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Women, high on qualification but confined to homes

The Hindu Business Line |  M SOMASEKHAR | Hyderabad, July 16 | Opinion |

Women in the country manage fantastic educational qualifications but end up being at home. This is a gloomy scenario which can change only when women take the initiative to overcome obstacles, look at the bigger picture and work to reach top positions, says Vanitha Datla, Vice Chairperson and Director of Elico Industries and former Chairperson, CII-Telangana. In her inaugural address at a 3-day Women in Engineering Conferencia-2017 here Vanitha quoted an IIT study (during 1990-2000) which found that less than 6 per cent of the women graduates are in work place, that’s pretty dismal and our country can’t afford losing out on such a huge workforce. The conference is being organised by the Sreenidhi Institute of Science and Technology and Women in Engineering. Referring to Japan, which had a high per centage of women at work, but still considered them to be fit only for soft roles. That cannot be our role model. We need our own role models, who reach high positions and work shoulder to shoulder with men, to to make our economy and country strong. Our GDP can take a stride only if women form part of our work force. From Gender parity perspective too India ranks 108th in the Gender parity index. Present generation women should not give up and be responsible for their careers, continue to strive to accomplish and reach positions from where they can formulate policies and take decisions which can empower women, she said.

Girls in Engineering

In India, 39 per cent of women engineers are unemployed and less than 8 per cent are entrepreneurs, according to study done by `Girls in Technology. In the global context, the study found that women in engineering is less than 22 per cent and only 8 per cent make it to the board rooms, said Sree Divya Vadlapudi, CEO of the organisation. She said some of the reasons for this were lack of resources, accessibility of opportunities and limitations to move to locations for work and growth, despite the fact that thousands of girls are graduating annually in engineering. Girls in Technology India with headquarters in Hyderabad (an organisation started in the US with branches abroad) is determined to encourage more women in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics ) through right guidance and mentorship support. P Narasimha Reddy, Executive Director of Sreenidhi Institute said the meetings will look at the role being played by women currently and what has to be done to empower. Sanjay Enishetty, founder 50k Ventures said in the start up arena only 20 per cent of the Tech start up were founded by women. Women in Engineering is one of the largest international professional organisation dedicated to promoting women engineering and scientists and inspiring girls around the world to take to the profession. – Courtesy

Cloud on UGC distance learning rules : UGC Open and Distance Learning Regulations, 2017

The Telegraph | June 29 , 2017 |  Basant Kumar Mohanty |  Cloud on distance learning rules | Opinion |

New Delhi, June 28: Distance learning courses offered by institutions across the country could be headed for the freezer over the next six months after new rules notified by the University Grants Commission came into effect last week. The UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017 – notified on June 23 – asks every institution intending to offer courses in distance mode to apply to the higher education regulator for approval “at least six months before the commencement of the academic session of the programme intended to be offered”. The regulations have left the 160-odd universities in the country that offer distance education worried because the recognition they had obtained earlier from the UGC has no relevance for fresh enrolment of students. The latest guidelines say that every institution has to seek a fresh nod from the regulator even if the approval they had got under the earlier rules was still valid. Most of these institutes have started the admission process for the 2017-18 academic session beginning next month when, going by the new regulations, they should have applied before January at least for courses they were intending to offer.

