Last week, I got a chance to meet and talk to youngsters, straight out of school, looking to become engineers at a prestigious university. The ones I spoke to were particularly students with top ranks in the entrance exam and with an academic record their parents would be proud of. Some conversations brought back a rush of memories.
The first thing I noticed about the whole counselling session was the impeccable energy these children brought along with them. These 17-18 year olds looking to study engineering in search of a (profitable) future is a delight to observe. Practically every student I spoke to was in a dilemma about what would become of their future. In spite of all that, there was hope of a great one. The cynic in me can only admire someone’s ability to be so hopeful!
When I slowly started talking to them about why they choose to do engineering and why that particular university, there were two points that everybody made. Two absurd points to me. But two things that make education sell in this country.
Point No. 1 was about placements: It is rather surprising to me that a student who is going to spend four formative years of his/her life is thinking about the job he/she’d land in rather than about the learning in those four years. When I was in college (for my bachelors in commerce), there was no talk of any placements. Getting a job after B. Com was a bonus, if in case we landed in one.
But now, it is quite sad that students study for a job. I am not being righteous here. If I were to become a carpenter or a plumber, I’d have studied to acquire the skills to be one. I believe this is perfectly all right. But imagine someone choosing to do Mechanical engineering because the placements are great. Strange!
That said, I met this young man who was going to study aeronautical engineering and aspires to join Boeing or Airbus when he finishes the course. I am all for great dreams! J
Surprisingly, when I went to the UK for higher education, I was categorically told that there is no system of placements in the university I was going to (and perhaps in any university in the UK). The prospectus said, “We do not help students find a job in the UK. We help students acquire the skills to find themselves a job.” In contrast, I remember hearing from someone once that “placement officers in many engineering colleges take HR professionals for drinks and dinner to get their students placed.” The economy of ‘placements’ is getting more interesting by the minute!
Point No. 2 was about civil service: One other striking connection all these students had was their interest in joining the civil service. Most of them were students of civil engineering and I guess there is some miscommunication somewhere. Jokes apart, so many of these students want to be IAS and IPS officers after their engineering. The good part about it is of course how many youngsters today want to join civil services. We perhaps need more educated/ intelligent youngsters to run this country.
But the weird part is how they are all studying engineering to join civil services. Wouldn’t it be more apt to study history, sociology, political science or some such before joining civil services?
[P.S: I remember this personality contest that I attended in school. As part of my introduction, I said I wanted to join the Navy and “serve the country”. I had totally made that up to “impress” the judges. I never ever bothered even finding out what the Navy really does and what I can be in the Navy! So, I am no one to judge here. I’m just saying.]
Much has been spoken about education in this country. There are many experts more qualified than I am to make a judgement. But as someone very interested in pedagogy and academics, these observations are rather upsetting.