Dr Haresh Tank, Director, Station-e Language Lab, shares his views on the need to introduce Pre-Engineering Skilling Programme
While it is evident that education can transform lives, it does not necessarily transform into employment. There is sufficient data in the world to prove that there is gap between education and employment. This gap is barely understood by policymakers, administrators and even educators. It would be apt to cite the excerpt from McKinsey report titled ‘Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works’:
“Worldwide, young people are three times more likely than their parents to be out of work. In Greece, Spain, and South Africa, more than half of young people are unemployed, and jobless levels of 25 percent or more are common in Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, more than one in eight of all 15-year-olds to 24-year-olds are not in employment, education, or training (NEET). Around the world, the International Labour Organisation estimates that 75 million young people are unemployed. Including estimates of underemployed youth would potentially triple this number. This represents not just a gigantic pool of untapped talent; it is also a source of social unrest and individual despair. Paradoxically, there is a critical skills shortage at the same time. Across the nine countries that are the focus of this report (Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), only 43 percent of employers surveyed agreed that they could find enough skilled entry-level workers. This problem is not likely to be a temporary blip; in fact, it will probably get much worse. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2020 there will be a global shortfall of 85 million high and middle-skilled workers.”
In India, the scenario is not different. The industry needs scores of skilled engineers and degree-holding engineers are many but it is difficult to find the skilled engineer equipped to work in a global market place. The reasons for this lie in engineering education. Technical education per se in India is not up to the challenge of creating 21st century engineers for India. The quality of technical education leaves a lot to be desired and perhaps that is why India has resorted to World Bank support in the form of Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP). TEQIP is in its 2nd phase and we are yet to see some concrete turn around in the quality of technical education.
What most policymakers and administrators in technical education fail to see is that the roots of the poor quality of engineers lie in school education. It is school education that fails to impart foundational skills to the students, which are required to succeed in higher/ technical education. Astonishi ngly enough, the medium of instruction becomes the decisive difference at times and at other times, the difference lies in the exposure that a student receives before entering technical education. Therefore, one needs to understand the gap between the school education and technical education. It is time-tested schooling system in India that prepares students for exam by what is known as Learning-To-Test.
But technical education is not about learning to test and it is not entirely the test of memory. It is founded on the ability to understand and apply what is understood on real-life engineering problems. This is where their knowledge of English comes into play.
At school level, students studying in vernacular or English medium are told to ignore the languages, particularly English and focus on science and mathematics. It leads to poor knowledge of English. In the transition from school to technical education, the first challenge is of English because students whether they have studied in vernacular or English medium now have to compulsorily read, write and speak in English. It is because engineering is transacted in English medium. The reference books and learning material are available mostly in English. This poses a different and difficult challenge for a school student, who was studying in vernacular medium and all of sudden, he encounters English on every front- classroom, labs, books and exams. Nobody has given it a thought to provide him/her a smooth transition from vernacular to Englishmedium engineering education. On the contrary, everybody expects him/her to make that transition on his/her own which is not easy.
It is here that a sort of pre-engineering skilling programme will become useful. The said programme should contain the foundational skills necessary for the students to make a smooth transition from school education to the very demanding engineering education. These skills are communicative English, computing skills and mathematics. Without a handholding in these areas, students will not be able to make the transition to engineering education and will struggle to keep pace with it. Engineering education is replete with narratives of students, who cannot keep pace with it and end up losing the opportunity to transform their lives.
The first area in which engineers need improvement is their ability to communicate in English. Since many of the students come from vernacular medium, and the curriculum, medium of instruction and examination in engineering education are in English, it is also necessary to strengthen the students with respect to English. Students hailing from vernacular medium in India are a large mass and they fail to carry out their daily operations like presentations, writing assignments/projects and writing exams (there are too many exams, by the way!). In addition, in spite of their sound technical knowledge, they perform poorly in interviews and GDs. This continues to worry us but in order to address this worrisome scenario, we should introduce a Pre- Engineering Skilling programme regarding Communicative English and prepare them for the smooth transition. What this will accomplish is that they will be able to studywell from day one of engineering and perform better in their daily interactions, assignments, presentations and eventually, in GDs and interviews.
It is the need of the hour to introduce Pre-Engineering Skilling Programme in order to prepare the prospective engineering students
It is a known fact that knowledge of technology, especially computers, is a must for one’s education and work. However, it is not emphasised enough in education programmes. At a time when ICT is changing the way we learn, do business and work, we should educate our engineers prior to their entry into proper engineering programme for the effective use of computers. This is not only necessary, but inevitable because a lot of their work is carried out on computers in the form of their assignments and presentations. They are required to prepare assignments and presentations from the first semester and this takes them by surprise. Since, they are not at all prepared for this, they resort to copying and other malpractices. If we train them in computing skills as a part of Pre-Engineering Skilling Programme, they will be ready for their daily work of presentations, assignments, etc and study better and learn better.
The knowledge of mathematics is another important factor for the engineers to succeed in their education and work. It is considered to be one of the 21st century skills. Engineering education cannot be complete without adequate mathematical ability. To enhance their mathematical ability, we may consider introducing them to vedic mathematics. If we introduce them to vedic mathematics as a part of Pre-Engineering Skilling Programme, they will be able to use it in learning mathematics better and apply mathematics better in their day-to-day transactions with engineering concepts. This will serve to compliment and strengthen their knowledge, understanding and application of mathematics in engineering education.
Therefore, it is the need of the hour to introduce Pre-Engineering Skilling Programme in order to prepare the prospective engineering students in the areas of communicative English, computing skills and mathematics so that they learn better, apply their learning better and emerge as better engineers at the end of engineering education.
About the author
Dr Haresh Tank, in the capacity of Director, is in-charge of conceptualising and operationalising initiatives with a special focus on skills development. He holds a doctorate in Statistics and is a noted Statistical Analyst. He was also nominated for Young Scientist Award. With a passion for teaching and contributing to the society, he continues to serve as Associate Professor in Statistics. As a Director, Station-e Language Lab, he has initiated several projects in the realm of skills development with government and private companies. Dr Tank is also serving as Vice Chairman, CII, Western Gujarat Zonal Council.