Engineering Education in India: Reality vs Myths

Engineering Education in India: Reality vs Myths

Engineering is undoubtedly the most sought after career option in India. India prides itself on the fact that the country has one of the largest pools of engineers all over the world. These engineering graduates work across several domains and industries, handling a huge range of operations from development and production to quality check and distribution. From banks to production houses and automobile giants to IT firms – engineers are required in every sphere and industry.

Being one of the largest suppliers of engineers in the world, India’s engineering education should be at par with the global standards as well as the requirements of the industries. As global industries are involved, it is important to understand engineering education in India and its significance.

An Overview of the current scenario

Having established the first engineering training center in the year 1847, India has come a long way and currently has over 10,500 engineering institutes. With 16 IITs, 31 NITs, 23 IIITs and other institutes, India is currently producing more than 1.5 million engineers every year, with the number of graduating engineers increasing every year.

The admission into these colleges and institutes takes place through entrance examinations. JEE Main happens to be the most popular engineering entrance exam in the country, with over 1.2 million students appearing for it every year. Apart from JEE Mains & JEE Advanced, there are several other state level as well as privately conducted entrance examinations. The score of these entrance examinations and marks secured in Class XII help students seek admission in an institute of their choice. 

The standard engineering program is a 4-year course divided into 8 semesters. In the first two semesters, students are taught common subjects like advanced mathematics, fundamentals of computers, basic principles of electrical science, etc. In the semesters to follow, students are imparted knowledge specific to their chosen stream. After graduating and completing the 4-year course, students obtain their B.Tech/ B.E. degree. 

Even though there are several engineering streams being taught in these institutes, there are some which are widely pursued and respected. The most common and widely pursued engineering streams are – 

  1. Computer Science – Covering all aspects of computer fundamentals, software, hardware, networking, artificial intelligence, data science, and much more. 
  2. Mechanical Engineering – Learning the design, analysis, and maintenance of simple as well as complex mechanical systems. 
  3. Civil Engineering – It involves learning about the construction fundamentals, design principles and maintenance of structures such as buildings, bridges, etc. 
  4. Electrical Engineering – Study, design, and application of all devices that use electricity and electromagnetism. 
  5. Electronics Engineering – Utilizing electrical components to design circuits, build devices, and VLSI systems.    
  6. Chemical Engineering – Involves studying chemicals and physical principles that help transform energy and materials. 
  7. Aeronautical Engineering – Studying design and development of modern aircraft as well as spacecraft. 
  8. Biotechnology – Combining the principles of Biology and Technology, it involves studying living organisms to improve products. 

At present, there are over 3 million students in only five of the most popular streams in engineering, as per a recent study conducted by Statista.

Biggest myths about engineering education in India

Being one of the most popular career options for students all over the country, Engineering also happens to be the most talked-about career option. When people discuss, they come across various views and notions – some of which are true whereas others, just myths. Here are some of the most common myths about engineering education in India – 

  1. Engineering does not involve creativity

This had to be one of the funniest ones out there – there is no creativity in engineering. In fact, engineering is one of the most creative pursuits where you brainstorm and think out of the box to provide efficient solutions to the problems. People believe that engineers work with a serious expression at all times and do not get to think before they do something as they stick to traditional practices. The reality, however, is far from this – engineers think innovatively how to use technology or new methods to provide better and more effective solutions. 

2. An engineering degree = high pay

After reading about the pay packages being received by graduates from IITs and NITs, many people tend to believe that engineering will get them a great job right away. But here’s the truth – apart from the top tier colleges, only a few institutes are able to expose you to high paying recruiters. Not every company out there is ready to shell out seven-figure or a handsome six-figure annual package. Even if the engineers are talented, they do not get the right opportunity sometimes and are left with no other option than to choose the average or below average jobs. From the high paying machine learning and data science roles to BPOs – engineers take up all types of job roles in the industry. 

