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Old 12th May 2017, 12:48   #1
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Default Education system for the next generation

The world is not what it was a few decades back. Changing political landscapes, increasing protectionism, anti-globalisation trends, security concerns, environmental issues, automation are all going to change the way we work and lead our daily lives. What worked in the past will be irrelevant in the future. The skill sets expected from the the future generations will be very different from what we have now. Recessionary trends in the I.T. industry already point to the shape of the things to come. Not to say that other industries are future proof. Healthcare, transport, finance, defence etc. will also not be spared. Every facet of our life will be affected - the future generations more so.

1. With that in mind, how should our education system be tuned / modified for the future generations? What changes should the curriculum in the schools, colleges and professional courses incorporate? Even there might be courses which may become irrelevant and new ones may spring up.
2. What should be the curriculum in the pre-university and engineering courses?
3. Not restricting only to the technical education, but also to the other professional courses. E.g. Do MBBS students need to learn Robotics? Are dentists required to learn 3D printing?

None can predict the future - we can only extrapolate based on our current and limited views of the world.

Let the thoughts flow...
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Old 13th May 2017, 21:40   #2
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Very pertinent thread!

For some time now, I have held the view, and often propose the same to youngsters and students whom I mentor, that preparedness for the future should involve broad-based understanding of a large number of areas including mandatorily, a commercial focus, and in-depth expertise in at least 2 areas, that they should be able to merge or combine in some unique way, to either create new offerings or to present a unique combination skill set for employers who can harness the same.
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Old 13th May 2017, 22:38   #3
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I feel our primary education system is still working, at least till 10th grade. But after that it has clearly gone mad.

Indian colleges have become just degree mills, while providing very little value. Just compare an average engineering graduate with a 10th grader, there is very little difference in their practical knowledge. In fact, the 10th grader might have a fresher mind.

As an engineer, I'll focus on engineering education. The engineering colleges really have to change the way they hire their teachers. Instead of focusing on degrees, they should hire based on industry experience. Then the teachers will know why/what of whatever they are teaching. Right now, colleges are full of teachers who cannot execute a simple project to industry standards. At the same time, an engineer with decades of rich industry experience is unqualified to teach in colleges for lack of a master's degree or Phd. Whoever decided that teaching requires degrees? As long as this situation remains, there is no hope for improvement.

Circuit design should be taught by a person who has actually designed circuits for a living.
Structural Mechanics should be taught by a person who designed many buildings.
Mathematics must be taught by a person who has performed complex computations for commercial use.

Too much to ask?

Last edited by Samurai : 13th May 2017 at 22:46.
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Old 13th May 2017, 22:55   #4
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Interesting topic. One that I am grappling with as a parent. Being an engineer myself, I think education should focus more on problem solving and communication skills not to forget values and ethics. Having been in the USA for a brief while and having had the opportunity to send my kids to a top rated public school, I think the quality I got there for free, I am not getting here even after forking out a ton of money as school fee.
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Old 15th May 2017, 08:21   #5
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I feel our primary education system is still working, at least till 10th grade. But after that it has clearly gone mad.
Every university in the world has a criteria specifying the minimum qualification that a lecturer/Professor should have. In fact, in most colleges in India, you can become a lecturer with a masters degree, but that does not happen abroad.

I agree with your observation about the need for industry professionals in the class room. But to the best of my knowledge, most technical jobs that involve a holistic understanding of a project are performed by people who have advanced degrees. Gradually, the learning curve in all industries is rising. Here, it is difficult for a B. Tech to get a decent job as an engineer (I'm not talking about the software industry-more about the manufacturing sector). A student needs to enroll in a masters or a PhD program just to become conversant with what is happening in the field. If it is a masters, the skill set is more generic but if it is a PhD, it becomes quite specialized. Even with a PhD, one is likely to be recruited as an entry level engineer, not a senior engineer or a specialist.

For primary education, I think the Indian schooling system is quite robust, and the only addition that could make it future proof is a compulsory programming class for everyone, at least in high school.
Undergraduate education in India suffers from a lack of purpose. It is incorrect to blame the faculty- students rarely know why they pursued their degree in a specific field. They get into engineering colleges based on the "package" that their seniors received from companies, and that makes it difficult for the faculty to motivate them to excel. I'm not condoning the fact that there are a lot of teachers who do not teach. A lot of Govt. colleges (especially the state Govt. funded ones) have teachers who do not stay updated at all and rely on notes which were probably made a decade ago. This is bad, but this is not the case everywhere. Many academics got into the profession because they love to be with students, and they like being independent. They are capable people who need to be recognized, not ridiculed. The prestige of an academic job is immense in most countries, but not so in India.

