It was the mid-eighties. Preparation of the new National Education Policy was in full swing. P V Narasimha Rao, then Minister of Human Resource Development, was presiding over a meeting of senior bureaucrats and educationists to discuss educational issues. Someone from amongst us, keen on emphasising the issue of teacher development said,’ teachers are at the centre of the education system’. Narasimha Rao remarked immediately, ‘No, students are at the centre’. There was a short silence as all of us digested the significance of this statement and realised how true it was.
And yet, even to this day, the student is somehow forgotten. Numerous books come out on education dealing with various dimensions of the education system and how to improve it, be it curriculum planning and development, teaching learning process, teacher training and development, learning resource material development, testing and evaluation, industry institution interaction, accreditation, financing of the system, or educational planning. The list is long, reflecting the complexity and multidimensionality of effort needed to improve the system. Usually these are scholarly works, with detailed, subtle and nuanced exploration of the issue they deal with, to be read by other scholars, or policy makers and planners.
Admittedly, all these would somehow benefit the student ultimately, as the education system improves, but there are hardly any that talk directly to the student, where student is the primary focus, where student perspective and difficulty is directly addressed; books that the student can read himself and understand without being bogged down by the complexity of theoretical constructs.
In this book: Grooming Engineers – a Book for Engineering Students, Professor Mittal, deals with this gap. He resists the temptation of getting into educational theories, and provides loving guidance to a large number of real students, who encounter an uninspiring institutional environment where they are often not motivated, see little value in attending classes, or conducting practical work, or seriously undertaking project work, or indeed engaging in meaningful experience in industry attachments. Their focus is on somehow getting a degree, not on acquiring the skills and knowledge that an engineer should have. No wonder, a large proportion is found unemployable by industry. Some are hugely underemployed with little future prospects.
It is this environment of hopelessness, demotivation, and aimlessness, that Professor Mittal addresses. He takes the students gently through, into understanding the value of attending classes and how to derive maximum benefit from lectures, into conducting ‘practicals’ meaningfully, seriously undertaking project work, or benefitting from industry visits/attachments, etc; and in the process to acquire the knowledge and skills needed in the real world-of-work. He gives tips on how to succeed in securing good employment: tells them the nature of existing jobs as also the prestigious main employers in their respective fields. He goes on to give advice on how to write the CV, how to engage in group discussions, how to prepare for interviews, etc. He also encourages them to undertake entrepreneurship, not in abstract ways, but by giving real examples where he himself was involved, and sharing short stories of successful entrepreneurship. All of this is written keeping firmly in view the needs of the students and the difficulties they encounter. The tone is never one of pontification or admonishment. It is that of an experienced friend who genuinely wishes to help, and shows the way. And all his tips and suggestions are drawn, not second hand from outside sources and books, but from his own considerable experience of working as a teacher over many years in engineering educational institutions, working in the field in engineering organisations, and as an educationist in one of the premier institutions of technical teacher training and research. Also noteworthy is the fact that this large spectrum has been covered in a relatively small number of pages such that a typical student would not be frightened by the amount of reading involved.
I wish to commend this excellent contribution by Professor Mittal. As I said earlier, it is student centric and focused on meeting his/her needs. I hope it is read widely by engineering students as they are bound to benefit enormously from doing so.
Prof Ashoka Chandra
Ph.D.(Cornell); FNAE, FNASC, Dist. Fellow IETE, FIE, FIASS
Former Special Secretary (Technical Education)
Former Educational Adviser (Technical)
Ministry of Human Resource Development,
Government of India
I started my career by working as an apprentice engineer, worked my way up to Engineering Head for sophisticated basic drug pharmaceutical companies. I was also project head for large projects both in India and abroad. Though I knew Professor Mittal from quite some years but became friendlier after his superannuation from NITTTR, Chandigarh in year 2001. By meeting him I found that he has passion for teaching and bringing some positive change in the system of teaching-learning in the technical institutions. With my persuasion, he wrote a book titled “Mitigating Deficiencies of Technical Education”. This book was mainly for entire engineering faculty working at different levels. This book was received very well by majority of teachers. I was after him to write a book exclusively for engineering college students which he agreed and the current book is the initiative in this direction.
