– Article by Sheetal Sohoni.
Employability of Indian graduates has been a big concern and topic of discussion amongst Indian educators for a long time. Magazines and news articles portray a very dim picture of the scenario. A lot of efforts have been taken by various technical education bodies, institutions, and universities to improve the skill level of engineering graduates. The important question is: Are the four years of engineering curriculum enough to inculcate some of the major professional skills in students?
Aditya Bhatnagar, an IIT Delhi alumnus with around three decades of industry experience, has a very different take on it. He believes that students need to be taught creative thinking, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration from early school life. These are value of education. Education is a journey towards self-discovery, but the way knowledge is disseminated in today’s education system, students never get to taste the real aspect of education. Aditya stresses importance of peer learning and learning beyond classrooms. He believes that schools’ job is to provide students the right tools and method for education, which they can apply in real life situations.
Aditya after taking an early retirement from his career in engineering started STEM workshops for kids from his community and neighborhood. Now, he is conducting these workshops for a few private schools in Chandigarh. Aditya believes that students need to have a holistic view about society and its issues. He thinks that art and humanities can play a major role in developing empathy and compassion among students, but people still have a very myopic view when it comes to “Arts” in India. It is limited to performing arts (dancing, playing musical instruments, theater, or singing). People need to look beyond this and need to see how arts can play a major role in bridging the gap between humanities, math, and science.
Aditya discusses in length the importance of mentors and their personal views in shaping students’ views. He shared an example, where a group of students were taken to a local bus station in Chandigarh. As a project, the students were asked to monitor the public toilets at the station. The students gave a report suggesting that the toilets are in appalling condition.
The reason mentioned was that the users were not pulling the flush. Aditya directed them towards the underlying reason for the lack of cleanliness in the toilets to “attitude of the users.” He then asked the students ways to resolve the issue by changing users’ attitude. The students came up with multiple solutions, one of them being connecting the flush cistern to the door lock of the toilet. The solution might be extreme, but it gave an idea to the students to explore all possible solutions. In this example, the mentor gave the students a chance to look at all possible solutions and to express those without any guilt or concern.
He also stressed the importance of effective communication, whether it is via sketches, in written form, or verbal. The students need to have clarity of thought before trying to convey it. He also emphasized the need of proficiency in language, which can be achieved by reading. Aditya also discussed at length his experience working with special-needs students. The crux of the discussion was how these students need to be treated as equal with their peers, and that we should be creating an environment for them to flourish and grow.
I learned a lot through my conversation with Aditya Bhatnagar, and I hope that all of you will learn something new too. I extend best wishes to Aditya Bhatnagar on behalf of the IUCEE team.