Graduate education in India is in a terrible state. I've seen people undertaking a masters degree from an IIT and not getting a job. Is it because they are not "practical" in their approach? Not always. Very often, we do not get companies that are capable of using their skill sets. Let us take an example of a masters degree in polymer science. The student learns about the state of the art in the industry in the first year and does a project during the second year. Very often, the project results in a scientific publication. During placements, you get companies that make products out of polymers- most of them are SMEs which do not have a substantial R&D budget. They buy their machines from China and process the raw material into useful products. To manage their business operations, they need a few MBA graduates. But to manage their process, they need a diploma engineer at best. There's nothing that needs inputs from an employee with a Masters degree. As a result, they will pay the salary equivalent of a diploma engineer to a M.Tech graduate and colleges are reluctant to let them in. There are a few big companies that invest in R&D, but they are too few and they recruit 1-2 students per year from a campus. It is thus not the student's fault- there's simply a lack of demand for quality graduates in manufacturing jobs.

Things are better for computer science graduates, but now that every student learn how to code irrespective of the discipline, the job market is very competitive for entry level openings. The M.Tech graduate thus prefers a decent salary at an entry level job in the UAE rather than struggle to meet ends in India.

Much has been written in the recent months about the quality of Indian engineers. For the moment, let us focus on the top schools in the country, leaving out the fly by night colleges that were set up by politicians to scam parents. A graduate from a NIT/IIT/BITS institute does exceptionally well after leaving the country- if they were not well trained during their formative years, how does that happen? Even students from private colleges do well once they work for a MNC. My boss here did his UG from a private college in India, and now he's working shoulder to shoulder with someone who did his PhD at the best school in USA.

What could improve the situation? First, internships need to be promoted. It is very difficult to get companies to pay for interns. This is not the case abroad. Companies are incentivized to hire interns and nurture talent. In India, except a few companies like ITC, GE, Reliance etc., there are limited opportunities for technical graduates to get paid internships. Secondly, colleges need to be given the freedom to hire adjunct faculty members- very often, it is difficult for a department head to even pay for the flight tickets for a professional, let alone hire him/her permanently. This is not a problem for business schools because they are not subsidized heavily by the government, and they have funds for getting industry professionals. Lastly, I think that a lot of programs need to reduce the student intake. If there are 100 positions (across India) for process specialists in a polymer industry, why should 1000 students be trained for this skill set every year? The numbers are hypothetical, and I'm using them to draw attention to the excess supply that is affecting the job market.

I graduated in 2013 and it has been 4 years since then. I'm now enrolled in a PhD+MBA program here, and before this I worked in a manufacturing company for 2 years in India. After coming here, I realized that the education that we received was far more rigorous than what is usually offered in undergraduate courses abroad. I used to hear my ex-boss talk about the lack of "practical" skills in graduates these days, and now I'm beginning to realize that what he meant was perhaps "experience in doing what we're doing for so long". I mean, if you allowed the fresh employee to implement a new process using the concepts that he learnt in school, it is likely that he can do a great job. Engineering theories do not have to be abandoned to make things work. It is the existing process that deviates from how it should work, and the new employee takes some time to learn that.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? I'm not sure. I feel sad in saying this, but unless there is a sustained growth in manufacturing activity for a couple of years, engineers will have a hard time ahead. Automation is just one aspect of the problem. Every industry implemented solutions involving automation in different processes since the last decade- packaging, warehouse management etc. But these solutions typically displace the worker who was manually labeling the carton or loading them onto the truck. The plant still needs someone to ensure that the automated system is working well. It is only when there are more factories, more plants and more machines that more engineers can be employed gainfully in the trade that they were trained for. Till now, a lot of people left their engineering jobs to migrate to other industries like finance, banking, IT services etc. but automation is killing high level jobs in those sectors, unlike in manufacturing. I'm not sure about how the next decade would turn out to be for fresh graduates. It does not look promising as of now.

