Improving Engineering Education

There could be no denying the fact that engineering graduates have a strategic and long-term impact on quality and productivity growth in industry and service sectors. To produce high quality industrial products and render international-level services that are price competitive both within and outside the country, we need a high number of well trained and well qualified engineering graduates. The pressing needs that are opening because CPEC and would have a long-term impact, further enhance concerns on quality engineering education.

Some of the issues which surround our engineering education system are:

  • Outdated curriculum which is not in line with industry requirements and absence of academic framework to constantly respond to the changing needs;
  • Employers are not happy with engineering graduates and there’s no serious engagement between education providers and employers;
  • Focus of most of the institutions is undergraduate teaching and the post-graduate programs and research is weak;
  • Lack of system capacity building effort and its enterprising and innovation character;
  • Accreditation is more of a compliance rather than an improvement tool;
  • 95 to 100 percent revenue from government disbursement and/or student fees;
  • No participation in regional development.

It’s generally agreed that betterment of the overall engineering education system requires that all the stakeholders must effectively play their due role. The recognized stakeholders are: Students, Faculty/Educators, Alumnai, Administrators, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Industry Professionals & Leaders. However, the key obstacle is the lack of ability to develop sustainable framework of long term development together with its implementation.

Briefly speaking, the steps that can transform an engineering education system are:

  1. Strengthen governance and leadership, which apart from other things also includes increasing the number of autonomous institutions and strengthened role of regulatory bodies to carefully grant accreditation and monitor performance of existing and new institutions.With respect to governance it’s important to make the governing body stronger. It indeed requires inclusion of qualified and competent outside professionals. This concept would meet with much resistance both from public and private sector institutions. But that’s where the independent regulatory body would have to use its muscles.
  2. Improve the quality of teaching, learning and research such that there’s greater focus on outcome based education. This requires that the faculty is well qualified and competent, the atmosphere is conducive to effective teaching, learning and research and there’s continuous curriculum development to cater to the changing needs of industry and end-users.
  3. There’s a need of devising a well thought through criteria for rating all universities and institutions. This must be the task of independent regulatory body. The secured ratings should be applied both for encouragement and reprimands.
  4. Develop stronger industry-institution collaborations. There have been many efforts in the past – some with good outcome – but these couldn’t be sustained due to lack of a clear end goal and implementation hiccups. This must be made mandatory, started and continued on permanent basis and should include internships, engagement of faculty on suitable assignments, etc.
  5. Encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. This could be implemented in several ways, depending on the strengths of a university or institution, its location, etc. At the beginning, it could just provide incentives to students and faculty for feasible ideas and later it could develop into facilities that are common to institutions and industry.Such facilities may consist of special laboratories and workshop for specific purposes where university-industry joint projects could be handled, in turn, creating stronger industry-academia linkage. Success of such linkages could greatly contribute in innovation, entrepreneurship, talent fostering and building up education system which is receptive to market needs.
  6. Implement a national concerted initiative to improve engineering education. A national concerted initiative must be launched by the government with input, participation and commitment from all the stakeholders on improving the quality and relevance of engineering education. The national agenda must at least address the four key dimensions: strengthening governance and leadership; improving the quality of teaching and learning; fostering stronger industry/institute collaboration; and building innovation and entrepreneurship at the engineering institutions.The concerted effort should systematically monitor, refine, and evaluate the progress made at all the universities and institutions which must be tied up with institution ranking and accreditation.

Notwithstanding a discussion on polytechnic institutes which run Associate Engineer [diploma] or BTech programs, it could be stated that they too are in dire need of holistic approach to enhance their effectiveness in imparting quality education.

In conclusion, it could be emphasized that our engineering education system needs major uplift under a long-term plan consisting of concerted efforts of all stakeholders and due diligence of a national level autonomous regulatory body. Considering its magnitude and nature, such a plan might appear to be just a fallacy. But there can’t be shortcuts to such an important subject as the engineering education.

Originally published in Engineering Review.

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