3. Getting a job is easy for engineers

That is perhaps the biggest myth about engineering and engineering education in India.- getting a job is not easy for engineers. In fact, with the growing number of engineers graduating every year, engineers have to face tough competition in order to get a job that pays decently. Whether it is mechanical engineers struggling to avoid taking up a role in an IT firm or electrical engineers trying to avoid BPO jobs – the struggle for getting a job in the same industry and for the same stream is quite tough. 

However, engineering students who work really hard, leave no stone unturned, and are always learning new things to keep themselves updated find it a lot easier to secure a well-paying job right after their graduation. 

4. There will be no jobs for engineers in the future

Quite untrue – engineers are needed in every industry. Whether it is the production of goods, development of software, a construction project, or designing a new aircraft- every industry is in need of engineers and therefore, engineers will always find jobs if they are skilled enough. 

And that is not all – some say engineering is just meant for boys or that a post-graduation is absolutely necessary to get a job as an engineer. These obviously like others, are untrue. 

The Industry Perception

Even though there are more than 50 elite engineering schools in India that produce over 15000 finest engineers every year, the industry’s perception towards engineering and engineering education in India is quite different from what you might be thinking. There are several companies that are reluctant to hire fresher engineers, the major reason being the skill gap. 

As per a recent study conducted by Aspiring Minds in 2019, it was revealed that over 80% of the Indian engineers lack the skill and knowledge to take up any qualified role in the economy. For example, only 2.5% of the engineers were skilled in AI and its fundamentals, which in fact is one of the most in-demand skills nowadays. 

As per some of the top management and recruitment experts, engineers today have become more of executioners – no more than an added tool resource to the organization. What they do not get to see is the combination of practical knowledge, conceptual command, communication, and understanding of culture rolled into one. In other words, the industry is on the lookout for work-ready graduates and does not want to spend unnecessary resources in trying to bridge the ‘gap’ found in today’s engineers. 

Understanding the gap

The recent few years have been witness to several unprecedented restructuring in the industries. Emerging globalization and the enhanced competition at an international level has extensively changed the engineering practices. While moving forward from traditional principles to new innovative methods, the engineers of today not only need to show technical expertise but also excel at communication with a deep understanding of the impact of their solutions on the environment and the society. 

The emergence of such a requirement of multi-skilled individuals has revealed a lot about engineering education in India. Even though subjects like English communication, personality development, organizational behavior, and more are included in the curriculum, very little emphasis is given on these skills. Bookish knowledge is appreciated to quite the extent, with very little time given to impart a practical understanding of the same concepts. As a result of this, you will find several computer science engineers unable to understand programming logic or electrical engineers facing difficulties while designing circuits. 

What can be done? 

It is important to have conceptual knowledge but it is equally important to have an engineering mindset. Engineering education does not need to have its complete focus shifted towards technical knowledge or capacities. As per several surveys and globally accepted studies, it has been proven that most of the knowledge imparted to engineering graduates is any way of little use to the company which is why most of them have on-job training for all new graduates joining the team. 

To fix this, colleges need to focus more on practical learning and understanding. This can be achieved by adding more projects as a part of the assessments. Students should be encouraged to take part in various technical events where they will be pushed to solve real-world problems with the help of engineering solutions. It is only with practical learning and thinking innovatively that the skill gap from a technical perspective, can be fixed. 

Even though the traditional curriculum included such soft skills and many non-technical subjects, they used to be taught only for one or two semesters. Having realized that change in the industry and the perception, there are a few top tier institutes that have already chosen to make non-technical subjects and soft skills a compulsory and regular part of the curriculum, to be taught throughout the course duration. As both technical and soft skills are necessary, the number of institutes following in the footsteps is gradually increasing. 

The development of all the skills in the right direction is what will make a real impact by fostering their employability as well as career. 

Summing it up 

Becoming an engineer is not a cakewalk. It requires efforts and persistence and even after graduating, the struggle of finding a job that pays well is real. Even though India proudly stands as one of the largest suppliers of engineers worldwide, it also stands at a difficult position, witnessing over 80% of its engineers being called unskilled for any technical role in the industry. Engineering education in India, therefore, needs to evolve, to be able to cater to the demands of industries all over the world and pave way for the new age engineers!

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