“Life is a race…if you don’t run fast…you will be like a broken egg”
These lines have probably been well-etched in the malleable minds of all of us when we first watched 3 Idiots, a movie broadly about three engineering students and their exploits. The character that mouths these words is a clear visualisation of the rigidity prevalent in the mindset of parents however educated they may be, towards breeding engineers out of their children.
According to the Statistics of UNESCO Institute, Russia produces the largest number of engineering graduates at about half a million(5 lakhs). However as per MHRD reports, as of 1st November 2019, 2.9 million(29 lakhs) students of engineering graduated from over 6124 colleges across the country. It is thus astonishing to find that India does not make up to the list even at the tenth place. A closer look reveals the kennel of truth. India may produce 2.9 million engineers, but only 25% of this pool is employable. That brings us to a burning question, why then, are Indian parents so obsessed with an engineering career?
The roots of this fixation lies in the 1970s, when the first drive of modernisation hit the country. The subsequent years saw a surge in the demand of engineers, especially during the liberalisation of the economy in the 1990s. Most parents are hence, stuck in the same era, not realising that dynamics and demands of the market are subject to a constant change. Having an engineering degree is not a guarantee of job assurance. On the contrary, data suggests that 85% of Indian engineers are unemployed. In fact, a surplus number of jobless engineers has ensured that the pay scale goes down substantially. More than 800 colleges have been shut down due to poor quality of education and sheer lack of infrastructure.
According to a 2016 report released by an esteemed research body, 80% of students that study engineering are forced to take up jobs in other fields, 94% mechanical engineers have never done anything to do with their field of study, 76% of all engineering students are forced to pursue it through visions of a “promised land” of financial security, that is acutely detached from ground reality.
It’s not just parents, but even schools act as a reinforcer of this stale mindset. Instead of guiding and supporting scientific temper that is voluntary or commending fresh research, all students alike are forced to undertake science projects, supposedly excel at them, and even feign pleasure from the ordeal. Science is retained as a prized commodity offered only to those who academically achieve higher marks, who can theoretically sustain. Training/Coaching for engineering entrances begin from sixth standard. Scientific fervour meets excitement, while interest and aptitude are flushed down the memory drain to make space for formulae one never may find applications for. It is thus no surprise that suicide rates of India are at an all time high at 139056 as per a 2019 government report, of which student suicides make up 10% i.e 13906.
While reserving engineering the absolute respect it deserves as a field of study, the inconsideration and ignorance that inflates it, and erodes its essence needs to be identified and rectified. Parents, schools and all those who mindlessly goad students towards it, have to lay their gaze upon the planes of reality, foster skills required, support the aptitude of students. Constrictions of history cannot bind the potential of the future. Doing so, rather hastens the bind into a noose that ends it all.
This pandemic caused by Covid-19, has served a dual purpose. Undoubtedly, it has caused widespread damage, but it has also brought us to a pause. The only circumstance which enables us to contemplate and introspect. When the vaccines arrive, and we get back into a state of apparent normalcy, we would have to rebuild our world anew. A balanced evaluation must be devised guiding a generation of upcoming talent, and those influencing their decisions, moulding them into prolific citizens that rejuvenate the world.
“Life is not a race to success. Learn to be capable, success will follow.”