Counter View: Why AICTE's Changes Should Be Given A Chance

by Dr Abhay Jere - Mar 21, 2021 04:44 PM +05:30 IST
Counter View: Why AICTE's Changes Should Be Given A ChanceA representative image
  • AICTE has not removed Math from the engineering curriculum, which clearly means that students can only become engineers if they pass Math.

    Unfortunately, till date, we were focusing more on input but moving forward, if AICTE has decided to focus on quality of output and outcome, it is a very welcome change.

Last week, AICTE announced some bold and progressive measures by changing the entry criteria for students keen on pursuing engineering and technology education.

They proposed widening the array of choice of subjects by including subjects like Computer Science, Electronics, Information Technology, Biology, Informatics Practices, Biotechnology, Technical Vocational Subjects, Agriculture, etc. apart from conventional subjects like Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry.

This generated huge fervour on social media and across the country.

Hence, I chose to write this article and impress upon all stakeholders that this bold step by AICTE will certainly have a very positive impact on engineering and technical education.

As many of you might be aware, in the New Education Policy (NEP 2020), we are committed to breaking rigid silos between different streams and allowing students to pick subjects based on their liking, inclination and aptitude.

So now, we are talking about allowing students doing technology to also pursue music or sociology or psychology, among others, simultaneously and vice-versa.

Internationally, similar models do exist and we should take cognisance of them.

For example, since the last 30 years, Boston University is conducting LEAP (the Late Entry Accelerated Program) for students with non-engineering backgrounds so they can obtain a master’s degree in engineering.

LEAP students have undergraduate degrees in diverse fields including business, education, English, fine arts, music, natural sciences and psychology.

Engineering School at UC Berkeley, USA, offers ‘The Pre-Engineering Program (PREP)’ for incoming Berkeley Engineering students.

PREP continues throughout the year with workshops and events. The PREP course is highly recommended for students with non-traditional engineering backgrounds.

Another example is the University of Sussex, UK, which has even started offering Masters courses in robotics, driverless vehicles and wearable technology, for students who have not previously studied engineering.

Even New York University's (NYU) Tandon Engineering School offering bridge courses to prepare students without technical backgrounds to become eligible to apply to STEM Master’s degree programs is noteworthy.

The College of Engineering of Northeastern University offers bridge courses to engineering MS degree programmes that provide pathways for Master of Science (MS) degree programmes in engineering, specifically designed for students with bachelor’s degrees in non-STEM fields.

Even Case School of Engineering (Case Western Reserve University) encourages students with non-STEM backgrounds to pursue degree and master programs in engineering.

Considering many such globally successful examples, and if we truly wish to achieve the objective of flexibility as per the New Education Policy, we need to make our entry criteria very flexible.

However, the current hard boundaries (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics) imposed for entry into engineering courses could be a major impediment. Many of our readers might not be aware that historically, AICTE was even more rigid in terms of entry level qualifications.

In early years, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics were compulsory for pursuing education in Engineering, but later, it was observed that in circuit branches like Computer Science, application of Chemistry was minimal, and hence, since 2010, AICTE removed the compulsion of Chemistry.

To make my point clearer, let me further elaborate. If a student doesn’t have Math or Physics in 12th Standard, but still wants to pursue engineering and technology, then AICTE has clearly stated that such students will be expected to learn the required subjects by taking additional courses or 'bridge courses' during the first or second years.

Moreover, first and second years of conventional engineering courses have Math as a separate subject, which students need to pass.

AICTE has not removed Math from the engineering curriculum, which clearly means that students can only become engineers if they pass Math.

Unfortunately, till date, we were focusing more on input but moving forward, if AICTE has decided to focus on quality of output and outcome, it is a very welcome change.

Another reason that excites me about AICTE’s decision is that, in the long run, I believe it will further boost the spirit of ideation and innovation on campus.

Usually, innovations are more likely at the interface of two or more fields, so we need to encourage youngsters from diverse backgrounds to engage in technology and promote them to innovate, build enterprises and create a global impact.

Unfortunately, currently, the Innovation Quotient of our technical institutions is quite low and I believe we need to train our students more in problem-solving and design-thinking.

In my observation, students memorise theories, but if asked to apply them in solving real-life challenges, they falter.

Our education system needs to be more experiential and assignment- based and we need to establish evaluation systems capable of grading students on their abilities to solve problems.

Then only, will we produce quality engineers and technocrats capable of positively contributing to science, economy and society.

To conclude, I wish to once again congratulate AICTE for taking a bold step and trying to change the status-quo. However, I will also request them to not just stop here, but make further reforms in course content, structure and examination parameters, so we can have top-class engineers and technologists graduating from our education institutions.

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