By Sanjay Goel
With lakhs of students graduating from engineering courses every year, India is a powerhouse of young talent and human resources. However, the moot question is, are our higher educational institutions proving successful in imparting the right kind of practical, industry-related knowledge and project-based learning to students?
Gone are the days when getting a degree was the minimum requirement to land a high-paying job. Being a sheep no longer fetches growth; one needs to stay relevant in changing times. With the establishment of engineering colleges in every nook and cranny of the country, it is important that one chooses a program that doesn’t just boast of providing world-class education but also walks the talk when it comes to helping its students be future-ready.
What is project-based learning?
It is a teaching pedagogy that works by actively engaging students in meaningful projects in the real world. Here, the learning happens in real-time. Deviation in results is a common sight as the projects are open-ended, and students are encouraged to conclude the results based on their understanding of the observations. This helps develop a higher level of thinking. Students are made to function independently, thus inculcating in them a sense of greater responsibility.
Why do engineers need it?
Engineering serves as the link connecting science and art. The backbone of establishing a nation is its engineers. It is, therefore, essential that they understand their social responsibility, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental context in which they work, challenging their own thinking, and questioning the decisions they make along the way, in order to ensure that they are serving all people and the planet.
Why is project-based learning important?
Since time immemorial, knowledge has been imparted to students. However, what matters in today’s fast-paced world is how that knowledge can be put into action when the time demands. This is where project-based learning comes to the rescue. To sharpen students’ 21st century skills, many schools have adopted this as a practice in as early as secondary levels. Recruiters have stressed time and again the necessity of skills like creativity, emotional intelligence, complex problem solving, and critical thinking, among others, when looking for new hires. Thankfully, these are the very skills developed through a project-based learning strategy.
Where do we stand?
Many premier Indian colleges and universities have tie-ups with renowned institutes across the globe. Together, they devise a comprehensive curriculum that presents students with cutting-edge technologies. Exchange programmes have also been sponsored by many higher education institutes at regular intervals that provide exposure to students at the global level. They get to learn the real-world problems and hence an aptitude to come up with solutions. However, given the burgeoning number of engineering candidates, there is still a long way ahead till project-based learning becomes a norm so that it reaches every aspiring engineer.
The author is director of Institute of Engineering and Technology, JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur.