Posts Tagged ‘Engineering’

Of trusses, beams and columns

Posted: August 2, 2010 by Gurveen Bedi in IIT
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The last few days, in a course at IIMA, I have been studying roads and railways, the current issues in their development and financing.

These classes reminded me of a previous FARA (Financial Accounting and Reporting) lecture in first year, when the professor asked the civil engineers in class (unfortunately I was the only one in my class), to explain S-curves to the rest of the students. And I was stumped, since I had no idea what S-curves were. This made me wonder about the quality of engineering graduates in IITs these days, including myself.

It also reinforced a previously held view: IITs do not produce the best engineers

IITs may have some exceptional minds, may also have some amazingly intelligent engineers, who know their S-curves and structural mechanics. But the majority of the students are disinterested in the stream of engineering that they are in.

One reason is the admission process, where you enter an engineering stream in the first year, having absolutely no idea of what that engineering really is. And then you spend four years studying something you chose on a whim. In fact, I have met many a chemical engineers who enrolled in chemical engineering, thinking that they would be studying chemistry and chemical equations.

Another reason is the academic sense at IITs. The impression given to a student entering an IIT is that ‘Rigor ended with JEE’, which is quite the opposite to what you’re told at IIMs, that ‘CAT is just the beginning’. It is this expectation that gets ingrained in students and affects the way they deal with their academics in their remaining tenure.

But the biggest reason for all this, is the pedagogy at IITs. It is archaic and uninspiring, to say the least. Course content is rarely updated. New courses are also a rarity. Professors do not even attempt to discuss any contemporary issues or to generate any interest in students regarding their engineering stream. The maximum class participation is back-bench bickering and the occasional snoring. The concept of academic honesty went for a toss such a long time back, that it is not even a matter of discussion now. On top of that, every few years the workload keeps getting reduced, owing to the continuously occurring suicide cases.

Contrast this with IIMs. One out of every four lectures at IIMA is an experience in itself. The use of teaching aids like videos, movies, presentations, in-class exercises make learning such an interesting experience that people like attending classes. The professors do their best to relate courses to the latest happenings in the world. The workload is terrifying, yet there has never been a suicide attempt.

No wonder some of the brightest students out of IIT, opt for non-engineering jobs and MBAs at the end of their engineering. It is easy for the professors at IITs to complaint about this trend, but very difficult for them to accept that they are one of the key reasons for the same.

IITs could learn several lessons from IIMs. Perhaps it’s time for some professors to come down to IIMA for MDP (Management Development Program).