Outlook-Drshti’s professional college rankings has seen participation from over 400 institutions this year, but there have been no significant changes in the top ranks. While this shows a remarkable stability in the quality of top institutes, the education system at large suffers from multiple afflictions. The lack of employability of students emerging from our universities rankles the most. C.P. Gurnani, CEO and MD of Tech Mahindra, created a stir last year when he declared that 94 per cent of engineering graduates were not fit for hiring.
The upside is that leading institutions have begun to address some of the problems of our pedagogical system. Many private as well as top government institutions are increasingly focusing on employability by engaging with industries and corporations, setting up R&D parks, incorporating internships into curricula and offering grants for startups and innovations. However, this trend will have limited effectiveness unless the root cause is addressed—the poor state of schools and elementary education.
The HRD ministry’s New Education Policy is a positive step in reforming schools. A key element of the policy is that there will not be any hard separation of learning in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular areas—all subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga and community service, will be part of the curriculum. It promotes active pedagogy and will focus on the development of core capacities and life skills, including 21st-century skills. With these endeavours, it will help students become more well-rounded.
The policy has provisions for undergraduate education as well. It proposes to restructure higher education with three types of institutions: those focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching; high-quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research; and high-quality teaching focused on undergraduate education. If implemented effectively, these measures will go a long way in addressing the deficit in quality research and education.
Multidisciplinary approaches and convergence are the latest buzzwords. IITs are focusing on improving exposure to different subjects. For instance, IIT Kharagpur has rolled out a centre for arts and music, which is focusing on Indian classical music and instruments”. Most IITs have had strong humanities and social science faculties, but BTech students had earlier not been able to take advantage of these.
Hiring managers are also focusing on a variety of skills and backgrounds. Infosys is employing liberal arts graduates, graphic designers and artists along with engineers, which many consider a necessary step to deliver quality products. Liberal arts programmes, especially in newer private universities, are helping students develop a broad outlook rather than specialisation in just one subject. Thus, students should pursue what interests them along with what the market demands to capitalise on their core skills.
This has already begun reflecting in the courses students are opting for. This year saw a further decline in applications for engineering courses. Many seats are empty in less popular colleges, which should push them to improve the quality of education.
However, regardless of the course students choose, they should focus on internships and professional exposure. Learning by doing is as important as studying to perform well in the job market.
The author is managing director of Drshti Strategic Research Services Pvt Ltd