Recently Kishore put up an article on his blog on the need for change in our system and there were a lot of interesting replies to it. Our Deepak Sir too had commented on it. It seems that Deepak Sir too had been having similar ideas and, more importantly, he is involved with the curriculum revision for 2010. Also, he has a very concrete idea about how to bring about these changes into force. Both the article by Kishore and the plan of action of Deepak Sir made very interesting reading.
Its sad that we wont be around to enjoy the benefits of these changes.
After reading the post, I couldn’t help wondering how the system turned out to be as “rotten” as described. Everywhere in India we hear of people always complaining about the “rotten education system” be it at school or college. Why is it is so difficult to get this thing right? After all, it was our culture that gave birth to the Gurukul system that placed such value on wisdom over knowledge. Well, this is one thing that deserves some serious thought.
I believe that maybe some of the blame lies with the students and the society itself. We are a big country and ever year there are around a million students who have engineering ambitions. Now, the real problem lies not with the numbers per se. The point is how many of these million students really are interested in technology and how many are motivated by the easy money alone. After the 10th standard all parents want their kids to be either engineers or doctors. There might be a lot of people with really versatile brains who can do reasonably well at almost anything even if its outside their domain of interest. So, they get top ranks and get into an engineering college. Lets take the example of NITC. My guess is that around 50 per cent of our batch is not interested in engineering and an even higher percent is not interested in electronics.
In such a situation which “system” would be able to deliver optimum results? I dont think such a system exists, ie. one that can make uninterested people discover the joy of learning the operation of a “quadrature oscillator’. Its too much to expect. Now with the increase in the number of seats this problem is going to get even worse. Imagine a class room of 120 students with varying interests forced to learn the same course irrespective of their aptitude, that too just because they thought that the name of their branch sounded cool at the time of admission.
If we are willing to accept the fact that there might not be a prefect system, then we see that there might be a logic behind the present methods. Wherever we look now, we always see that all courses are designed for the average student. In school, we always see that good students never get to explore their true potential while the weak ones are tortured. Its only the average joe who makes optimum use of this period. The merit of this way of imparting knowledge is that it assures a minimum level for all the students who manage to get through it. In engineering colleges, by reducing the number of choices, by conducting frequent exams and by exercising strict control over academics the average performance of the class can be kept at a high level, mass production of engineers becomes possible at low costs and students are prevented from making any obvious mistakes due to their immaturity and temporary laziness.
Its starting to sound good isnt it? But towards the end, its starting to sound like the philosophy of church run colleges. Why is that so? And is freedom a bad thing. Well, that depends, again on the students. If the students are self driven and motivated then freedom will do them good, whereas people who need guidance to keep them from veering of the main track might be adversely affected by it.
So, we see now that it is the quality of the students that give rise to each particular instruction method. We always keep hearing about how the interest in studies was higher among the students of the erstwhile REC. Was the system then better than what we had now? Or was it that, then students who sought admission were motivated by their interest in technology and not just the red-hot job market for engineers?
What is the solution then? Well, i believe that our course, for all the blame it takes is still a reasonably well designed one and there is plenty of time for everything. But there are just so many distractions, it becomes difficult to manage one’s time. If we students take an active interest in our subject and start doing more non-compulsory projects and things like that we might be able to make the whole process a lot more engaging. Already most of our teachers give us free marks for doing extra stuff and there is college funding for really interesting ideas. But no one ever makes use of these.
Is there nothing that needs to change then? Yes. There certainly is. And I believe Deepak Sir’s syllabus is a step in the right direction. Every student who opts for a particular trade should be given a basic course to work with. They can as they learn more about the subject choose to take more specialised courses related to the same field or branch out into other fiels as well. That way, if in the future they decide to take an MBA or something, their overview of various disciplines would stand them in good stead.
This way the advanced classes would be filled with only interested students and that would help the faculty to give academic freedom, design innovative methods of evaluation and focus on lab work as the students can be expected to keep up with the theory.
Lets hope that the rationalization of courses gets completed soon.