Last edited by GTO : 15th May 2017 at 10:50. Reason: Spacing + trimming quote
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Old 15th May 2017, 09:29   #6
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I graduated in 2013 and it has been 4 years since then. I'm now enrolled in a PhD+MBA program here, and before this I worked in a manufacturing company for 2 years in India. After coming here, I realized that the education that we received was far more rigorous than what is usually offered in undergraduate courses abroad.
May I ask which tier college you graduated from? I graduated in 1990 from a 3rd tier college and have been hiring freshies from 4th tier colleges every year since 2004. I am simply unable to relate to your experience.

Meanwhile, I suspect you are referring to the rigorousness of the syllabus. My grouse is whether that syllabus is being taught at all. I know that most teachers don't understand the syllabus themselves. This is true for 3rd tier colleges and below. So how are they going to teach?

I have discussed this before.

I just noticed that I have discussed the problem of engineering education in detail here.

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Old 15th May 2017, 09:48   #7
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Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
I feel our primary education system is still working, at least till 10th grade. But after that, it has clearly gone mad.

Right now, colleges are full of teachers who cannot execute a simple project to industry standards. At the same time, an engineer with decades of rich industry experience is unqualified to teach in colleges for lack of a master's degree or Ph.D.

Too much to ask?
True Samurai, I knew a colleague in my ex-company who had an MS from a reputed university in the USA, shockingly he did not know his own diesel car had a turbocharger. I have worked with people from IISc and IIT for a brief period, most of them do not know the application part of what they studied. We definitely need teachers who can build simple models rather than just read things written in the book.

Last edited by deehunk : 15th May 2017 at 09:51.
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Old 15th May 2017, 11:10   #8
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My grouse is whether that syllabus is being taught at all. I know that most teachers don't understand the syllabus themselves. This is true for 3rd tier colleges and below. So how are they going to teach?
Let me tell how we learnt.

Artificial Intelligence, Parallel processing and Computer Graphics were introduced to us when we were in B.E fourth year (no semester system then).

None of our lecturers had a clue how to go about teaching these new subjects.

a. HOD handled the AI which turned out to be more of Philosophy sessions - nothing more than theory of logic. A few classes on machine learning, neural networks were like reading sessions from the book.
b. Parallel processing was handled by a lecturer who had just finished her graduation from our college. She was good in 80x86 microprocessor architectures though but not in CRAY-XMP or massively parallel architectures.
c. Computer Graphics was handled by mathematics department and the focus was on matrices and transformations.
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Old 15th May 2017, 15:44   #9
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Indian colleges have become just degree mills, while providing very little value. Just compare an average engineering graduate with a 10th grader, there is very little difference in their practical knowledge. In fact, the 10th grader might have a fresher mind.
This is because of the number of engineering colleges that are operational across the country. Any tom,dick or harry can open a college. There is a no correlation between demand and supply

Quote:
As an engineer, I'll focus on engineering education. The engineering colleges really have to change the way they hire their teachers. Instead of focusing on degrees, they should hire based on industry experience. Then the teachers will know why/what of whatever they are teaching. Right now, colleges are full of teachers who cannot execute a simple project to industry standards. At the same time, an engineer with decades of rich industry experience is unqualified to teach in colleges for lack of a master's degree or Phd. Whoever decided that teaching requires degrees? As long as this situation remains, there is no hope for improvement.
I am not really sure that hiring industry people might actually work as the colleges cannot afford to pay what they expect. Guest lectures might be one way of doing it but again, companies might not be ready to lose out on productivity. Moreover, emerging technologies are an enigma even to industry people. Most are still in the beginning of the learning curve and hence cannot be expected to pass on expert knowledge.

Also, AFAIK, western education system, say in US, doesn't rely on industry experts. I might be wrong here and correct me if i am so. Having said that industry-academic engagement is the need of the hour.

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Let me tell how we learnt.

Artificial Intelligence, Parallel processing and Computer Graphics were introduced to us when we were in B.E fourth year (no semester system then).

None of our lecturers had a clue how to go about teaching these new subjects.

a. HOD handled the AI which turned out to be more of Philosophy sessions - nothing more than theory of logic. A few classes on machine learning, neural networks were like reading sessions from the book.
b. Parallel processing was handled by a lecturer who had just finished her graduation from our college. She was good in 80x86 microprocessor architectures though but not in CRAY-XMP or massively parallel architectures.
c. Computer Graphics was handled by mathematics department and the focus was on matrices and transformations.
The topics that you have mentioned, such as AI, even though examples, are nascent event at the industry level. There aren't as many people working on AI as they are on say, programming. I think these emerging technologies must be electives and industry should engage with academic system to impart knowledge to students
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