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The Leap to College

85% of engineering graduates not immediately employable; need to improve quality of education.

A recent news article based on a convocation speech from a board member of a renowned University turned a few heads this year. This is something most of us had already guessed to be true. She said studies had shown most of the engineering graduates have to be trained by companies before they can be employed. She also mentioned the need to update the syllabi of the engineering and technical courses.

Recently there has been an attempt by several colleges to update the syllabi, new degree courses have been added and short-term job-oriented courses have been introduced as well. We have a long way to go, and to that end, we need to look at the career path our students are taking in greater depth, extending back to their school years. We also need to evaluate our non-technical universities and colleges, since arts, commerce and law are indispensable in building any advanced civilization.

One way to determine the quality of high school graduates seeking admission to colleges could be through internationally recognized test scores such as that of the SATs. Barring Thailand and Turkey, Asian countries generally fare well when it comes to SATs, both in Reading, as well as Math. So, the SAT scores do not show that Asian students are lagging behind their Western counterparts. However, SATs may not be an adequate metric for comparing the students, especially because the students who take them from developing and underdeveloped countries may not be a proper representative of the respective demographic of the country. Developed and underdeveloped countries often tend to have wealth inequality. Students who generally take the SATs in order to seek admission to colleges abroad, quite often belong to the upper or upper middle classes. They mostly attend the private schools in cities and may have a huge difference with the students from the marginalized communities in the level of education they receive in their school lives.

Such discrepancies can only do more harm than good. COVID already worsened the already existing problems of child marriage and child labour, with an alarmingly increased number of students dropping out of schools or never returning, in order to economically contribute to their families. If our colleges fail to prepare students for jobs and students struggle to find employment after graduation, a large number of students will seeking admission to colleges altogether.

In underdeveloped and developing countries it might be difficult to find the exact data highlighting the disparity in the number of students graduating from schools and those seeking admission to Bachelor degrees. For reference, we could look towards the developed countries. USA for example, has shown an unprecedented drop in the number of high school graduates seeking admission to colleges. This decline has been especially higher in non-private colleges, signifying a possible general distrust in the public education system.

Under the current circumstances, there could a great many factors contributing to the decline in the number of students seeking college admissions. The Unified-District Information System on Education estimated that around 7.9 million Higher Secondary students were studying Science in 2016. However, approximately only 1.2 million students appeared for the JEE, the toughest entrance examination for admission to the engineering degrees in the country. This is significant, since it could mean that most of the students themselves have identified their high school education inadequate to even take the test. To ensure there are less discrepancies in students graduating schools and seeking higher education, we need to first ensure that our schools are providing the foundational knowledge that can help students excel in colleges.

School dropouts need to be monitored more closely as well, in order to prevent the normalization of the lack of faith in education in such cases shown by the family members of such students. Whether due to financial constraints or a general case of misinformation, it needs to be conveyed to parents that completing school education is vital for the betterment of their wards. Through updated curriculum and a more rigid training process when it comes to selecting teachers and professors, we can ensure that the education levels in schools is sufficiently adequate in equipping students for their higher education, so that we may get adequately trained professionals who can easily contribute to jobs with skilled labour.

We need to help students and teachers as well take advantage of the various tools and facilities that edtech has to offer. In the words of Anil Sahasrabudhe, chairman, All-India Council for Technical Education, “We should keep moving forward to ensure that we are ready to face challenges of the future.”

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