“The notification has come at a time when all universities have started the admission process for the 2017-18 academic session starting in July. The admission process in SOL is going on. It has created a lot of confusion,” said J. Khuntia, a professor at the School of Open Leaning in Delhi University. Nearly 1.5 lakh students enrol in July every year for the undergraduate courses the school offers. No UGC official was available for comment. Till late this evening, UGC secretary Jaspal Sandhu had not responded to calls and a text message from this newspaper. There are around 150 conventional universities and 14 open universities that offer degree and diploma courses in various subjects in distance mode. Dozens of standalone institutions not affiliated to any university also offer distance learning in diploma courses. The medium, which helps students pursue their studies without having to be physically present in classrooms, caters to nearly 40 lakh of the 3.42 crore doing their higher studies in India. Another provision in the new regulations bars institutions other than open universities from offering programmes that are not among subjects taught in the conventional face-to-face mode. At present, many private institutions offer courses they don’t teach in regular classrooms. Professor Manikrao Salunkhe, vice-chancellor of the Pune-based Bharati Vidyapeeth, said the regulations had several good provisions to ensure quality control. For example, it wants institutions to disclose details of faculty, tuition fees and facilities on their website and in brochures. Salunkhe said there have been questions about the “standard of courses” offered in the distance mode. “The UGC has tried to standardise the courses.” The regulations have retained the restrictions on offering engineering courses, which, Salunkhe said, was a concern. “I was expecting that the regulations would enable institutions to offer various kinds of courses. But the restrictions are still there. It is a matter of concern,” he said.

The regulations bar institutions from offering courses through franchisees. There have been allegations of irregularities in granting of permission to such centres by several universities, including the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). A member of the faculty at Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University said the regulations should have disbanded study centres too. “The study centres and franchisee centres are the same thing. Only banning franchisee centres is not enough. They may come up as study centres,” he said. The regulations say 20 per cent of a course can be pursued online through the Massive Open Online Courses prepared by the UGC and the IITs in various subjects. Now the entire course is based on correspondence. According to the new regulations, standalone institutions will not be given fresh recognition. “The biggest sufferers are standalone institutions. The regulations have given them a deathblow. They can function only till the time their present permission is valid and not thereafter,” said Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer who specialises in education-related cases. – Courtesy

Distance learning rule ‘for 2018’   :   The Telegraph, July 1 , 2017, Special Correspondent

New Delhi, June 30: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a clarification saying its new rules making it mandatory for distance learning courses to seek approval six months prior to commencement is applicable for the 2018 session. The Telegraph had reported on June 29 that distance learning courses could be headed for the freezer over the next six months because of the new rules that came into effect last week. The UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017 – notified on June 23 – asks every institution intending to offer courses in distance mode to apply to the higher education regulator for approval “at least six months before the commencement of the academic session of the programme intended to be offered”. The regulations left the 160-odd universities in the country that offer distance education worried because the admission for the current session begins in July and according to the new rule, permission would have had to be sought in January.

However, in a public notice dated June 29, the UGC has now said: “Applications for recognising new higher  educational institutions and/or starting of new programmes are invited online shortly as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017, for the academic session beginning January 2018/July 2018.” The notice has been issued by Avichal Kapur, a joint secretary in the UGC. The rules that came into effect last week did not mention any date. The regulation notified in the government’s gazette, however, is yet to be amended. “How can a clarification of the UGC override its law notified in a government gazette? The UGC should have amended its own regulation. Otherwise, there will be a lot of legal complications,” said Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer. – Courtesy

Click here to download, UGC Circular : Published on 29/06/2017 :  University Grants Commission, UGC gazette notification , 72 Pages, pdf  (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017

Click here to download, UGC Circular : Published on 29/06/2017 :  Public Notice reg.: Open and Distance Learning Programmes, 1 Page, pdf

Prof CNR Rao asks IIT graduates to work for development of the country

The Economic Times |  By PTI |  Jun 23, 2017  |

GUWAHATI: Prof C N R Rao today exhorted the graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology here to be proud of the brand ‘IIT’ and use it for the development of the country. Delivering the 19th Convocation address of IIT-G as chief guest, the National Research Professor said, “IIT is the only brand that India created after Independence. Be proud of it and use it for the development of India”. “If IIT students decide to use this education in India, they will make a great future for this country”, said Rao who is also the Linus Pauling Research Professor and Honorary President of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru. Asking the students to decide now what they want to do in life, he said, “decide what your mission is. With dedication, doggedness and tenacity success will be yours. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela won Independence for their countries through these qualities”. Speaking about China making huge monetary investments in education and development of science and technology producing 23,000 PhDs annually and generating the same amount of research work, he said, “China and South Korea are coming up with quality students so that they can compete with the best and become number one as the future depends on science and technology”.

