The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has taken various steps to improve technical and higher education in the country. The council’s initiatives are in line with the Central Government’s initiative like Digital India and Skill India, says Prof Anil D Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, AICTE, in an interview with Gopi Arora of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts:
What new initiatives have been taken by the AICTE to promote technical education in the country?
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) started four new schemes last year—Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, Trainee Teacher Scheme, Adjunct Faculty Scheme, and Margdarshan or Mentorship scheme.
There are several initiatives embarked upon by AICTE this year such as, mandatory internship for students (4-8 weeks during summer vacations), training of teachers (both induction and annual in service training), single entrance examination for admission in undergraduate engineering programmes, induction training for first year students (PCM, English, communication skills, ethics, values etc), regular revision of curriculum (annual feature), industry interaction cell in each institute, promoting innovation in study and startups, exam reforms with more emphasis on practical subject understanding and skills than mere subject knowledge and preparing perspective plan for the country with inputs from all the States.
At present, barring the IITs, not many Indian engineering colleges are known globally for imparting quality education, how can this scenario be improved to bring engineering colleges in India at par with the finest colleges across the world?
All the aforementioned schemes are meant for creating academic excellence in the institutes and inculcating problem-solving ability and innovative spirit amongst students. We recently concluded “Smart India Hackathon”, a non-stop coding competition of 36 hours conducted at 26 different centres across India. Over 10,000 students participated in the hackathon and solved 598 problem statements prepared by 29 different government departments and Ministries. The hackathon has empowered the young students, helping them in building confidence.
What are the three most significant challenges you see in the technical education domain?
Currently, we have an acute shortage of good faculty. Attracting bright and good students to teaching profession is one of the biggest challenges. Along with this, 40% of seats remain vacant in engineering colleges of India and the second challenge revolves around it. It is important to improve the quality of technical education along with attracting students from across the country and also from abroad to make use of the capacity built across engineering colleges. The third major challenge is the employability of students after graduation which needs to be improved by bridging the industry and education gap.
We have an acute shortage of good faculty. Attracting bright and good students to teaching profession is one of the biggest challenges. Along with this, 40% of seats remain vacant in engineering colleges of India.
What are the key areas where AICTE needs to change for good?
The AICTE is acting as a mentor and facilitator to improve quality of technical education in India. As a regulator, the council is inspecting the performance of every institute in the country and suggesting measures for improvement in the institutes. Sometimes, AICTE also has to take strict actions against poor performing institutions such as closing a course or an institute.
Digital divide between rural and urban areas is a big issue in the country, what challenges are you facing to bridge this gap? What role does technical education play in empowering the rural masses?
Internet is an empowering tool. SWAYAM, an online Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) platform is being developed by AICTE with the support from MHRD. It will help the students from different areas of the country to be at the same level as far as access to good quality education content is concerned. Best faculties from every domain are requested to develop MOOCs content which will be available free of cost to all students.
“Digital India” and “Skill India” are the two most ambitious projects of the Government of India, what is the role of AICTE in skilling and providing providing jobs to the youths under these two initiatives?
All our transactions be it related to approval, finance, education content, courseware, admission processes, degrees are all becoming digital. Thus, AICTE is working according to the true spirit of Digital India. For skilling country’s youth, AICTE has asked all the colleges to provide skill education to school dropouts using their existing infrastructure. The initiative is also supported through “Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana”. AICTE has also permitted to use the premises of polytechnics for starting ITIs.
Research and Development in higher education doesn’t appear to be getting due attention, what are the challenges in this regard? How are you trying to overcome these challenges?
It is not true that research and development is not getting due attention. We may require enhancing our efforts. AICTE has a number of schemes to support research initiatives in technical colleges such as “Quality Improvement Programme” to upgrade qualifications of faculty by pursuing PhD in reputed institutes, “Modernisation and Removal of Obsolescence” for equipping colleges with latest equipment, “Research Promotion Scheme” for supporting research projects, support for E-cell and Research park, support for innovation labs, support for attending and organising research conferences.
How has been your experience working with the government?
The experience is very good. The Central Government is supporting the council at every level to improve the quality of higher education and research. Recently held “Smart India Hackathon” and AICTE’s start up policy are two examples where the Government has provided its full support for the betterment of higher education sector.
What inspired you to be a part of the teaching fraternity?
During my engineering studies, I used to help my classmates in resolving their subject related queries, either in hostel or at my home. That was the best example of peer learning. I had gauged my potential as a teacher right at that time. Hence, after completing Masters and a short stint in industry, I started pursuing PhD and continued my passion for teaching.