With the announcement by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) that the study of mathematics and physics in Class XII is no longer compulsory for attending BE and BTech courses, the focus seems again to be on the flexibility of engineering courses . Although the AICTE announcement may have come from the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which emphasizes interdisciplinary and holistic training with subject flexibility, a revision of the technical curriculum has long been the subject of discussions among academics and industry leaders. The aim is to create innovative and work-ready students who are in sync with real world problems.
For example, at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi, students go through what Director V Ramgopal Rao calls immersion programs, where they connect with the villagers and farmers to work for mutual benefit. “Since engineering is all about finding sustainable solutions, it doesn’t help students to limit themselves to straitjacket learning modes.”
The institute’s multidisciplinary approach is evident in its School of Public Policy, which enables engineers to work closely with policy experts and to solve a problem holistically. A design department has also been set up to allow students with no mathematical, physical or chemical background. “We create an environment in which design students can work in synergy with engineers and design products of the future that are aesthetically pleasing and functionally superior,” says Rao.
Technical institutes should sensitize their students to larger socio-economic, human and environmental issues. Consistent with this view, IIT Delhi has strengthened the Humanities and Social Sciences Department with more faculties and new Masters degrees and introduced courses in economics to help aspiring engineers with entrepreneurial skills.
Animesh Biswas, director of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Rourkela, says technical institutes need to train their faculty / teachers as needed while focusing on technical knowledge and a liberalized approach.
The NIT Rourkela has already started with the diversity of the technical curriculum as there are smaller degrees / subjects so that students have the opportunity to choose subjects from other departments including the science subjects. “Our curriculum is designed so that a student can also take professional elective courses from other departments, including NPTEL / Swayam courses for which credits are accepted,” adds Biswas.
He stressed the need for engineers as well as a good knowledge of economics, health, human resources, management, literature, psychology, leadership, etc. and announced that the institute had 20 departments in which one or more such courses were already being conducted. “What we need is more collaboration, support and a flexible curriculum to solve real-world problems.”
Fusion of technical training with social sciences
“Research and case studies have shown that engineering college graduates have good technical skills but perform poorly on 21st century skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. The new education policy modules are designed to fill this gap and provide students with the skills they need to increase their chances of employment, ”says Shekhar Bhattacharjee, Founder of Dalham Learning.
He believes that some of the greatest engineering success stories come from non-STEM fields. “For the longest time in the country, the rigid modules in engineering kept students from understanding the ‘why’ of engineering. They were only taught the “how” of engineering, which led to the creation of human bots that focused only on getting a specific job done. ”
Indian engineering students may be good employees, but they rarely make good leaders, says Bhattacharjee. Non-STEM graduates, however, have the subjects that delve deep into human development. “A perfect integration of technical education and social sciences can be achieved if we allow students to choose subjects that suit their interests and acumen,” he adds.
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