He said “this is the role of IITs and other institutes to make India number one. That is the effort you have to make. There will be a lot of challenges, don’t ever think you cannot succeed. You have to succeed. it depends on you.” Stating that if government has healthy policies and society gives more support then India will succeed, he said that in the pre-Independence era when there was no IIT or government support for research, India produced eminent scientists like J C Bose, Noble Laureate C V Raman and mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan because of their passion for research. Speaking about himself, Prof Rao said, “I am 84 years old and have been researching for the last 68 years. I am doing research to do what I can for this great country till my last breath”. He also exhorted the IIT graduates to always remain humble as “greatness and simplicity go together. Have your feet on the ground. Make India on top of the world”. Altogether 1,308 students – including 583 B-Tech and 36 B-Des, 20 MA, 119 MSc, 363 M-Tech and 27 MDes, and 155 PhDs – received their degrees at the Convocation. Prof Rao also gave away the President of India gold medal to the Institute toppers among the B-Tech and B-Des programme students and Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma gold medal to the student adjudged best in general proficiency. Presenting his report on the activities and achievements of the Institute during 2016-17, IIT-G Director Prof Gautam Biswas said as per the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), India Ranking 2017, the Institute was placed in the 8th rank among all the participating universities and institutions and 7th among the top engineering institutions in the country. – Courtesy

The reason behind fewer girl students in IITs

Hindustan Times |  Vidhya Narayanan |  Mandi Jun 21, 2017 | Opinion |

Representational image

Representational image

NUMBERS AT GLANCE
  • Enrolment of girls in IITs in 2016: 8%
  • Girls joining engineering in India: 3 lakh
  • Girls qualifying JEE Advanced: 4,570
  • Girls admitted to IITs: 848

Neha Muthiyan, a third year student of computer science engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, was not surprised when she found out that she was one of the five girls in a batch of 115 students. Right through her JEE preparation days, she had seen the number of girl students around her dwindling. The poor gender ratio is one of the sad realities of the premier institutes of technology in our country. In 2016, girls formed only 8% of the total students enrolled in IITs. It’s not that the girls aren’t bright enough to get admission. The fact is systematic societal biases deprive them of making it to these top institutes.  A study by the sub-committee of the Joint Admission Board (JAB), the overall advisory body in charge of admission to IITs, found that in 2016, 4,570 girls cleared the JEE (Advanced) but only 848 of them were admitted to an IIT.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

The report said that societal biases are the main reason for poor representation of women in IITs. Most girls don’t have access to the kind of facilities that boys of their age have. Coaching plays a significant role in preparation for JEE (Advanced). But most parents are not willing to invest in a girl child’s coaching. Because of this, girls are denied a fair playing ground in the entrance exam. Another problem is that of lack of role models. While most boys would find someone or the other who would have been to an IIT before them, for girl students, it’s unlikely that they will have any sisters, aunts, cousins who did BTech from an IIT and who they could look up to. For many girls, there is also a problem of family-imposed restrictions on geographical mobility due to safety concerns. Neha says, “When my relatives realised that by clearing JEE, I will have to stay away from my hometown for four years; they were not supportive of it. Statements like ‘Girls shouldn’t be sent away from home’ or ‘Do engineering from your hometown’ had become pretty common.”

I(I)T’s A GIRL’S WORLD TOO!

Why should the low number of girls in IITs concern us? Engineers develop most products and technology for society. Women form almost half of this society that consumes this technology. If there aren’t enough women involved in the creation process, it’s unlikely that these products can fully serve women. Male engineers may not necessarily understand the needs of women.

DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP

The JAB has made 15 recommendations to improve the gender ratio at IITs. One of the recommendations is to add supernumerary seats or exceeding the usual number in BTech for women in all institutes. This would not reduce the number of male students being admitted, unless the overall performance of male candidates is poor. Also, this won’t bring down the academic standards as only those girls who have cleared the JEE (Advanced) will be admitted. The idea is to ensure meritorious girls who clear the entrance exam don’t opt out due to societal pressures or unavailability of seats in branches of their choice.

ENGINEERING A CHANGE

To encourage meritorious girls to enroll in IITs, a special help desk was set up IIT Mandi, to advise girls who qualified the JEE(Advanced) 2017 exam on a range of attractive options in IITs. IIT Mandi, director Timothy A Gonsalves wrote to each successful candidate, urging her to avail of the unique opportunity to study in an IIT. – Courtesy

Journal jugglery – Traps for the unmindful researcher

The Telegraph | Samantak Das |  Wednesday , June 14 , 2017 | Opinion |

In the 17 years, from 1922 to 1939, that it was published, The Criterion was possibly the best-known, and probably the best, literary journal in the English language. Founded by the poet/ critic/ dramatist/ cultural commentator/ general fount of wisdom/ soon-to-be Nobel laureate (in 1948), Thomas Stearns – better known as TS – Eliot, The Criterion trod a very conscious, deliberately-defined international path. The first issue of October 1922 included Hermann Hesse, who contributed “German Poetry of To-Day”, an essay on James Joyce’s Ulysses by the Frenchman, Valery Larbaud, a translation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Plan of a Novel” (one of the translators was Virginia Woolf), not to forget Eliot’s own modernist masterpiece, The Waste Land, among others. Should you wish to look up something in Criterion and google “criterion journal”, be prepared to be surprised. For, in first place, among some 50 million search results, will be a journal that rejoices that it “is refereed (sic) e-journal and is designed to publish theoretical articles and book reviews on interdisciplinary cross-currents in the humanities and social sciences”, while elsewhere it claims to be “designed to publish theoretical and research articles on English Literature and Language, Humanities and Social Sciences”. Its linguistically idiosyncratic web pages will not merely entertain but educate and alert readers to a brave new phenomenon in the proliferating groves of Indian academe, to wit the API-inflating, APC/F-charging, QGM-inspired “scholarly” e-journal, where API stands for academic performance indicators, APC/F for article processing charges or fees and QGM is Quick Gun Murugan. Such journals promise to publish, in double-quick time (hence QGM), articles by college and university teachers who need to improve their API scores (now mandatory for moving up the academic ladder) for a small APC/F. This particular journal, for example, takes 15 to 25 days to accept, or reject, a submission and promises to publish a piece in two months flat. And just in case you were wondering, the APC/F for an article is a most reasonable Rs 1,500, and the journal helpfully indicates that a contributor will get 25 API points since it is an “International, Refreed ( sic), Indexed and Peer-reviewed Journal”, one, moreover, that is on the now all-important University Grants Commission Journal List.

A word about this List might be in order. The “UGC Approved List of Journals” [ http://ugc.ac.in/journallist/] contains the names of all the journals where Indian academics must publish in order to score API points. The List became a necessity when it came to the notice of the powers-that-be who regulate higher education in our country that, almost immediately after the API system of awarding points for publishing was introduced, academics began publishing in journals that no one had heard of, let alone seen. Soon these journals began to actively solicit contributions and/or invite academics to serve on their editorial boards or reviewers’ panels or whatever. Your humble scribe is still regularly inundated with emails that say, “… reviews papers within one week of submission and publishes accepted articles on the internet immediately upon receiving the final versions. Our fast reviewing process is our strength.” As also “… aims at to (sic) publish unpublished, original research articles and make available a new platform to the scholars of Language, Literature and Culture. It deserves to promote (sic) the young researchers and attempts to cultivate the research aptitude among teachers in the higher educational (sic) system.” The ellipses above stand for journals whose names shall not sully the pages of a respectable publication such as this. Perhaps the most bizarre part is that the second journal quoted from above is not only “a Peer-reviewed (refereed) International Journal in ( sic) English Language and Literature” (according to its publicity pamphlet) but also on the UGC Journal List. So, clearly, in spite of all its efforts, the UGC has not been able to locate and eliminate such distinctly dodgy entities from its list.

