Why students are steering away from engineering education in India?
EXCLUSIVE: The government must step up for creation of more employment opportunities as many parents and students in India are today shifting aspiration and their interest in engineering education is declining.
Since time immemorial, Indian parents aspire for quality education and careers for their wards - their children to complete the secondary level of education to become engineers, doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants among other popular jobs in demand. Every profession requires certain courses to be completed and their demands keep on fluctuating depending upon the availability of job opportunities. A large number of Indian families dream of their children pursuing courses on engineering and technology. However, since the last few years, the country has been witnessing a shift in the aspiration and job demand pattern.
As per the statistics of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the intake of the undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) courses of engineering and technology is decreasing every year.
Looking at the intake of UG courses in engineering and technology, it is evident that the UG intake has fallen by 17.5 per cent from 15,57,110 in 3,293 Institutions in 2016-17 to 12,84,907 in 2,974 institutions in 2020-21.
Annual fall in UG intake in the academic years 2016-17 to 2017-18 is 5.17 per cent, 2017-18 to 2018-19 is 4.87 per cent, 2018-19 to 2019-20 is 5.36 per cent, and in 2019-20 to 2020-21 is 3.34 per cent. This evinces the stark reality that engineering education is losing its sheen.
Similarly, the statistics of PG courses in engineering and technology demonstrate the drastic reduction in intake by 25.12 per cent since the 2016-17 academic session when the intake was 1,97,166 in 2,236 institutions which came down to 1,47,594 in 1,861 institutions in 2020-21.
Assessing the annual fall in PG intake shows that it is reduced by 5.62 per cent during academic sessions 2016-17 to 2017-18, 2.08 per cent during 2017-18 to 2018-19, 7.43 per cent during 2018-19 to 2019-20, and the maximum reduction of intake by 12.5 per cent is seen during 2019-20 to 2020-21.
The statistics of engineering and technology education point to a looming setback to India which has held pride of being a pioneer in engineering, medicine, arts, music, etc. in ancient times. It is much more concerning at a time when India is looking forward to capitalizing on the demographic dividend and emerging as a five trillion economy.
Although the intakes have been diminishing since the last so many years, still it is not too late to analyze the perceptions of key stakeholders, namely students and parents for arriving at the root cause of the students shifting away from engineering and technology.
Unequivocally, a career in engineering and technology is the ambition of the majority of brilliant students finishing secondary education with science and mathematics subjects. Students' perception is still positive about engineering education. However, certain apprehensions concerning the positioning of engineers in society are evident. All parents eye at available job opportunities and career prospects after engineering education as prosperity and good living are a direct function of earnings.
Thus, the moot question to be answered concerning the students drifting away from engineering education is how will it fetch sustainable livelihood and prosperous life?
Every student completing UG or PG degrees in engineering and technology wishes to get a decent job. Generally, in the present circumstances, the confidence of students seeking admission in the first year of the respective courses gets shattered gradually year by year and touches the lowest ebb by the time they are about to pass out. This is primarily due to the uncertainties creeping in student minds because of the scenario prevailing around in respect to their placements and career prospects.
The options after completion of courses are job in the private sector, job in the public sector, self-employment in own enterprises or entrepreneurship, and higher education and research. For quite some time the private sector jobs are majorly seen in computer and IT related fields, consulting jobs, service sector jobs, etc. while core engineering sector job opportunities are squeezing. As regards the jobs in the public sector, the fast diminishing number of engineering entries in public sector undertakings and the government sector is quite worrisome.
The Engineering Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, New Delhi every year is one of the most coveted options for engineering students of Civil, Electrical, Electronics, and Mechanical engineering. The number of posts for which the recruitment is to be made through this examination as per the UPSC notifications in the last few years shows that the vacancies declined with the progression of time as 609, 440, 588, 581, 495, and 215 in the years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively. The number of posts in the prestigious service of engineers in the Government of India getting reduced to two digits for certain disciplines is the real worry among graduating engineers.
There is also a significant number of UG students who intend to pursue PG studies due to their passion for higher education and due to no jobs after a UG degree. The PG intake and UG passout numbers are 18,22,204 and 7,49,720 respectively for the academic session 2018-19 as per AICTE data which means only 24.3 per cent of UG students can seek PG education. These numbers have limited relevance till all UG pass-out students are not getting placed otherwise.
For PG degree holders, the major sector offering employment opportunities happens to be the engineering education sector and R&D establishments. The ongoing incessant diminishing UG intake and closure of institutions worsen the placement opportunities for PG students as teachers. Also, the limited indigenous R&D in the industry does not open ample opportunities for engineers and technologists with higher qualifications.
The sector wise placement of students from IIT Bombay i.e. the most sought after engineering institute in India shows that the placement offers to its students were 35 per cent in ‘engineering & technology’ followed by 18 per cent in ‘IT/software’, 11 per cent in ‘analytics’, nine per cent in ‘research and development’, 8 per cent in ‘finance’, 7 per cent in ‘çonsulting’, 6 per cent in ‘services’, 3 per cent in ‘education’, three per cent in ‘FMCG’, and only 1 per cent in ‘public sector undertaking’.
Contemplating the data about the fraction of students placed amongst those aspired for placement, the revelations are not very encouraging. Course wise placement percentage is 92.13 per cent for B Tech, 94.33 per cent for B Tech+M Tech dual degree and 83.43 per cent for M Tech. This implies that the cent per cent of students who possessed the highest merit at the time of admission could not get placement offers even in the best engineering institution of the country.
Further, as per Failory report, the large failure of around 90 per cent of those venturing into entrepreneurship and startups does not bespeak an invigorating state of affairs. Especially, in a developing economy like that of India, the risk-bearing capabilities, financing, job security, social obligations, enabling surroundings, public perception, etc. deter many from getting into entrepreneurship and startups.
Therefore, the absence of sufficient job opportunities appears to be the sole reason for the lessening inclination of students towards engineering and technology education. This puts onerous responsibility on the government to facilitate the creation of massive employment opportunities. While the regulating body, engineering institutions, and engineering academics should collectively introspect the engineering education from a quality and quantity perspective to make it worthwhile as per the present and future requirements without sacrificing its rigour.
(The views expressed are personal)