If Life serves You Lemons, make Lemonade

The start of College is a very exciting day. Suddenly, the campus comes to life, buzzing with activity. A new group of students join, eager to become engineers. The reason educators do not get bored is that inspite of teaching the same things, there is a difference because each human being is distinct.

I think about the very passionate presentation made by Gourav Jaiswal of Synapse at our college. A point he emphasised was that each person needs to worry about what is special about him or her. The way and the rate at which the world is changing, this factor will be increasingly important.

A formal education system will by its very nature “mass produce” engineers. Does it have to be so bad? Do we need to have a system in which people blindly choose engineering as a career? We, in order to meet this demand, open more and more colleges producing more of the same thing. Even the difference between IT and Computer Engineering is more symbolic than real.

The newspapers report that students do not opt for Architecture these days. Yet, if we reflect upon it, how many engineers' names do we know? However, most ot our readers would know the names of prominent architects.

This brings me to the title. I hope it is not copyrighted because I read it recently but just can't recall where. Should students not understand their capability, interest and inclination and choose their career option appropriately? Is the answer to the question “How are prospects for IT?” all that matters? After all, it is probably easier to change ones spouse than ones career.

What should the educational institutions be doing? Is it correct that we are not in line with industry's needs? We will discuss the industry's role in the predicament of the students another time; here, I will merely quote Prof. Dijkstra, It is not the task of the University to offer what the society asks for, but to give what the society needs.”

We need to create programs which match the interest of the students and fulfill the diverse needs of the society. There is no single size which fits all. When we try to do that we create a situation where students fail. Failure is demotivating, demoralising and is not in the interest of the society.

Within Information Technology itself there are varying needs. Do students have to specialise at master's level? Is our curriculum appropriate for the goals we wish to achieve? It may seem so just because every college across the country is conforming to the same pattern. Everyone can't be wrong. However, are our students at all prepared to meet the challenge posed by Open Source software for society? There is a wealth of creative and excellent software available. If a company decides to implement an Open Source solution, it will need help.This help will certainly not come from our current educational system. I am not sure about what we would call such knowledge engineers or even what we should teach then; but I am very sure that such persons would save companies tons of money and time.

We need to create courses with a clear objective and ensure that each of our subjects in the course pushes us towards our goal. We should offer a variety of courses. Prospective students and their guardians must be informed about the opportunities available and the skills, including temperament etc., required for a course. Most of all, if we have to offer a variety, classes will have to be smaller. The society must be willing to spend more if it is to avoid wasting its efforts in getting orange juice out of lemons.