When I was a student of 10th grade in the mid-1980s , peer and parental pressure didn’t leave much freedom to identify one’s strengths and work on corresponding careers. The career choices were also limited. Engineer, doctor or loser: this was ingrained in our minds.
Again, which college and whether the seat is earned by merit or by “donation” money mattered.
In the late 1980s, I got admission in Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, one of the toughest colleges to get in. Preparing for the entrance exams consumes a students so much that the first few months in a good college usually pass with celebration of that victory, a sense of satisfaction laced with arrogance. The desire to learn takes a back seat and the student ventures out to try new, sometimes forbidden, things.
From the third year onwards, most of my classmates, as was the usual practice, were buried in either English vocabulary books or arts and social science subjects. This was for getting into foreign universities or getting into top Indian business schools or clearing civil services. School was always a means to an end and the end very often different from what we were being trained for.
Some of my classmates landed in reputed foreign universities. Some of them, with whom I interacted later in life, didn’t have kind words for our alma mater as far as the faculty and pedagogy are concerned.
My own experience as a student was also not all that great. Most of our classes did not generate interest for the subject. Some of our faculty would find ways to spend their classroom time as if it was a formality. Some of them would spend the whole time dictating notes that were copied from different books. Some would keep on writing on the board and talk to themselves.
Thus, actual learning for students took place in hostel rooms, from books and from each other. In top branded colleges, it’s the students who make all the difference. Though, some students were also “innovative” in submitting assignments or clearing exams. Engineering drawings were copied using table, lamp and glass. Expected questions were identified using the previous year’s papers or talking to seniors. Slips that contained answers to these questions were circulated in the examination hall. Some were bold enough to exchange even answer sheets.
This is not to suggest that most of our faculty were disinterested in teaching or most of the students were disinterested in learning. But perhaps for some students like me there was a mismatch between aptitude and what the college had to offer. Perhaps the time spent in classrooms could have been put to better use if the faculty was better trained.
Have things changed now? Not much change seems to have taken place in majority of our colleges. But certainly after the reforms, children have many career options and much more freedom to make choices. They are much more empowered to choose a career that matches their aptitude.
Engineering and medicine are no longer the only professions that can ensure respectable and successful careers.
If a student has the right aptitude and can acquire the right knowledge and skills, he or she can make a mark and also make money in various other professions such as fashion technology, law, hotel management, health care management, media and mass communication.
The booming economy of the past few years has created a huge supply-demand gap of competent human resources in various professions.
On the flip side, this demand supply gap has led to proliferation of teaching shops offering different courses that don’t have sufficient faculty or infrastructure.
The Mint-C fore survey of India’s professional colleges is an effort to help students and recruiters to separate the wheat from the chaff. We hope it will help our readers in choosing their best education destination. We will be happy if this exercise also creates healthy competition between institutes to improve their systems and processes. But students have to be sincere in listening to their inner voice and match their career choice with their interest and aptitude. Success is not just about getting a good job or making money—but, more importantly, about doing what one really wants to do.
Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting & Research (C fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools.