Withstanding the Changes-Education

In education and industry, talk on the topic of sustainability has been making headlines around the world and engineering education in India is finally waking up to the cause. Several engineering departments across the country have included economic and ecological sustainability in their teaching modules but a lot is yet to be done. Experts and professors of the university and industry expressed their opinions that institutes that do not take account of sustainability have a limited approach.

Current patterns of consumption and production are becoming highly wasteful and unsustainable. The future of engineering, education and industry lies in taking up challenges of development and sustainable best practices in design engineering products, services and systems of the future. However, it is to be noted that not many institutes are aware of this fact and they remain sluggish.

Sustainability has three aspects – economy, environment / ecology and the socio-ethical aspect. But, at present, institutes integrating sustainability in engineering disciplines take only one or the other aspect into account. An industrial engineering student would look at sustainability only from the environment point of view, not accounting for the other two aspects. It is important, to have a multidisciplinary engineering education system.

In order to sensitize teachers and address these issues of sustainability, a week long course of learning Sustainability for Engineering Education was organized at various engineering educational institutes. It saw participation from several Indian engineering and technological institutes. The course was conducted as part of the quality improvement programs run by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

During the course, a series of lectures, field visits and workshops were also organized. And apart from the IIT faculty representatives from organizations such as Art of Living, Center for Science and Environment, CIL, Adobe, etc were invited as guest lecturers to speak on topics as varied as values, environment, green environment including buildings, e – learning, design alternatives and so on.

The objective was to encourage creativity and sensitivity among engineering teachers who would further encourage their students to be creative in the field of engineering. Part of the objective was met by a studio workshop. A studio is generally used in creative fields like photography, art or music. Now educational institutes are also using this concept to promote creativity among students and industry executives.

During the studio workshop, participants were asked to make a presentation on sustainable college campuses. For assistant professor, department of civil engineering, the workshop was very stimulating. His presentation on sustainable campuses was acknowledged as one of the best. In mechanical engineering, there is the concept of going lean, which means shedding whatever is extra which was applied to our university system, there by implying measures such as shedding extra stationery and shedding extra regulatory agencies. Also, in order to incorporate socio-ethical sustainability having a provision for lateral entry for those working in technical fields without any formal education. They too, should be allowed to enter into the traditional engineering education system.

Experts say that engineering graduates will have hundreds of challenging career opportunities due to the constant demand for their services. They, also state that this situation persists, thanks to high job satisfaction ratings due to the profession’s financial security, and highly creative, intellectual environment; not to mention the rewards of being able to benefit society through scientific and technological discovery. The engineering industry has always had a requirement for high quality talent. Firstly it did not appear as if it was booming because other sectors were recruiting in larger numbers. Today, the scenario has changed. Therefore, in comparison, it seems as if there is a boom in the engineering industry. Secondly, there was large scale migration of talent from engineering industry to other industries, notably IT. This necessitated recruitment of replacement in fairly substantial numbers.

The students who are running to IT just for the salary as the reason and there engineers in this from all branches. Even in Campus placements the employers are visiting all colleges like engineering, science and even bio-technology. The employers are looking at a professional degree irrespective of the IT function. Engineering executives must understand that there is ample growth in their field. They should not run away to IT just on the word of ‘no knowledge’ colleagues.