Engineering: A Cult ?
"A parent who wants to fulfill her unfulfilled ambition through her child fails twice over."
Three things I have hated the most in my life - Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, pineapple pizza, and engineering. The first one is fictional, the second is something that I judge simply from the idea of it, but the third is something that I am currently pursuing. I can try all I want, but disentangling myself from the web of engineering is now a long-lost dream.
Engineering has been aptly christened the 'Great Indian Obsession'. Every year, 15 lakh students graduate from engineering colleges. Some of them directly start working in the industry, others move on to pursue higher education. Of the latter category, while some stay in their field and pursue an MS/MTech, others switch tracks and hop on to the MBA bandwagon. The current and improved version of the Great Indian Obsession is the combo pack of BTech and MBA.
India’s obsession with engineering is more profit-driven than purpose-driven, which contradicts the rest of the world's perception.
More than 79% of Indian women and 85% of Indian men are keen on becoming engineers, compared to the lowly 43% (women) and 66% (men) average for the rest of the world. Indians rank engineering, medicine, and core science as the most prestigious fields to work in. According to a survey commissioned across 10 countries by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, Indians lead developing countries in terms of the positive judgment they award to engineering and high stress on its integral contribution to nation-building.
Despite engineering’s popularity, my feelings towards it are not particularly cheery. Like most students my age, I chased after the dream of studying in a prestigious institute during my school days. I followed the well-trod road of JEE preparation. But once I got into an engineering college, I noticed the environment to be completely different from the paradise gardens we had been promised. All around me, mental health is taken as a joke while most of the students suffer from one or the other illness. Sleepless nights and addictions are so commonplace that nobody realizes the gravity of these issues. There are so many who have been forced into this field due to parental pressure, and equally many who landed here because they couldn’t find anywhere else to go and engineering was the safest choice.
Engineering also hosts many lovers of mathematics. These students, instead of pursuing pure mathematics and fulfilling their passion, compromise with the monetary benefits of an engineering career. They are misguided by the illusion that pursuing pure mathematics is a career with no scope and no definitive source of income. But growing fields like marketing, finance, and economics are tearing through this illusion.
Back in the 70s, the Indian economy was stagnated and jobs were few and far in between. With the country’s socialist focus on building state-owned factories, engineering emerged as the one profession with a guaranteed job opportunity. But the economic liberalization that India has seen since then has opened up many other avenues. Engineering is now seeing a saturation in terms of the available opportunities, but the number of newly minted engineers is still steadily rising. This is leading to an equally steady increase in the number of educated and skilled unemployed youth.
Maybe it’s time for us to change our mindsets. Engineering as a lucrative career option has run its course, and we ought to encourage other options now. Instead of forcing the same option down everyone’s throats, it's time to embrace new territories.
-Submitted by Arghyadeep Dhar, via CollegeTime