Is Engineering, Management Education Made Dull by Too Much Theory?
Seven decades after Independence, most schools and colleges in India still focus on rote learning, memorisation with a little or no emphasis on practical side of science and technology. The obsession with marks has not ended even with the introduction of grading system, according to a group of students and teachers who participated in the 48th Rajagiri Roundtable on the topic 'Changing Needs of Education.'
Megha Mary Biju, a student of Muthoot Engineering College, said that rote learning is given more weightage in the credit and semester system with theory given more empahsis than practicals. She said that role of the teacher is also changing from just imparting knowledge and information; they should be able to facilitate students to go that extra mile. Jesudas Damasie, another student was of the view that students were learning a lot about the the theory behind AC and DC machines but not how to apply this in an industry setting. The application part of the technology is not taught in the curriculum. Internships can provide a lot of exposure to real time environments and indepth learning is required of students, he added. The curriculum should be broad based so that every student gets sufficient exposure in all subjects.
Biju Vithayathil, Director of Amity University pointed out that our engineering syllabus was outdated as his daughter studying in Government Engineering College was learning about the same 8085 microprocessor which he learnt long back and which is not in use at all. "Recalling my childhood days, I wanted to be an engineer even as early as in 4th or 5th standard. I was thrilled how one day I may be learning about diesel engines, aircrafts, rockets, computers. However, in engineering college we were mostly learning engineering mathematics, physics and chemistry in the first year which didn't seem to have any connect with engineering applications."
Dr Raman Nair, former Dean of SCMS, Kalamassery pointed out that teachers are afraid of new systems, new technologies. Unless the faculty is able to absorb the new trends and technologies, the quality of education will not improve. The whole eco system has to change and mere introduction of a new syllabus will not help, he added.
Amala Menon, a student of computer science at RSET wondered whether all the theory that she learns in college can be used in the industry or while taking up ajob. "We learn Java and other programs on a theoretical basis but not understanding how it can be used to create an app. We need to make the system more practical, more application oriented."
However, Dr Raman Nair was of the view that practical application can be found for every theory learnt in the book while every practical excercise you do on lab will have a theoretical foundation. So both are complementary not competitive. Ananthu T Mani, anengineering student, was of te view that all theory learning should move to the lab. "Whether it is machines, electrical, electronic systems, DC, AC motors or pumps, show us how it works in the lab." Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor of Engineering at RSET pointed out that what you learn in the lab or classroom are concepts that help you to apply those in an industry setting.
The subject experts in the Roundtable were Dr K Poulose Jacob, Former Vice Chancellor of Cochin University, Mr Biju Vithayathil, Director of Amity University and Dr S Muraledharan, former Associate Professor of Economics, Maharaja's College, Ernakulam. Other distinguished participants were renowned writer K L Mohanavarma, Dr PR Poduval, former Director of School of Management Studies, CUSAT, Philip Daniel, Managing Director of Best Talent Consultants, Dr Job Kuruvila, Dr Varghese S Chooralil, Asst Professor of Computer Science at RSET. Renowned journalist and Editor of Pallikkutam Magazine, R Ramabhadran Pillai made the opening remarks and moderated the 2-hour session.
(The Rajagiri Roundtable is held on second Wednesday of every month either in Rajagiri Engineering College or in select campuses in Ernakulam district. The full report of the 48th Roundatable with photos will be published in Pallikkutam Magazine, June 2019 issue)