MITIGATING DEFICIENCIES OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION

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

FOREWORD

   Quality of engineering education in India has been a matter of increasing concern particularly after a mushroom growth in number of institutions of technical education in the last three decades. Institutions have sprung up and dot the landscape throughout the length and breadth of the country. Some also have beautiful impressive buildings. Until recently the lure of technical education was such that these institutions had no difficulty attracting students and filling their seats. Facing shortage of qualified and experienced faculty many institutions hired inadequately prepared teachers with little or no experience of teaching or of industry. Most had no idea of curriculum planning, of executing an effective teaching learning process, of building meaningful interaction with industry, or of developing competencies among students that the world of work requires of the graduates. Academic infrastructure, particularly facilities for laboratory and project work, often remained neglected. The teaching learning process was largely reduced to transferring bookish knowledge through routine dry lectures. Overall quality of education imparted suffered. Students' interest waned resulting in significant absenteeism and failure rate in many of these institutions. Those who graduated found that industry did not quite welcome them with open arms; the industry complained of inadequate skill sets and competencies. The employment market was depressed. Many did not find any meaningful employment. Those who did, found that their expectations of a decent job were belied, the financial returns of their investment were very poor. A sense of despondency prevailed. Institutions began to find it difficult to fill its seats despite lowering standards of admission. Poor quality of intake further eroded quality of output. Employment potential of graduates is getting worse; the number of seats lying vacant is increasing. Institutions' very viability is being threatened.

These institutions are beginning to realize that the way out of the vicious cycle is to focus on improving quality of education imparted to students, and to build the competencies required in the market place. The problem, however, is that very few understand just what needs to be done to improve quality. Merely refurbishing the laboratories with more equipment is not enough. Quality improvement requires multi-dimensional effort, be it in the area of curriculum planning and curriculum review, teaching learning process, laboratory and project work, building teachers' competencies, building students' competencies, meaningful involvement of industry, building skills for innovation and entrepreneurship, etc. Most teachers would be keen to improve quality but may focus only on enriching the content of domain knowledge in the belief that it would lead to quality improvement. Many would not necessarily know what makes for effective delivery of lectures, what is involved in planning effective lectures, how to retain interest and attention of students, how to ensure that students really learn and develop the capability to apply knowledge as opposed to rote memorization of facts and formulae, how to plan for laboratory work, how to organize project work that results in building real technical skills, how to develop soft skills of communication, teamwork, and problem solving, to name only some, how to prepare them for working in an industrial environment, and so on.

This short book is for them. The author has spent a lifetime in technical education dealing with such issues and preparing teachers to meet the multi-dimensional challenges involved in building quality of education. He is well versed in education theory and the whole literature and issues relating to learning to learn, and autonomous life-long learning, learning theories and how the mind works, etc., but he has chosen not to detract the reader by an exposition of theoretical framework underlying the recommended practice, and has gone straight to practical measures that the teachers and educational planners need to adopt to deal with various tasks that would be confronted with in meeting the challenge of improving quality. His recommendations are not based on what one may come across in literature otherwise, but on actually having implemented and tested them in real situations. These are distillations of his experience of almost five decades. For that reason his recommendations are eminently implementable in institutions that are keen and struggling to improve overall quality of their educational effort.

The book is also meant for owners and promoters of institutions, as well as those who are responsible for planning and management of technical education at the State or National level. This provides a clear agenda of action for them, which specific issues to focus on, and how to drive a quality movement.

One final word. Many well established and successful institutions may feel that they are already delivering quality, that their teachers know how to ensure quality, that they have highly qualified and experienced teachers, and that their procedures are well founded and delivering results. That may well be so, and such institutions need our appreciation. Still, I feel, that they may find very useful material in this book which, in the first instance, could make them reflect on their own practices, and then help modify/improve their approach.

My congratulations to the author, Professor Laxmi Narain Mittal, for delivering this work of passion and commitment to quality of technical education.

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


Prof. T.R.Ramanna
Formerly Professor NITTTR, Chandigarh
CPSC Consultant
UNESCO Consultant, Expert & CTA
Teacher Training & Didactics Advisor to GTZ Hitech Training Project

IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE BOOK

   Firstly, I wish to thank Prof. Dr. LN Mittal, the author of the book for asking my impressions about it. It is a matter of pride for me to write a few words about the book written by my former student and colleague at the National Institute of Technical Teacher Training and Research, Chandigarh. He has demonstrated by personal example that a person possessing grit, determination, passion for lifelong learning can achieve extraordinary professional accomplishments. Starting his professional education as a diploma holder and teaching career as a polytechnic teacher, he continued his journey of education and training culminating in acquiring a Doctoral Degree. Continuing his career in teaching he has motivated a large number of students in achieving their goals, be it educational or professional or entrepreneurial.

