VICE-PRESIDENT M Venkaiah Naidu’s call for revamping higher education by introducing skill-centric academic courses to make graduates self-employed and job-ready echoes a long-felt need. Addressing the fourth convocation of the National Institute of Technology-Goa recently, he said such courses should meet the skill requirement needs of industries. The nation cannot simply continue to produce lakhs of graduates without basic employability. The 2016 report of job skills credentialing company Aspire Minds states that nearly 80 per cent of engineering graduates in India are not employable. Most of them are forced to take up jobs in non-engineering fields or remain unemployed. The universities must overhaul their syllabi as well as teaching methodologies to make the courses relevant to industries.
The country has seen engineering colleges coming up round every street corner over the decades. Different states saw big expansion of technical education in the late fifties and early sixties and again in the eighties. While the expansion in the fifties was done with the approval of the AICTE (All India Council of Technical Education) and the government of India, the expansion in the eighties was localized. The courses at the localized institutions were primarily in the self-financing sector and did not have the approval of the AICTE and government of India. With no proper supervision, the quality of teaching and other standards in these institutions remained poor. Even otherwise, most Indian universities continue to teach courses which are obsolete. Though the authorities have been calling for changes in the syllabi and teaching process for a long time they have failed to ensure that the required changes in higher education courses were made. The AICTE, the nodal agency responsible for proper planning and coordinated development of the technical education, appears to have failed in ensuring that the courses were upgraded regularly. India is a developing country and needs to keep pace with global changes to compete with other nations. It is necessary that higher education courses are revised regularly and taught innovatively so as to make the youth employable.
The Indian students who went to universities in the US for higher education courses after attaining qualifying education in the country find that the Indian science stream curriculum is tougher as compared to that in the United States. The entrance examination for professional courses in India is considered to be toughest in the world. The Indian students have to work a lot harder than the students in the West for qualifying for technical courses, especially in the elite institutions, like Indian Institute of Technology. The focus of the engineering institutions in the West is to make sure that students have clear understanding of what they have learnt in the classes, whereas Indian technical institutions give more stress in theoretical teaching with less practical training. The students in the West have better access to laboratories and research facilities, which is found to be lacking in Indian institutions. The focus on theoretical teaching in India leads to blurring the fundamental requirements of engineering. Besides, availability of good internship programmes from almost all top companies in the US adds to skill development, making the graduates ready to face practical challenges, whereas most students in India have to be content with theoretical knowledge and very little practical training.
True, India has produced some of the greatest engineers. It is not uncommon for Indian students in the US and European universities to perform better than the resident students and to be hired by top business houses. In the out-migration of talented Indian youth the country has lost some of the best brains. There should be opportunities for them to work in the country. India can help itself by making the higher courses less theoretical to bring them on par with those in the West and laying more stress of practical knowledge. India is trying to take its gross domestic product to a higher growth rate and become the fastest growing economy. Making the technical courses more useful, update, exciting and challenging, would make employers in India seek after them. After getting their degrees, the alumni can set up their own businesses. The country cannot afford to allow its best brains to migrate and let other countries profit from the investments in education of the Indian government. The reforms in courses can also help state governments deal effectively with the son-of-the-soil issue that has plagued the employment scene owing to the industries not getting enough qualified candidates among local youth.