The Rat Race

“We have a potential that is far underestimated and not utilised by any means. We are attracted towards arts and extracurriculars because it isn’t a race to who finishes first or how great it is after a first try.”

                                                                                                        -Srikar Maturi


Just a few years ago, all of us were sweating like pigs doing everything from solving question papers to wearing Baba ki Tawis to crack JEEs. Everyone went along with the flow. We didn’t really know what we were going to do in IIT. But IIT toh jaana hai.

Some fortunate people got in them but many didn’t. And of the many that didn’t, a lot of them ended up in BITS. This is pretty much old news.

Everyone thought that the race was over and we can go back to the lives we all desired. Everyone was wrong. Immediately after the rat’s race for IIT, we were forced into the rat race for CGPA. CGPA matters. Period. Placements, PS stations, projects to be taken under faculty etc, all of this is influenced by CGPA. In our little world, it became the yardstick to measure people. After 5 years, will it matter? NO. But the benefits will exist.

But is CGPA really a proper indicator of learning? In an Indian grading system, I don’t think so.

What do I mean by Indian grading system?

Getting marks is the Hallmark of the Indian system of learning. The teachers care about the method that was used and the calculations done in the process. Any method other than the “Expected” one isn’t entertained. Calculation mistakes will make sure that low marks are awarded and any pleas thereafter are thrown in the trash. Calculations are given more preference over the process. Why do the teachers do this? Simple. If everyone follows the same method that makes the grading quite easy. Calculation mistakes imply lesser marks and hence calculation of grades is done swiftly.

The questions that are asked aren’t innovative either. They are just a repetition of models that were asked before. You don’t have to be innovative for such things. You need a great memory, that’s all.

Indian education is producing clowns and the grading system is curbing innovation.

It’s a bold claim. I know. But these are statements made by every graduate who hates his IT job or his consultancy job. They are expressed in form of  Anonymous posts and rants on social media. They are spoken in anguish and rightly so. They can’t be taken as fake or neglected anymore since they represent a significant section of students.

This is reflected in the present generation of students too.

We came to college with high hopes and enthusiasm. There aren’t any traces of that spirit left at all. There is one advice given to people. “Coding aur Finance Karle. Set hojayegi tera Future”. What if people don’t really like that? What if they realise their interests don’t align with coding and finance?

Where did we go wrong? The teachers ask the question “Why don’t you come to classes, pay attention for once and then decide?” Is it the fault of the teachers or the students? We have been playing this little blame game for a long time and this isn’t helping anyone.

The race doesn’t care about our interests, passions. But we have a chance to change that. We can’t remove it entirely but we can change how the race can be run.  

What needs to be changed?

  1. The teaching methods
  2. The course structure
  3. The Grading system
  4. Future objectives

The teaching methods need to be tweaked a bit. Hands on approach or project driven approach have to be instilled from the first year. We learn 10% from what we hear, 20% from what we discuss, and 70% from what we work. The race then leans toward the curve of learning rather than getting marks. Labs need to be more challenging. The labs need to be open even after the hours and let us work on new things.

The course structure needs many changes. Many courses which are studied in first year are redundant.

For example, VIVA 1st year, during Workshop, “Why are you doing workshop?” asked the professor. I had no answer.

We can update our course structure to suit the needs of the branch. Computing, Data Analysis, Machine learning are the essential tools needed for any engineer. They should be mandatory, not lost in obscurity in a list of electives. This will create more effective engineers.

Phoenix and Manufacturing branches need much more distinction. The difference between ECE, EEE and ENI is pretty blurred. What is the point of getting a degree which spells out ECE/ENI but knows nothing substantial about it? This happens even with Manufacturing.

Let me paint a picture. This image below is the electives presented in ECE from another reputed college.  

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The number of electives offered in Bits which are also present in that list is 6. The number of electives offered in the picture is more than 35. More electives represent diversity of interests and less people taking a single elective. The number of humanities electives offered isn’t enough either, which gives rise to people flocking to a couple, with some people ending up where they absolutely do not want to be, and the same story repeats. If we start digging into other branches everyone tells the same story. This is an obsoleted system.

The grading system needs to be changed to be lenient. Calculation mistakes are human errors and they are bound to happen. Give us assignments which are not lengthy but make us think about new ways of applying the course material which we learnt.

The race we are running for is placements and CGPA. We have to change its objectives to change towards research, learning, innovation. Just because we have Innovation in our motto doesn’t make us innovative. Placements will happen if our engineers are damn good at what they do. That should not be the end game.

We have a potential that is far underestimated and not utilized by any means. We are attracted towards arts and extracurriculars because it isn’t a race to who finishes first or how great it is after a first try. We try to perfect it and work towards it. It takes passion, hard work and collaboration. The competition will come up eventually when we are showcasing art. We rate them too. But we don’t care about how much time it has taken to come up with.

At the end of all of this, maybe education will stop being a rat race and become a journey as it was meant to be. Make Education Great Again.

Thanks for reading such a lengthy article. I would love to hear your opinions about it please do comment.


 

Cover Designed By Anshuman Das

Article By Srikar Maturi

 

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