Lest one think this is a phenomenon peculiar to India, one needs only to look at Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers [ http: //beallslist.weebly.com/], the magnificent labour of love of Jeffrey Beall, the American librarian and scholar who first identified and named such journals and created the criteria-set that is still used to judge a journal’s credentials. Sadly, Beall had to take down his own blog which had this list, probably as a result of treading on the toes of influential publishers of such journals, but his list is still available at the URL given earlier. More importantly perhaps, Beall alerted the larger scholarly world to the existence of this shadowy world of dubious academic publishing (usually online, most often open-access), where adherence to the letter of the law is usually directly proportional to the absence of academic substance. All this seems to have created something of a catch-22 situation for Indian academia and academics. On the one hand, teachers have to publish, in journals which are on the UGC List, in order to get recognition, credit, scores, promotions, prestige and so on, and the need for such a list is patently obvious in an academic publishing ecosystem teeming with frauds and predators. And, yet, on the other hand, one knows that the most cunning and persistent of such exploiters, fakes and frauds will not only find their way around all attempts at quality control but also gloat about their success on their websites. Perhaps the only thing to do in this situation is hope and pray that the UGC will periodically review and revise its List to weed out the undesirables and increase the ranks of the deserving. Only then may we expect an improvement in the quality of research published by our colleagues. But maybe the UGC ought to begin right away by doing some essential housekeeping. Here’s an example. The department where I work brings out one of the oldest journals in the subject, published regularly for six decades now. In the UGC List, rather peculiarly, the Jadavpur Journal of Comparative Literature appears twice, the first time (with UGC-assigned Journal No. 41264) “English” as the journal’s primary subject and the second time (UGC Journal No. 41570) with “English; Linguistics and Language” as its subject. As T.S. Eliot put it, “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” – The author is professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, and has been working as a volunteer for a rural development NGO for the last 30 yearsCourtesy

IT companies may recruit M.Tech engineers only – T.V. Mohandas Pai

Crazy Engineers | By Kaustubh Katdare in ‘Engineering Jobs & Career Advice’ | 07 June 2017 | Opinion |

IT veteran, former Infosys board member and CFO has a ‘shocker’ for all the graduate engineers. TV Mohandas Pai has said that in near future, IT companies might ‘cold shoulder’ engineers with BE or B.Tech degress and may recruit only those with post-graduate degree. He advised all the engineering students that they should do specialisation, learn coding on their own and may consider taking extra classes to learn it. He reasoned that Indian IT companies are likely to hire engineers on the basis of their coding knowledge. Pai believes that the regular practice of hiring engineering graduates straight out of campus and then training them for several weeks before making them ‘project-ready’ will be done away with. He said that there’s no reason for the companies to invest time and efforts for the companies to train graduate engineers. Rather, they’d only hire those who have the knowledge of coding; and it’s going to be a mandatory requirement for future IT jobs.

Pai termed the non-improvement of engineering freshers salary in the recent years as ‘great tragedy’. The IT industry is not growing at a fast pace. The industry has seen a great increase in the supply of engineers but the demand hasn’t grown in equal proportion. He said that the global IT spending is expected to grow only 2% in the current year as compared to 3-4% in the past; which is bound to have an impact. Not even China can absorb close to a million engineers that India produces every year. The IT industry is expected to absorb only about 150,000 – 170,000 engineers in this year. Some of the reports indicate that the fresher salary in IT industry has grown only from 2.25 lakh per annum to 3.5 lakh in past few years. He further said that the big IT industries are taking advantage of oversupply of engineers by not talking to each other about not increasing fresher salaries. Pai rubbished the rumours of mass IT layoffs and a general slowdown in the IT industry. He referred all the reports in the media as ‘exaggerated’ because every year, about 1-2% of the bottom ( non-performers ) are shown the pink slip. We’d look forward to opinions from our fellow engineers about what Mr. Pai said. Do let us know through comments below. – Courtesy

Do you know Karnataka CET toppers’ success mantra? No smart phones, No Social media

Is there one mantra that can help you crack CET, one of the toughest entrance tests? If you ask the toppers this year, there is one.


