Reports released recently by American agencies reveal that Hyderabad sends the most number of students to the U.S. to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education, out of which 78 per cent of students pursue a master’s degree with an estimated outflow of 640 millions US dollars. The reports also revealed that a large proportion of the engineering degree holders go to the US for pursuing a Master’s of engineering degree in mediocre or poor quality schools. Are engineering graduates of India not competent enough to adjust to the rigmarole of the serious academic requirements of the US? Is that why they don’t prefer good colleges? One should understand that there is a major difference between engineering education offered by Indian and US universities. It is pertinent to point out that the expectations of the U.S. universities in quite different as compared to STEM education in India. For example, a B.E./B.Tech degree in India comprises 180-200 credits while a comparable degree in the U.S. requires 120-130 credits for graduation. The difference is the depth and the level of academic rigor required to complete a U.S. undergraduate degree. In the US, typically if students take five courses per semester/quarter, they are required to spend considerable time every day over the entire duration of the semester/quarter to handle the home works, class assignments, term papers, end exams, etc. which makes the U.S. degree programme a rigorous and continuous performance based exercise rather than a knee jerk reaction to mid-term tests, homework assignments deadlines, and final-end semester exams as in our universities. As a result of the academic rigor of US engineering education, hopefully the core fundamentals are fairly well drilled in and it becomes easier to learn add on courses or broaden one’s horizons from on line sources and from attending part-time courses. Everything under the sun need not be (and cannot be) taught in the four years comprising the B.E/B.Tech degree course in India. Notwithstanding the guidelines of AICTE and UGC, one needs to do serious introspection regarding the breadth of engineering curriculum that can be force fed to the students in the four-year span. If the number of credits comprising a BE degree are reduced considerably to manageable levels, perhaps the quality can be enhanced, ensuring that there is active and continuous engagement of the students throughout the semester. It is equally a challenge for the teachers to keep the students engaged continuously throughout the semester by making the lectures interesting (student attention span is a big issue these days), assigning homework problems which are both closed and open ended in nature, give pertinent and topical areas for writing term papers and desist from handing out descriptive questions in the mid and final exams. Given this background for a typical Indian engineering education, some of the challenges faced by our students to study abroad, based on the feedback from a few international collaborators of engineering education with JNTU Hyderabad are as follows: For our students pursuing a joint international collaborative dual degree program, a European University is offering a bridge course in research methodology since our students struggle with their theses because they lack the proper training. It is observed that our students struggle with answering open ended assignment questions as they are used to writing pre-defined answers from a set syllabi. Students are of the mindset that end exams are more difficult to pass as compared to submitting course assignments/term papers. This mindset has to change. Exams and assignments are equally important. This results in improper time management resulting in non-adherence to deadlines. Based on personal experience, it is felt that too much emphasis on transacting prescribed syllabi content leads to one way traffic and boredom. Present day students are information and net savvy and have access to tons of internet content; they should be given adequate time for self-expression in class work.
Source: The Hindu
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