The Indian College Story
Why do educational institutions fail students?
If you are dissatisfied with your college experience, it is understandable. It is what I expect. But why do colleges fail so magnanimously in living up to the students' expectations? Let us try and study the situation, starting with my own college experience.
A mixed bag
I have been interested in Computer Science since school. I had taken it up as my 5th subject, which students get a choice for, in standard 11th. By the time I finished schooling, I already knew how to work with linked lists and data structures. My thought was that I know so much while I am still in my school. So imagine how much more I can learn about this subject when I study in college. And it was the first myth that got busted.
I had joined IT engineering because I wanted to do coding. The college took it upon itself and made sure that I did not get to do coding. There were always surplus assignments and classroom sessions, and even the practical labs were boring. I wanted to create apps and make software. But I was stuck with a microcontroller. Kya chaaha tha aur kya paaya, soche baghban! (What I wanted was not what I got.) I could imagine all the Bollywood sad songs playing in the background.
My admission into Manipal Institute of Technology happened on the back of an educational loan. So it was always running in my mind that I am wasting so much money that I have to give back to the bank. It will be safe to say that I was completely disillusioned by my college experience.
I must mention that if we remove the education part of college (sadly), it was a fun experience. Everybody hated studying and no one went to the library until before the exams. Hence, there was a lot of time for friends and love interests. The crowd at college was smart and I would spend most of my time networking. I remember being a part of a college society named the Indian Society for Technical Education. We would run workshops for the students and I was the President. That made me feel like a very important person. I am doing so many awesome things. Any reputed company will look at my certificates and instantly hire me. That was another myth that got busted, but more on that some other time.
This experience taught me a lot about leadership, marketing, communication, and helped me develop into a natural storyteller. We had a main circle on the campus, the place where everyone would sit. I would take a bench, keep a poster at my side and sell the workshops. I had to convince people one by one. Tell the same story again and again. But every time I repeated it, the version of the story will improve. Nobody teaches you sales or storytelling. You have to do it to learn it. And I am glad that there was a lot of self-learning during my college years. I must mention at this point that being the president of tech clubs or being a member of committees does not help in getting or on a tech job, but it does help in everything else, like building a startup.
But why do colleges fail?
They don't have an incentive to be good, as simple as that. Colleges get rankings. How are the rankings measured? Firstly, by placements. So colleges focus on that and ensure that they have a good Placement and Training cell. They will take care of the recruiters, host them in 5-star hotels and whatnot. And at the end of the day, they will get their students placed. Let's just not go into the quality of placements because that's a deep, deep swamp. The second factor that decides the rankings is the number of research papers that are published by the college. So, in the 4th year of engineering, professors coerce you to write a research paper and not work on app development or a web development project. There's this saying that I often follow. If you measure the wrong things, you will do the wrong things. Sadly, the AICTE is measuring the wrong things.
Consider this situation. If I do not teach well at NeoG Camp, the students can leave me and easily join some other boot camp, or take a course from Udemy or Udacity. You cannot do that in a college. If a professor is not teaching well, you cannot say that out loud, or get some other better teacher. That's the harsh truth. In all honesty, it's not the professors' fault. If you are a good coder, you can easily get a job that pays you at least Rs. 50k per month, even more as you gain experience. Why will you settle for a teaching job that pays Rs. 35k per month? And if you do settle as a professor, there is no incentive or growth opportunities for you to work hard behind it. Compared to foreign universities, their professors get good salaries and industry exposure by doubling up as tech advisors to startups. This gives them a push to care for their students and help them grow. Let's be real. How many senior software engineers who have industry experience teach students, even as guest lecturers? Hardly any, and that is why the quality of education suffers.
The only way to help the education situation in the country is when we start to incentivize the right thing. And that right thing can be the number of students that get a job with decent pay in a high-growth company.
Till next time
Tell me about your college experience. I don't think it would be very different from mine, still, I do want to know. And let me know what you think about my arguments. Have I been able to point out the right cause? Is there something else that can better explain the scenario? Share your opinions on Twitter or in the comments below.