The Graduate I want to be!

Recently I happen to read this wonderful article “How to Produce Better Engineering Graduates” by Rushabh Mehta, where he talks about his visit to Don Bosco Institute of Technology (DBIT), the college I’m doing my graduation from. His views about failure and why it is important is something every student like me should read and think about. His thoughts on why Colleges should be strict regarding assessment is something I agree with.

I’m writing this article as an extension to a hopefully very comprehensive conversation. This is the student point of view about the entire topic.

What Institutes Embrace

“We should do more practical work than classroom lectures”, In engineering colleges lines of this nature are not very uncommon. This line is something I don’t completely agree with, however there is something we can infer from this line that students aren’t getting the exposure they need, they aren’t getting to do or apply what they learn. Does this mean that we need less lectures, NO, this is where I disagree with that line. Lectures are important, really important however this is where the system lacks.

Colleges generally have to follow a really rigid pattern not just to complete to syllabus but also to comply to the Universities they are affiliated too, this lack of flexibility is not just holding the students back but also limiting the potentials of teachers. This rigidity has somewhere created stagnation and monotone, this rigidity slowly became something that has to stay, instead of us bending it, this rigidity bent us. Instead of doing something about it, we just adjusted with it. This adjustment is where lies the key to creating great graduates.

Innovation and Creativity is something institutes must embrace, curiosity is something they must foster

This isn’t a solution, but it’s an idea or rather a dream. The current situation is that marks and certificates are embraced by colleges and rote learning is that is fostered.

At DBIT after every examination I see a poster outside my class with photos of the class toppers along with their marks. Is there something wrong with doing that one may ask, well simple answer 'No’, but is it fair, I guess no! The essence of this argument is that marks don’t make an engineer, a person who could write 2 extra points about a scheduling algorithm doesn’t make him a better engineer, probably makes him a better student, if not just lucky. Treat us like Engineers, not students. This is something the institutes must understand. The meeting Rushabh Mehta mentions in his article are endeavours by institutes that must be appreciated, however I feel like this is a correct step but it isn’t fruitful, a discussion about making better graduates wasn’t attended by any 'to-be-graduates’. The ideas, the concepts could never reach the people it affects the most. Why not tell us how can we be better engineers directly to us. Quality in teaching, setting new benchmarks not just for students but teachers as well is a way to generate a healthy competition. A better scorer isn’t always a better engineer, but someone who can solve the problem of a local library by providing a management tool is a better engineer. Challenging the students with real-world problems is something that will go a long way in creating better graduates.

How can my Institute make me a better Engineer.

Challenge me, as an engineer challenges are what I have to face in my career, every problem statement that comes to me will be a challenge simply because there is no perfect solution to it yet, this is what my college can do for me. In this four years of graduation a problem solving attitude must be inculcated into the students, not just by the teachers but also by the system itself, Innovation should become a culture. Every semester, for few of the subjects we are given a mini-project, this can be the perfect medium for bringing about this culture of innovation, this problem solving attitude which we desperately need. The best way to do that is to make the institute open source. Give the problems the institute face to the students, this not only allows the student to build something for a real-world problem but also forces the student to think pragmatically about the problem. As an institute we have a lot of things that can be automated, lot that can be changed, lot that can be upgraded, make the students solve it. This is when you treat us like Engineers and not like students. My college shouldn’t be like any school, it should be seen by us as a forum or a platform of which students are a greater part, when this happens, any problem that comes on this forum will be thought upon, prototypes will come up, new ideas and solutions will come up. Now will the problem be solved? Maybe. But let us fail. Failure will make us better problem solvers, failure is necessary for us to realise how difficult it is to solve a real world problem, to realise the amount of efforts it is going to take when we leave the comfort zone of our labs and classrooms. This is the beauty of the idea of an Open Source College, this system allows failure, and this is amazing. We must realise that success never comes inside the comfort zone, we must be pulled out of our cocoons, that force field of ignorance we have built around us has to be broken.

Communicate your Ideas!

While reading this there is one thing that can be reasoned out, and that is that somewhere down the line there is a communication gap, at a place like ours where young minds and professionals work under one system communication is really important. An environment should be developed where communication is very easy, may it be a student-student, student-teacher, teacher-teacher, across departments and years. A false sense of hierarchy based on marks should be abolished, appreciating innovation, projects with a social aspect, entrepreneurial activities is the way to go. Asking me to change the way the college parking system works is going to make me a better graduate than asking me to write assignments.

This is the graduate I want to be, a graduate that was nurtured with challenges, developed with creativity and educated by curiosity.

I am an Engineer, I solve problems!