Sure there is hard work, but more than that is this – stay away from mobile phones and social media. At least half a dozen students, who topped the engineering, architecture and other streams, say they were either forced by their parents to or had voluntarily given up gizmos. Anirudh S, a topper, got a gift after his exams. His parents got him a smartphone. He tells Bangalore Mirror, he has some catching up to do with using this gadget. Prathik S Nayak, who scored rank one in engineering and pharma streams says it was a good idea for him to stay away from social media. “I was tempted to use a phone in the beginning, but my father being thea strict disciplinarian that he is would ensure that I did not have a mobile phone.” His father Shrikant Nayak believes the discipline has paid off. “I strongly believed that my son should stay away with the internet. Even if he needed it for academic purpose, I would ensure that I stayed as a firewall near him and today the fruits are for everyone to see. I believe that till one attains the age of 18, s/he should not have access to phone. I am happy that my son too understood the issue and did away with his phone. Today, I can proudly say that his rank speaks for him.”

Rakshitha Ramesh, who secured rank one in Homeopathy, BSc. Agriculture and rank two in Veterinary Science entrance tests, gave up these needs herself. “I felt being on the social media would distract me and thought it would be like an addiction, so I developed a disinterest towards them,” she says. Her mother Archana appreciates this sacrifice. “As my daughter didn’t use social media or internet on phone, she could utilise all her time on the studies.”
Siddartha CV, who secured the fifth rank in the engineering cateogry has another story. He needed a phone to stay in touch with his parents from his residential coaching centre. So his parents devised a plan– he was given a basic phone so it can only be used to make calls. Siddaratha says he was a bit out of place in the beginning as all his peers had swanky phones. “But my basic phone surely helped me,” he says. Anirudh, who got the third rank in Engineering and rank 5 in B.Pharma/D.Pharma has an interesting story. He only had the basic phone till all his exams were over. “I had no access to social media at all. Now that I have a smartphone, I am struggling to click selfies and all,” he says.

Dhruv Sriram has got the third rank in B.Pharma/D.Pharma. He too says he stayed away from social media for two years. “Though I was using a phone, social media was a strict no for me,” he says. Victor Thomas T, first rank-holder in B. Veterinary Sciences says he had social media accounts right from when he was in Class VIII, but he deactivated them in 1st PU because it was difficult for him to focus on my studies. “Social media really makes it hard to focus on studies as random things keep popping up in our heads,” he says. The third-rank holder in B. Veterinary Sciences, Bharath Kumar stayed away even from his WhatsApp account.  Counsellor Anil Iyer says these children topping CET is no wonder. “Social media and phones are a type of behavioural addictions. Many adolescents have the ability to overcome these addictions by themselves, but some require social support. Parents or closed ones should help become aware of their wards’ behaviour and support them adequately. These students reached greater heights on their own efforts. It shows their strength in knowing themselves and having a better ability in channelising their thoughts towards priorities. – Courtesy

Give me a break : Gap year

Gap year, or taking a year off before the next stage of education, largely an international concept, seems to be gaining ground in the Indian schooling environment as well. As school and college admissions approach, students talk about whether it is a worthwhile choice to take.

