Mon, 15 Jul, 2019

More ‘shops’ closing

Off late, nearly 200 ‘substandard’ engineering colleges close down each year of which nearly half close voluntarily due to AICTE rules

Story: Dr. | Manasvi | 20th September 2018, 03:54 Hrs

There were around 80,000 less engineering seats offered in India this year with many engineering colleges closing, and this is not a surprise. The AICTE has officially approved the progressive closure of around 500 colleges in the last five years across the country. Off late, nearly 200 ‘substandard’ engineering colleges close down each year of which nearly half close voluntarily due to AICTE rules that the colleges that lack proper infrastructure and those with less than 30 % admissions for five consecutive years have to close. These closures have led to around 3.25 lakh less engineering seats in India compared to previous five years, from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

The technical education sector in the country had witnessed an unprecedented mushrooming of engineering colleges in last 15-20 years. The high demand for engineering seats lured lot of pseudo edu-entrepreneurs to milk the cash cow. The concept of ‘management quota’ and ‘paid/donation/NRI seats’ incentivised many capitalists to be educationists overnight. 

Around this time many ‘fake’ colleges propped up to conduct courses without AICTE approval. 

While engineering education was being delivered en masse by these ‘shops’ increased the enrollment rate in technical education, quality received a severe blow. Most of the ‘shops’ closed as students shunned them for not providing good quality education due to unqualified staff, ill-equipped labs and for lack of bare minimum infrastructure. More seats remained vacant in colleges located far from the city making students opt for those which were easily accessible. Since rural colleges face difficulties in building relationships with the industry it becomes difficult for deserving students get placed. As a result, placements suffer and consequently the enrollment.

Many colleges that closed failed to understand that absence of good teachers and wrong teaching methods lead to poor satisfaction among students. Many colleges failed to attract, invest and retain good faculty. Unqualified teachers were appointed for a paltry sum and even the ‘reputed’ colleges followed suit. 

Recently it was reported that the Sinhgad Technical Education Society paid their faculties partial salaries from October 2016 to September 2017 while the salaries for the later periods were left unpaid until the 3000 odd faculty raised a mass stir. The teaching and non-teaching staff of 22 engineering colleges belonging to this society had to fight with the college management until they were finally settled in August this year. A live example of how worst things could be.

The other main reason for students increasingly not opting engineering leading to their shutdown is the growing perception that there are no good jobs for engineers. It is sad to note that even in States boasting strong industrial base and higher manufacturing like Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu there have been few takers for engineering courses. The reasons partly point out to absence of technical jobs in the economy. 

The labour bureau data in India shows that job creation could be at the lowest in the last 3-4 out of the past eight years. As per the widely reported survey conducted in over 200 cities by citizen engagement platform LocalCircle, about 63 % of the respondents felt that he government’s efforts have failed to bring down unemployment and there was reduction in technical employment. It’s really unfortunate to note from AICTE data that only less than half engineering graduates got jobs through campus placement out of nearly eight lakh BE/BTech students that passed last year.

Though MHRD has planned a model curriculum and rolled out a single national entrance exam, the issue of low employability of engineering graduates except those from prestigious institutes is a matter of concern. Recently, a study conducted by Stanford University and World Bank on learning outcome assessment of undergraduate engineering students found that the Russian and Chinese engineering students are far better than those in India. It was reported that though Indian students make substantial gains in maths and critical thinking skills in the first two years of their education compared to their counterparts, their overall higher-order thinking skills are substantially lower than the Chinese and Russians. This calls for a serious thinking.

Relaxing its own rule the AICTE this year allowed private engineering colleges with less than 30% enrolment in any course to reduce their capacity by half next year, to escape closing down. The other thing which the AICTE did was merging institutes with vacancies over 50 %. However if the number of intake continues to fall in future such colleges would have no option other than closure. It’s time that we allow more of new and emerging areas like genetic, space, robotic, and medical engineering to be offered as they may be preferred with a perception of better job prospects over another. Students practically think more of the long-term relevance of the branch they choose and are currently more inevitably disappointed with certain branches like pharmaceutical, mining, printing, instrumentation, industrial and ceramic engineering for not faring well in the job market.

All of the above points to restructuring and revamping technical education by offering some innovation. The evidence that more ‘shops’ are closing may bring temporary cheer as the inefficient ones are off the system, but this is also a clarion call. A call to improve the quality of engineering education and deliver the tall promises the engineering colleges make to students during admissions.

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