Computer Science Engineering – Why am I in this class?

Ask any high school student — which engineering course he wants to join? — and chances are his reply will be Computer Science/IT. Information Technology has changed India the way no other field could have. IT boom has fulfilled aspirations of millions, made many a millionaire and empowered the middle class with new hopes. Everyone now wants to be a part of this revolution. But should students be forced to join a profession even if they have no liking for it?

What is it about?

Information Technology is now on top of the list of every engineering aspirant (and his parents). It was definitely on mine and it was out of my own choice & love for it. I was excited to join Computer Science Engineering course. When I joined the college, I found everyone as excited as I was. However, enthusiasm among many of my batch mates started fading away with time and I realized that not everyone shared the same passion.

There were two main reasons why everyone wanted to be in CS/IT:
  1. Trend - Many students had no idea what they wanted to do so they simply followed the latest trend.
  2. Great Job = Good Money = Success. CS/IT stream had plenty of jobs, offered a better starting salary and for most people that was equal to a successful career. Hence the choice.
But no matter what the reason, once in CS, why were they not able to develop interest?
  1. I study for marks, nothing else matters! Topics mentioned in the semester syllabus were all that used to matter. No one ever wanted to look beyond that. Unfortunately, most of the students just wanted to pass. And passing in exams never required great deal of effort, only cramming a few parts of the book, analyzing last 10 year question papers and writing lengthy answers in neat & clean writing with a few diagrams/pictures/charts and that is it!.
  2. Lack of passionate teachers. A professional job in CS/IT industry offers greater monetary benefits than a job in education industry, thus attracting the crowd to the professional industry. This results in a shortage of credible teachers. And as it goes with teaching, knowing a subject is one thing but resonating at the frequency of students and making them understand the concept is another. And because of this, the base for many students gets ruined even before they conceive the idea of what Computer Science is.

What should be done?

  1. Teachers -  Teaching is not every one’s cup of tea, it requires a lot of dedication and ability to communicate effectively. Most of the colleges assign freshly graduated teachers to the first year classes. In my opinion, this is a very wrong practice and leads to degeneration of interest in students. If the base gets ignored how will a student ever be able to build a castle on it? Therefore, I think the most experienced & popular teachers should handle the fresh students. Freshers need more encouragement, hope and guidance than anyone else.
  2. Projects – In later years, students are assigned project work. They have small projects in their 2nd & 3rd year study and a major project in the 4th year of study. Most of the time, students are asked to come up with a project they can complete easily. Many guides/teachers are not interested in investing time with students to help them zero-in on a new or worthwhile idea. Hence, the students just go for most common and cliched projects that have been done a hundred thousand times before. This kills the ingenuity and discourages students from blooming on their own. Part of the reason is that many colleges do not have any interaction with professional world, no one encourages teachers/students to go out in industry and look for problems to solve. Many teachers themselves don’t have any industry exposure and hence are not aware of how things work in actual. In my opinion, the colleges should take a pro-active action and start engaging with the world outside the campus. Real world problems are not restricted to IT organizations, they are everywhere. Our govt, municipal corporations, small businesses, end consumers, etc still have a lot of issues that one can take an initiative to resolve.
  3. Community Service – Many students & teachers are oblivious to open-source revolution. If students/teachers/colleges cannot find a local organization to help, they should always go for open source community projects. India has benefited a lot from open source community but has not given back in same terms. Community based projects offer a lot to learn. They also instill the basic ethics of sharing, learning and team building among participants. Students should always be encouraged to study/analyse/engage and contribute in open source projects. Open source projects provide contributors a great exposure and fame in the developer community. Any endorsement from community goes a long way in a professional career.
  4. Avoid Stereotyping -  Many a times it happens that students are encouraged to discover their core area of study early in their bachelor courses. Being an engineer, I dont think I would like to be labeled as a Java guy or a .Net guy or a Database guy or a networking guy. I don’t like labels. Labeling means confining myself to one single profession for rest of my life. I dont want to spend all my life doing only one thing all along. In a bachelors degree, one should give equal importance to all the subjects. Technology is changing at a very fast pace. There is no way that Java will forever rule the world or C/C++ will never die or a new language will not be born. Don’t limit yourself, learn & experience as much as you can. Spread your wings, simply fly!
  5. Encouraging participation in technical events & competitions. How can you know that you are the best without ever competing with the world? All educational institutes should promote its students to participate & compete in every possible techfest or science congress openly. This will provide students with more exposure and will encourage inter-college interactions and hence might lead to generation of new ideas or projects.
  6. Entrepreneurship – In every middle class family, a kid is encouraged to study hard all the time so that he can get a good job. Why do we all want jobs? Why no one talks about heading a company and creating new jobs? Students should realize that real potential lies in turning their dream idea into a lively product. Service industry is not for everyone, if you dream different, want to reach out the world then entrepreneurship is the way to go. Institutes can organize events on the lines of venture fund meets wherein budding students can be provided with small funds to kick start their own venture.
  7. Alumni – Alumni is a vast resource of information that any institute should tap into. Their feedback to the institutes can help institutes appraise students about the latest trends in the industry and orient themselves in the right direction.
  8. Technical Clubs – Every department in an institute should have active technical clubs based on meritocracy + democracy. Students should be encouraged to take initiatives on their own, take lead and organize meetings to discuss and brainstorm new ideas. Clubs can help students improve their personality, turn them into team players and make them more mature & responsible towards their acts.

