ENGINEERS today have to constantly contend with the demands and challenges of a rapidly changing, increasingly high-tech and global environment. “Hence, today’s engineering education should be such that while on one hand students are provided with scientific and engineering knowledge in their chosen technical areas, on the other hand they are exposed to a broader interdisciplinary and cultural education,” says, Sivaji Chakravorti, chair of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), Power and Energy Society Chapter (2010). He explains, “On one side, engineering education is science and on the other side it is society. Engineering education should be the focal point where science meets society. An engineer should be capable of using advances in scientific knowledge to meet the needs of society and improve the quality of life for people wherever he/she works. Today, engineering education must produce ‘global engineers’, i.e. engineers who are globally competent and locally relevant.”
The state of engineering education in India has to be understood in the broader context of the country’s education system. “The conventional education system of India paid more attention to writing and theoretical research ability. Practical abilities that have a basis in real world situations were often undermined or simply not adequately emphasised,” says Chakravorti. Talking about specific changes to be brought about in engineering curricula, he continues, “The curriculum should be revised with a focus on solving multi-faceted issues. It is necessary to introduce cross-field study and cutting-edge subjects in science and engineering. Students should be given more self-study time and allowed to spend more time in library and practical work. Moreover, since engineers today work in environments that are global and multicultural it is important for them to be able to comprehend foreign cultures and languages. Hence, it is important to have some foreign language classes through which students can hone their practical hearing, speaking, listening and writing skills.” According to Chakravorti, traditional design courses should be revised to reality engineering design and production process courses and should integrate mechanical, electrical and electronic designs. “The objective should be to enhance the abilities of students in terms of application, research and comprehensive analysis. International students exchange programmes should also be encouraged as these programmes provide students with an opportunity to understand diversity of culture, technology and design concepts,” he shares.
Talking about specific engineering subjects that need to be taught in an interdisciplinary context, Chakravorti says, “Some of the key subjects include energy, environmental sustainability, food supply, healthcare and disease, clean water and security. Although these challenges cannot be solved by engineers alone, engineers must play an important role in finding the solutions that are economically viable and socially relevant.”