The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has put in place a multi-pronged approach to improve the employability of engineering students besides empowering them to become entrepreneurs and job creators. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, AICTE, told IANS that several reform measures and steps have been taken to improve the overall quality of technical education such as regular revision of curriculum and faculty development programme in niche areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing, block chain, cyber security, cloud computing, data science, AR-VR, mandatory internship and innovation cells etc.
He said some other steps taken such as examination reforms and student induction programmes are work in progress but are in the right direction to further improve the level of technical institutes.
A major challenge has been the proliferation of colleges from late 1990s to 2012 when more than 2,500 new colleges were opened in technical disciplines. Of these, around 1,000 were engineering colleges, 1,000 management schools and the rest in various disciplines like polytechnic, architecture and pharma, among others. As a result, the number of colleges went up from 8,000 to 10,400.
The problem in employability of students has occurred due to the mushrooming of such colleges and institutes. On an average, half of the seats in these colleges are lying vacant. Some of the good ones have a rate of 90-100 per cent seats being filled while others have a rate of just 10 per cent, which takes the average to 50-60 per cent.
The number of new colleges opening has reduced now, especially in the fields of engineering and management. On the other hand, there have been closure of colleges ranging from 80-120 every year.
While the attempt of the AICTE has been to lift the standard of passionate moderate performers, it is assumed that the poor ones will close down on their own being non-viable while the public is already deciding which colleges should exist and which ones should not.
Mr Sahasrabudhe said that the industry has been pointing out that employable engineers are not available in good numbers, and the AICTE is working to nudge colleges so that at least the basic requirements of the industry can be adhered to and met.
He added that curriculum changes, faculty training, teacher certification and introduction of new technological courses have been boosting the level of employability.
In examination reforms, the AICTE Chairman said that rote learning or memory-based learning has been reduced to only 30 per cent of the examination question papers.
A set of model examination papers in different disciplines has been drafted and provided on the AICTE website as well as in several workshops being conducted for faculty members.
Directives have been issued to the universities, Vice Chancellors, Deans and controllers of examination to adopt the examination reforms. Around 10,000 teachers have been trained, but it will take time to percolate to the 6 lakh teachers.
"We have to be realistic, nothing will change in one day," Mr Sahasrabudhe said.
The student induction programme focuses on creating a collaborative environment for students from different backgrounds, and promoting a vibrant student-teacher relationship, apart from building confidence and passion for learning.
To prevent students from being cheated by unscrupulous companies claiming to provide employable short courses, the AICTE on the advise of the Ministry of Human Resource Development is creating a platform, "National Educational Alliance for Technology" (NEAT), inviting tech companies offering various guided employable courses and soft skills using AI.
Since these companies shall be selected based on blind reviews and vetted by the AICTE, they are required to provide free courses for 25 per cent deserving students based on their total enrolment.
"This is likely to be a game changer, providing opportunity and connect between new age tech startups and desirous students," Mr Sahasrabudhe said.
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