Varun Sreedhar, III, B. Tech Industrial Engineering and Management, RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru

A gap year is worth it only if you already have admission to a college and they allow you to join a year later. One of my friends was admitted to a university in USA in 2014. He asked the college if they would grant him admission in 2015. He took the year off, travelled, worked on projects and joined college in 2015, where he’s doing well. On the flip side, another friend took a year off and planned to seek admission next year. She got into a different college than the one she wanted. She’s enjoying herself, but she could’ve done a lot more. It all depends on how much security you have.

Kavya Sreekumar, II, B.A. Journalism, MOP Vaishnav College For Women, Chennai

Taking a gap year is completely wonderful if it is the individual’s choice. If they feel taking time off will help them gain clarity on what they want to do or help them achieve their desired results, such as higher test scores for competitive examinations or the college of their choice, they should go for it. It is better to take a decision that you’re content with rather than do something and regret it later. Many of my friends who took gap years used it for productive reasons — volunteering, learning a new language, or studying for exams. It helped them be efficient and find their way to their goals, and I think it’s great.

Ananth Raghuram, III, B. Tech Chemical Engineering Integrated, Sastra University, Thanjavur

Two years ago, I had taken my Board exams and numerous other entrance exams. I had no breathing space at all. All I did was wake up, study, eat, write tests and go back to sleep. The rigidity of this routine was nerve-wracking — and it’s so much worse today. The stress that engineering students go through is unimaginable. Perhaps, they should take time to let off steam, relax and get ready for the next big phase of their lives. In that case, maybe the students are in need of a gap year.

Tamasaa Ramanujam, Class XII, Siva Swami Kalalaya, Chennai

I’ve been there and done that. A gap year can offer you a whole range of perspectives about life and the choices you make as long as you utilise it well — and make a conscious effort to be better than you were the year before. They can end up being ordinary and unsatisfactory if you “just want a break from everything”. Make a choice to do things you couldn’t do in school or college. Gap years are underrated, and a gift you’re giving yourself to make the best out of your life. However, in order to make it successful, you need to have grit, motivation and a clear goal.

Shwetha S Nair, II, BDS, Sinhagad Dental College and Hospital, Pune

Gap years break the continuity of a person’s studies. Once you move away from the schooling system for a year, and the link breaks, you lose concentration. With your new free time, distractions come your way. You lose the urge to study. And if we don’t put the year to good use, this is the equivalent of wasting an entire year. – Courtesy

2 lakh IT engineers to lose jobs annually in the next 3 years: Head Hunters India

The Economic Times | By PTI | May 14, 2017 | Opinion|

BENGALURU: Executive search firm Head Hunters India today said the job cuts in IT sector will be between 1.75 lakh and 2 lakh annually for next three years due to under-preparedness in adapting to newer technologies. “Contrary to media reports of 56,000 IT professionals to lose jobs this year, the actual job cuts will be between 1.75 lakh and 2 lakh per year in next three years, due to under- preparedness in adapting to newer technologies,” Head Hunters India Founder-Chairman and MD K Lakshmikanth told PTI, analysing a report submitted by McKinsey & Company at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum on February 17.  McKinsey & Company report had said nearly half of the workforce in the IT services firms will be “irrelevant” over the next 3-4 years. McKinsey India Managing Director Noshir Kaka had also said the bigger challenge ahead for the industry will be to retrain 50-60 per cent of the workforce as there will be a significant shift in technologies. The industry employs 3.9 million people and the majority of them have to be retrained. “So, when we analyse these figures, it is clear that 30 to 40 per cent of the workforce cannot be retrained or re- skilled. So, assume that half of this workforce can continue to work on old skills, then balance will become redundant. “So, the number of people who will become redundant in the next three years will be about five to six lakhs. This will workout to, on a average, between 1.75 lakh to 2 lakh per year for next three years,” Lakshmikanth explained. However, he said job cuts will not take place in major cities like Mumbai or Bengaluru, but cities like Coimbatore or a few remote places.
Lakshmikanth further said the IT services industry is passing through an uncertain time as the growth in digital technologies like cloud-based services is happening at a much faster pace and the companies are combining learning of some of the new technologies and reskilling. “Because of the changing technology, the most affected will be the professionals aged 35 and above, for it would be very difficult for them to get jobs,” Lakhsmikanth said.  Asked if it is fair to blame US President Donald Trump’s policy for job cuts, Lakshmikanth said it is not fair because he has fulfilled the promise after winning the elections. “How can we blame Trump, for he has fulfilled the election promise of giving jobs to local people including IT professionals by tightening H1-B visa norms, which were being misused by companies by paying less to foreign professionals working in US. It is for companies to tackle the situation, and such situation they have undergone in previous years. It is not new for them. They know to tide over it,” he said.  Lakhsmikanth also said it is not fair even to target the Indian government as the IT industry grew on its own in India, but at later stages respective state governments and central governments provided them facilities like land or creating special economic zones, among others.- Courtesy

