Engineering students of both government and private institutions might soon have to write a mandatory exit examination in their final year. Their performance in this examination is likely to determine their employability, as the government plans to share their scores with prospective employers.
Concerned about the quality of engineering students graduating every year, the government is proposing to test their “attainment levels” through this examination. The issue will come up for discussion at a meeting of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) next week.
The proposed test is the result of the feedback the government has received about skewed standards of the country’s engineering education, which produces seven lakh students annually from 3,000-odd registered technical institutes. Data show that only 20% to 30% of them get a decent job. The low employability is attributed as much to the lack of requisite skills as to the falling demand from the industry.
“We want to check their aptitude, skills and critical thinking and not just theory. The exit examination will be focused entirely on that. This will give us a feedback on the teaching standards at these institutes too. We will be able to suggest remedial measures as it will help in identifying the colleges which require teacher training etc.,” said a human resource development (HRD) ministry source.
There are thousands of engineering institutes across the country and they use different tools and techniques to teach and test the skill of students. To test their attainment levels, said sources, a committee has suggested making Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) examination mandatory for all students passing out of various engineering colleges. “It will help assess standards of education in each institution and we will be able to make changes accordingly,” said the source.
GATE is an all-India examination that primarily tests the comprehensive understanding of various undergraduate subjects in engineering and science. It is conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science and seven Indian Institutes of Technology. The GATE scores are usually used by IITs for admission to M.Tech.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) has already proposed to make exit examination compulsory for obtaining degrees. Official sources said that they were weighing the option of making it a pre-condition for award of degree in engineering too. However, a final decision will be taken at the AICTE meeting. Although students will get their B.Tech degrees from their institutes regardless of their performance in the exit examination, participation in the examination would not be voluntary as is the case with GATE, said sources.
Once the proposal is approved and the mandatory exit examination is conducted, the results would be shared with institutes to help them devise techniques to plug the gaps. The AICTE will have to issue a regulation for this purpose so that all institutes follow it. If institutions don’t comply with the regulation, they might face the risk of losing approval status, said sources.
“There are many reports about the poor employability of engineering graduates, which is a direct reflection of their non-technical skills. It will be commendable if IITs can impart such skills to the bright engineering graduates of our country. Mere assessment is a good step, although it will not be adequate if it is not backed by a curriculum to impart these non-technical, life skills such as critical thinking and soft skills,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head of education and skill development, KPMG in India, a professional service company.