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Experts find lacunae in engineering education

By Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, June 22 - The traditional teaching style of �chalk and talk� is still prevailing in most of the engineering colleges in the State. Hence, if a student misses a lecture, it is not clear as to how he or she would access this other than by relying on peer support.

This was observed by a team of experts from the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Curtin University, Australia, which conducted a survey of the state of higher technical education in the public sector engineering colleges of Assam.

The Curtin University is a leading university in teaching engineering courses. The experts also observed that libraries in the engineering colleges of Assam are also �poorly resourced, computing resources are inadequate and not reflective of modern technology or trends. Laboratory equipment are old and their calibration, accuracy and repeatability of results are questionable.�

Moreover, they said, technical support in these colleges is also not adequate and their equipment are visibly aged and not suitable at all for research projects. Many excellent modern teaching tools, including basic internet, Wi-Fi, digital journals, e-books, and specialized software are not available.

They also said the State�s higher technical education institutions are plagued by a bureaucracy that constrains academic and operational capacity. �Currently, the system at best could be described as passive, not proactive,� they maintained. There is clear lack of institutional planning and the goals to achieve in the short, medium and long-term are missing, they added.

However, the dedication and passion for academia are clearly visible among both staff and students and the presence of a sound governance structure would dramatically assist the State�s engineering colleges in establishing themselves as academic institutions offering internationally accredited programmes, they said.

Though the current curriculum offered by the engineering colleges is prescribed by the All India Council for Technical Education, and has a relevant content, it appears that it has not been reviewed in the past few years, even though there is a provision for reviewing it every five years. This has left the curriculum static rather than dynamic, they observed.

Moreover, the curriculum lacks key topics such as engineering ethics, professional practice and sustainability. Organisationally, there are no written policies on curriculum design, educational objectives, learning outcomes, changes to curriculum content or requirements, external review or cyclic review, benchmarking, quality assessment or assessment of learning quality, they said.

The gap analysis project revealed that there is an inadequate pedagogical design of the assessment regime leading to outcomes that are not fit for the purpose in many cases. Students receive little or no feedback.

An alarming lack of administrative support for academic staff was also observed. The experts� team was informed that the heads of departments do not get any relief from teaching load, and have to attend to their own administration. Students wait up to six months for examination results. There is no defined process for students to raise concerns, grievances or matters of unfair treatment. Little or no support exists for counselling, said the experts.

A survey of research issues conducted as part of the research gap analysis identified three main areas of concern among the research staff of Assam Engineering College and Jorhat Engineering College. These are � lack of infrastructure, funding and environment, said the experts.

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