Is that it?

There is definitely a lot more to be done than just highlighting a few gaps in the existing system. Students also need to develop a positive attitude towards their profession and should help institutes to come up to the speed.

The universities should also take a pro-active stance on this and should force affiliated institutes to rise beyond their stagnant attitude. Only then can we have a better education infrastructure and only then can we have true engineers coming out who can define the why of IT and take us to the next level.

I am sure all of you must have had experiences of your own. I welcome you to share them in the comments section below and add more to this open ended discussion.

8 thoughts on “Computer Science Engineering – Why am I in this class?

  1. Prateek, I completely agree with you! For once, I believed that you have taken a leaf from our very own college…

    Point is, the passion is lacking on both sides. Look back at our college, it was not just students who lacked passion or just college which wasnt ready to support in many cases but actually BOTH. I am not pointing fingers, but its a problem with most institutes these days.

    Institutes should not control the technical activities of students. That means giving more freedom. Though I particiapted a lot, I still feel that I needed more time. 3 periodicals followed by final exams is too much in a 5 month sem. I mean, you have to fight to get some time for your learning.

    Another thing that I wanted to add is about learning. You cant bypass university syllabus but you need to learn about technologies during that time only. You come to industry and you feel totally blank. Teachers we had, except for very few, were not passionate enough to get us involved in open source projects and all. I believe Kath Sir helped us a lot to atleast come to a certain level. Now when he is not there, I really wonder who has really taken the charge?

    Till date, I remember that college asked us to pay in order to join Alumni and I still dont see my name in college archive list even after particiapting in so many events! So, the attitude of the institutes also needs to change from “money-oriented” to “development-oriented”.

    But its a demand-supply chain. Demand was more and supply was less, so you can see fresh pass-outs becoming lecturers. In all, I believe, its better to expand less but with quality than to rapidly expand without the appropriate resources at disposal!

    Anyways, this is extremely well written! Keep writing! And hopefully, someone higher up in college reads your post and learn few things from it :)

  2. Great post as always.

    There should be a major restructuring of IT/CSE as well all the other branches of engineering and the stress should be on the quality education rather than quantity education.

    India should be known for not just IT but for all streams of engineering.

  3. Well written indeed.
    Attitude of college or university is not the only factor. I feel we as students need to create an environment which should be backed by teachers. I am sorry to say that even though we tried to do it, we were not backed properly and because of we not being enth.

    I feel a lot can be done for improvisation by removing the redundant curriculum, increasing practicality and bringing awareness. I still remember that students were updated more as compared to our teachers which should otherwise be 50-50 scenario.

    Prateek,Good work…

  4. Good Post Prateek and very well commented by Mohit as well.

    Leadership is always by example and our college lacked the same. All those who wanted to change things where not allowed to. IT sector is about exploring and joining hands. Such a foundation was never allowed to be laid.
    Too bad it is there in our college but i hope things improve in the near future.

    May be such good posts can help improve it.

  5. I agree with what you have said. A lot of people these days are in this line only for money, and people have mindsets that one technology is better than the other. I am happy with recession, for it will prompt people to join this industry only if they are actually interested in Computers. Secondly it will ignite guys like us to work even harder and survive in these tough times.

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