Thursday, March 23, 2006

India needs more engineers

I still vaguely remember an incident 6 years ago in Sep 2000. That time, when we just joined our engineering program, our college management announcd the decision to add self-financed programs in addition to our govt. funded program. That would almost triple the number of professional degrees generated by the college. This brought a natural agitation to us. People were worried about the future job prospects and fact that the competition of 3X engineers from our own college would be a dog-eat-dog contest. On a friday, when we attended a Chemistry lab session, the lab incharge passionately argued against such an intake and this agitated even more. We feared the reduce in prestige of the engineering degree (the once prestigious degree from respected instutions became a degree 'suitable for blind donkeys that requires lesser eligibility than a liberal arts program' - as put by one of my Physics professors).We discussed in detail in our hostels on the weekend and some of the students even suggested in going on a signature campaign to protest such a move. Fortunately, we didnt go against the move.

Now I realize how stupid those agitations and repulsion were. Reports after report indicate the lack of good engineers produced by our system. We once belived that a dozen engineering institutions per state could produce for all of its wants. Alas, we underestimated the great potential of this magic country. We require so many engineers that many corporations have started complaning about the lack of engineers in India. One of our biggest problems is that we produce so many of the bland liberal arts degrees, which dont satisfy anything for neither the students or the economy. The BA in history, economics, psychology produced by the chunk of arts colleges in India dont do any justice to those people nor to the fields they study. In spite of producing millions of BAs in history to economics to literature to (any arts field), we dont have many historians or economists ... of international repute. Our first job is to transform many of them into worthy programs that do justice to the field.

If they produce historians they should challenge great historical inconsistencies. If they study economics they should produce great economical theories. Without that, they may as well learn skills required for the IT or BPO industries. I recall a Tirukural quote,

"Thondrin Pughazhodu Thonruga, Agdilar
Thondarlin Thondramai Nanru"

If you are to rise, Rise with pride and popularity, otherwise it is better for you to not rise at all.

Thus, now India's main objective is to focus on core fields. We need to produce core science, art and social instutions, like we produced for technology (IIT) and management (IIMs). They should bring a fire brand of physicsts, historians, economists, litrarians.... Whatever field that we take up, we should produce extremely quality students in it.

Next step is to remove the "Also Ran" category. So many of the govt. liberal arts institutions and engineering colleges can be put in the junk category. Like Thiruvaluvar's quote, it is better not to have such institutions at all.

Once, we identified and builtup the best institutions for each field, we should find professional programs for the rest of the students. For now, we can have degrees more related to IT-ITES categories. If the students are more motivated, they can always switch to more important fields.

The main problem for us is not unemployment, but unemployablement. We seriously need to produce more quality students in greater quantity.

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