Engineering Education: Some Questions

Man Mohan Singh in his Independence Day speech today from the rampart of Red Fort said, “We are establishing 6,000 new high quality model schools, with at least one school in each block. 373 new colleges are being opened in backward districts. We are opening 30 new universities, 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 20 new IIITs, 5 new Indian Institutes of Science, 2 Schools of Planning and Architecture, 10 NITs, and 1,000 new polytechnics. I have called the 11th Five Year Plan our “National Education Plan”.

PM had announced the plan in last year’s speech too. Further, this wish list is not comprehensive. Why did he forget AIIMSs promised? Perhaps, India requires 5,000 polytechnics and a large number of medical professionals such as nurses and technicians.

India requires many more institutes in specialized areas of knowledge. But few questions as usual trouble me.

Why couldn’t Pandit Nehru devoted first few- two or more of his Five Year Plans just for educating India instead of getting into so many areas from penicillin to aircraft manufacturing simultaneously?

Why couldn’t some of the established institutes of technologies such as Bengal Engineering College, Jadavpur College of Engineering, Roorkee Engineering College, and some more such as BHU- Institute of technology, grow to global standard set by the institutes in US?

Why is the brand IIT is stretched beyond limits with so many proposed IITs to make it loose its achievements?

Why are at least over 150,000 of India’s brighter students moving to foreign countries from US, UK, Australia, and even China and are spending $3.5-5 billion in foreign institutions of higher learning every year?

Why couldn’t even some of the IITs become Stanford, Harvard, MIT, or Berkley?

Why couldn’t Delhi School of economics grow to London School of Economic level?

Why is there so much of disparity between different states in number of engineering colleges? According one such list, while Maharashtra is having 558, Tamil Nadu 525, Karnataka 485, and Andhra Pradesh 431, Uttar Pradesh has 241, Orissa 132, and Bihar only 50?

As I understand, there are 1,200 engineering colleges in private sector with total student capacity of 1,440,000 and revenue of Rs 234,000 million. And by 2012, some 800 more engineering colleges will be added. How will the quality of the education be ensured? Will it be left to market to decide?

And still the industries in India are finding it difficult to get employable engineers.

Should these questions not be debated and answered to arrive at a what-to-do plan?

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