. and M.Tech., respectively. However, these professional qualifications come at a price: often a lifetime's savings of ambitious parents. It is nothing short of a calamity for a parent to discover after spending his hard earned money to buy a professional degree for his ward that it has no market value. This simmering discontent is a time-bomb waiting to explode unless urgent corrective steps are taken by the powers that be. It is not that the decision makers are not aware of the problem. The Minister for Human Resource Development is on record saying that about 90% of the privately funded universities do not meet the basic requirements for a university (albeit this was in reference to non-technical courses). 

Yet another study has claimed that in 2012 the arts and science graduates were offered more jobs than engineering graduates. May be this is a good trend as it will prevent a mad rush for cheap (not inexpensive!) engineering degrees on offer and only those with an aptitude for engineering will opt for a rigorous programme.