Industry consultation in engineering colleges: Useless idea from AICTE

Hindustan Times | May 11, 2017 |   Dheeraj Sanghi  | Opinion |

AICTE appears to have forgotten that it regulates only affiliated colleges, and it has little regulatory control over universities. Affiliated colleges have no control over their curriculum. They teach the curriculum that the affiliating university decides.

Reports suggest that only 5% of computer science and information technology graduates have any reasonable programming skills(PTI)

The employability of engineering graduates in India has been a matter of concern for the last several decades. Many reports have stated that only 20-25% of the graduates are employable in industry. A recent report has mentioned that only 5% of computer science and information technology graduates (a majority of our engineers are in these disciplines) have any reasonable programming skills, which is the most basic skill for such a graduate. Another 15% can still be trained to perform tasks in IT industry.  Whenever a new report comes out, there are immediate calls for greater interaction between industry and academia and to have more industry-focussed curricula in colleges. And seeing that such calls have not had any impact on the ground level, AICTE has announced that such interaction will now be mandatory. Each college must have an industry consultation committee to rework the curriculum of each course taught there every year.  AICTE appears to have forgotten that it regulates only affiliated colleges, and it has very little regulatory control over universities. Affiliated colleges have no control over their curriculum. They teach the curriculum that the affiliating university decides. These universities are expected to have a Board of Studies for each program, and that board invariably has members from industry as well. So there is already an industry input to the curriculum design. Now, if a college creates such a committee and the industry person advises even small modifications to the courses, can the college implement these modifications? The answer, unfortunately, is in the negative for all colleges, barring a few “autonomous” ones.

More fundamentally, do we even know whether unemployability is because of an outdated syllabus, or is it due to poor quality education? How many of our graduates know what they have learnt in existing courses? GATE (graduate aptitude test in engineering) results show that almost half the graduates get a zero in the exam. How are they getting a degree at all? I have been involved with drafting of computer science syllabi in several universities and even AICTE model syllabus. I can confidently say that even if the syllabus is not changed for 10 years, there will be no impact on employability. AICTE should focus on finding out why someone who has never written even a single line of code is not just passing a course on programming, but passing it with distinction. A majority of our engineering graduates do not deserve their degrees. For computer science, that number could be as high as 95%.  Talking about industry, how many people in the industry are capable of understanding the impact of various curricular and pedagogical interventions on learning? How many of these people will be able to understand the interplay of various courses, recognise the gaps, and then suggests revisions to plug those gaps? This is difficult even for experienced academics. Very few people in the industry are capable of this. In the absence of such people, these committees will become another ritual, as most AICTE directives have become.  If the AICTE wants to improve the quality of engineering education and ensure that a larger number of graduates are employable, it has to stop coming up with new regulations. Instead, every month, it should send a note to all colleges on what all previous regulations it is junking. If you don’t control every aspect of a college, they will figure out how to survive in a market where supply is more than demand. For now, their only hope is that AICTE will allow them to close. –  Dheeraj Sanghi is dean of academic affairs and external relations, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (on leave from IIT Kanpur)Courtesy