Ajit K Chaturvedi, Former Director of IIT Roorkee, and currently a faculty of Electrical Engineering at IIT Kanpur, has shared his opinions on why some students gradually lose interest in Engineering after following that career path. After taking a significant interest in “engineering subjects”, mainly Physics, Chemistry, and Maths at school, many Engineering students tend to give up on the Engineering curriculum around the third or fourth semester of their course. There may be many reasons behind this; Chaturvedi helps us explore some of them.
The seed of interest towards Engineering is mainly sown in young minds when they realise their affinity towards science and technology. They are fascinated by the latest technological innovations that they have come across. They explore the three aforementioned subjects and eventually excel in one or more of them. However, the disconnect to the stream starts to seep in once they reach the third or fourth semester of their course. The curriculum that they study in college has barely any connection to the current technological advancements that drew them in in the first place. Slowly they start moving on from engineering when they also get a glimpse of the skimpy number of job opportunities in core Engineering.
Chaturvedi says that there are myths in our society about what constitutes science and what constitutes engineering. He believes it to be the responsibility of the people in STEM to raise awareness that engineering education is not divorced from, but built on the foundations of physics, chemistry and maths. The word “science” per see should not be conceived as simply physics, chemistry, maths and biology.
Usually, students grow disinterested towards engineering seeing the rising level of difficulty in the subjects they perceive as “science”. This disappointment often stems from the societal conditioning that engineering is something different from the “science” subjects they have studied.
Chaturvedi also perceives engineering students to be a byproduct of the engineering colleges: and like any product, they also have a shelf-life. We rarely see a product which retains its relevance in the market even after two to three years of its introduction in the market. This is exactly the challenge faced by the engineering curriculum.
Chaturvedi advises both internal and external efforts that can be made to retain the students’ interest in engineering. “The schools, societies and IITs can help prepare prospective engineering students with a better understanding of what they can expect from engineering education and how they can relate it to the technical world we see and experience”, he says. With the collective external addressing of this issue on the part of the IITs, the students and the curriculum both can be saved.
Internally, he says, the engineering curriculum should have a revision and necessary reform every two to three years to keep the curriculum from being redundant to the learner. Minor changes should keep being made on a continuous basis. Then, it might be possible to strike a balance between teaching the “Science of Engineering” and keeping the passion for engineering alive in students.