This book is based on the vast experience of teaching and research of Professor (Dr.) Mittal in the field of technical education. Wish I could have got this book at the time when I was a student. I fully agree with him that the current system of technical education is by and large theoretical. Neither faculty nor students are serious about practical work in laboratories, workshops, practical training and project work, which in fact is the backbone of engineering education. The first chapter of the book titled “ Where do engineering students stand today” establishes the need of writing this book exclusively for engineering students. I enjoyed reading entire text of all the ten chapters and feel that this is a timely publication to change the mind set of students to achieve a degree qualification by solving five questions out of eight to develop appropriate hard and soft skills by taking their studies seriously, may it be theory or practical classes through an output oriented strategy after each semester.
The book highlights as to who is an engineer and what is the role played by him/her in socio-economic development of the country. The book further detail out career/employment opportunities and moves to expectation of world of work from an engineer. Based on these chapters, Dr Mittal suggests the manner students equip themselves with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes through various learning experiences i.e. lectures, tutorials, practical classes by following an output oriented strategy. The book further provides inputs as how to develop soft skills, entrepreneurial skills and enhancing their employability.
The whole emphasis has been to develop self learning habits through books and online resources, problem-solving skills by paying due attention to tutorials, practical training and project work, innovative and entrepreneurial skills by paying due attention to industrial/practical training and project work. The book has been written in simple language and purely based on the experiences of Dr Mittal. If students follow the suggestions made in this book, it will instill lot of confidence in students which will help them in securing better employment.Er. Vickram Jaidka
Industrial/economic scenario is changing due to global challenges. Now the country needs those type of engineers who are knowledgeable; who are flexible to use new materials, technologies and systems; who are able to think and solve open-ended problems; innovate something new as per needs of the country and possess entrepreneurial qualities to grow the business nationally and internationally. For this to happen, students will be required to possess above stated competencies by taking their studies very seriously through varied learning experiences.
Besides theoretical instructions, it is important that teachers and students give due attention to tutorial sessions, laboratory and workshop experiences, industrial training and well thought out project assignments. It will also be essential that students participate in well planned co-curricular and extra-curricular activities for development of overall personality of students.
It has been experienced that many engineering colleges are closing down due to lack of students opting for admission in these colleges. One of the major reason is that majority of graduates coming out from these colleges are not getting gainful employment because they are deficient in most of competencies described in Para one above. This is mainly due to the fact that the teaching-learning process in most of engineering colleges is, by and large, conducted like the system prevailing in general university colleges with focus on qualifying a paper pencil test to achieve a degree qualification for which our society has glamour. Neither teachers nor students pay due attention to most essential components of engineering education i.e. practical work in laboratories and workshops, industrial training and project work.
After having worked in the system for more than five decades, this author has observed that around 30 to 40% students at a given point of time are absent from the institutes. Majority of them do not take their studies seriously. Keeping this in view, an effort is being made through this book to impress upon engineering students the need of putting in hard work during their course of studies to equip themselves in appropriate hard and soft skills for achieving desired competencies for gainful employment.
The book has twelve chapters which covers: Where do engineering students stands today; Who is an engineer; Role of engineers in socio-economic development; Career/employment opportunities; Expectations of the world of work; Importance of lecture and tutorial classes; Importance of practical classes; Importance of Industrial Training; Importance of Project Work; Developing soft skills; Entrepreneurship as a career; and Enhancing employability.
The book primarily focuses on improving the teaching-learning process through an output oriented strategy after each semester to build confidence in the students for a bright professional career. Though the faculty of engineering colleges has to play their own roles, the book suggests the part to be played by engineering students to shape themselves as good professionals.
It is hoped that book will be useful to the engineering students. Author will be happy to receive comments and suggestions from the readers for bringing further improvements.
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