Secondly, the book is timely as our technical education system, barring a few national institutes, is facing a severe crisis. Poor quality of education imparted at most engineering colleges leading to unemployment of most graduates from such institutions is a matter of serious concern. Realizing this, Dr. Mittal, as a result of personal experience, surveys and studies has identified the deficiencies in the system and their causes. To name a few, inadequate understanding of the profile of an engineering graduate, inadequate teacher preparation to teach, inadequate or no relevant practical work in the laboratories and shop floor, inadequate facilities for students, absence of industrial training to students and teachers, lack of entrepreneurship development programs.

Thirdly, the book suggests remedial measures to improve the different components of the system that include academic planning, improving classroom teaching based on pedagogical principles, giving serious attention to plan and conduct laboratory, practical and project work, planning and organizing industrial training, planning and conducting faculty development programs.

Fourthly, I congratulate Dr. Mittal for writing the book. If the remedial measures suggested in the book are implemented by colleges seriously, we may have better days ahead for our graduates. I wish Dr. Mittal all the best.

Prof. T.R.Ramanna
Formerly Professor NITTTR, Chandigarh
CPSC Consultant
UNESCO Consultant, Expert & CTA
Teacher Training & Didactics Advisor to GTZ Hitech Training Project


Er. Vickram Jaidka
India Cell +919815192955
Email vjaidka@gmail.com

IMPRESSIONS

   A professional, however straight forward he may be, will never be prepared to share all his knowledge on a particular topic just in one go, but Professor L. N. Mittal has done so in this book. I fully agree with the concerns expressed by Dr. Mittal. After graduation, I have experienced these shortcomings highlighted in the book, while working initially as a hands-on maintenance engineer. I have been a hard core engineer from the Industry, starting my career as an apprentice engineer, worked my way up as Engineering Head/Chief Engineer for sophisticated basic drug Pharmaceutical Companies and Project Head for a varied number of large projects. Employed over 1000 Graduate Engineers from various disciplines and have felt the dire need to improve Technical Education.

As a professional under training, at the institute, being groomed for meeting the basic requirements of Industry/World of Work is an essential need. Later working as a professional, one struggles to link up of theory with application, which should be a basic trait. A majority academicians in our country do not have much of Industrial/World of Work experience/exposure thus avoid dealing with the subject on employable skills; this is one of the key reasons why this area is neglected by Institutes and Universities. Dr. Mittal has dealt with this aspect in great detail.

My observations on the book are as follows:

The book is based on the experiences and research work of Dr. Mittal in the field of technical education. I fully agree with him that our entire system of education is theoretical. Theory is going to be forgotten with passage of time. We will have to change our mindset from theory to practical work and learning by doing for producing good professionals.

The Chapters that need special mention: Concept of a Technical University, Indicators of Excellence, Expectations of World of Work, Competency Profiles, Teaching-Learning Processes, Networking with World of Work, Entrepreneurship Development as they are unique in their own way. The need for a pro-active role expected from each and every one in the sector of technical education has been amply emphasized. Dr. Mittal has put in lot of efforts to prepare Appendices, which he has applied and found very useful in obtaining feedback from stake holders. I very much appreciate his work in this direction also. The Students will find the Chapters on Enhancing Employability, Competency of Engineering Graduate, Soft Skills, Competency Profile and Special Mention Chapters very useful. This book is a treasure trove for the Faculty as a number of Chapters have been especially written just for them.

Even though Professor Mittal has done his very best, while presenting the Text, making it lucid, simple and easy to understand, the way he handles his audience while delivering his lectures (of which I have first-hand experience) on these topics is an experience in itself and cannot be captured in print. I enjoyed reading the text and hope that our technical education system will drive benefit from the experiences of Prof Mittal.

Er. Vickram Jaidka
India Cell +919815192955
Email vjaidka@gmail.com


Mr. Suchit Tiwari
CEO, Cognifront.com
Formerly at Microsoft, Oracle, GE
Mobile +919730045145
Email suchit@cognifront.com

EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE

   When you publish your first ever book, getting a renowned, highly specialized and stalwart author as Dr.L.N. Mittal is a blessing in itself. Dr.L.N. Mittal has been our guide, motivator, supporter and well wisher. His affection and advice have been instrumental in driving all of us at Cognifront to bring quality material to teachers fraternity in India. His well experienced writing is powered by his tremendous field exposure and his email articles have always been very well received by our reader community; prompting us to publish a book.

Mr. Suchit Tiwari
CEO, Cognifront.com
Formerly at Microsoft, Oracle, GE
Mobile +919730045145
Email suchit@cognifront.com



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