Things are an assembly of various elements. Some definite powers are after their formation, combination, coordination, installation and commissioning. It may simply be called engineering. By the physical order of things engineering tops the list of human activities. Factually the world is an engineering feat of the Creator Who after creation sent teachers to teach how to live peacefully followed by medicine to carry on healthily. The difference and the distinction lies in naming and respecting the activity or profession. A carpenter if renamed can be joinery designer/engineer. A blacksmith a metallurgical engineer. A person turned sooty with grease bespattered on his body/clothes and diesel/petrol emissions at a workshop a mechanical engineer and so on. The machinery and the equipment with which the other professionals work are the contribution of engineering education. Engineering education though laden with latent potency the field of professions was led by medicine to make a rank in society followed by the usual streams of arts, social sciences, commerce etc. The importance and the status of engineering education in J and K can be gauged by its poorest institutional representation in the form of one Kashmir Government Polytechnic College at Gogjibagh Srinagar established in 1958 and one Regional Engineering College established in 1960 at Hazratbal Srinagar (now changed to National Institute of Technology since 7/2003) with no engineering institutions established in between.
Allured by the explosive growth in demand for engineering graduates by the information & technology industry at national level and abroad, it was as late as 1990s that engineering became a highly soight after profession in J&K with parents goading their children to welcome this field of knowledge. Both parents and the students embraced the venture with the hope of guarantee for a respectable job with a fat salary and an assured career progression. Resultantly every Tom, Dick and Harray wanted to be an engineer and ran for admission in engineering education without judging the feasibility for the study. Consequently some polytechnic colleges were set up and commissioned in private sector. These colleges being in infancy offered the prescribed courses in various streams of engineering education with whatever faculty expertise and the infrastructural facilities they had. A good number of students unable to get admission within J & K or for reasons of studying in better institutions went outside to fulfill their dream. Further with accretion of government run colleges commissioned since recent past at the district level the number of students taking up engineering education increased considerably. With the gradual increase in the intake capacity of these institutions more and more came out in search of livelihood after diplomas/degrees, and little or none for post-graduation/PhDs to evolve and create newer and higher skills & innovations. Since setting up of an engineering college is an expensive work and a time consuming hectic activity the buildings housing such colleges at various places lacked some arrangements pre-requisite for imparting satisfactory engineering education.
Both the government as well as private sector sailed in the same boat. Private entrepreneurs left for one reason or the other. Many of those who plunged into the field found it advantageous to provide minimum infrastructure and employ less-experienced faculty, inadequate by number also. Moreover, the geographical and the political conditions worsened the case further unlike other states. The result of all this was poor quality engineering institutions, poor faculty and poor quality students. Pertinent to mention here that setting up engineering college in each district appeared to be more a political expediency than filling an engineering void. This proved no more than half-laid roads to half-dug wells. Establishing only half the number of colleges equipped with full-fledged modern teaching/learning technology and skillful faculty would have been better a option enabling better quality engineering /engineers. The lot could have competence enough to compete the job market besides offering their share of contribution. Such engineers could have risen to the occasion of the information technology & industry demands and given new leading directions & dimensions to the engineering education also. Among the drawbacks of our engineering education are out-dated text books & obsolete teaching methods, learning through rote memorization, irrelevant practical exposure, delayed or no updating of syllabus, lack of quality control at entry level, irregular faculty & students paving way for poor quality learning. Most of our engineering students fail at country level competition with latter also not coping well at global level for similar reasons. At Central level All India Council of Technical Education set up in 1945 as a national level apex advisory body and later on given statutory status under an Act of Parliament in 1987 is responsible for proper planning, management and coordination of technical education.
The engineering education called technical education also was run under the guidance of J& K State Board of Technical Education which came into existence during 1981 as an individual entity of the Directorate of Technical Education under the aegis of Department of Higher Education. It was transformed into an autonomous body by an Act. 24 of 2002 of the State Legislature. During 6/2020, however, the Technical Education Department was renamed to Department of Skill Development and the Directorate of Technical Education to Directorate of Skill Development by the Administrative Council of J & K. The admission process to polytechnic schools was also shifted from Board of Professional Entrance Examinations to Board of Technical Education for admissions for 2021. It is a lamentable compulsion to narrate that some engineers in some streams do not even compete with non-engineers having less than three years experience at private work places. There should be, for government/private level, complete revamping of this line of study by introducing relevant and advanced courses, teaching and the learning techniques, at-site classes, efficient and sufficient infrastructure, teacher-taught ratio, working hours/conditions, fair & complete assessment of the students, course coverage, no under-staffing or under-funding, appropriate and judicious fees & admission policy, time-bound exams and declaration of results. Sub-standard entities or anyone trying to game the system and defame the profession/professionals may be weeded out with inmates therein adjusted suitably elsewhere at the cost of the defaulters. Government may facilitate establishing of institutions through capable hands in private sector willing to contribute gracefully. This will decrease flight of capital of at least one billion rupees (5000 students × Rs. 200000) per annum outside. Time beckons us to lead and give than to follow and take. If engineering is meant really to flourish to achieve engineering feats it should be given its due attention so that our engineering degree holders may become engineers practically.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.