University needs to learn before it can teach

Often, in Kerala, “show programs” are started to give an illusion of solving problems, without factoring the issues, causes, impact, or real solutions. The Times of India report, “Now, engg students to learn life skills and biz economics” (Apr. 26, 2016) offers an example.

“Waking up to the reality that most of the engineering students in Kerala are not employable as they lack basic communication and managerial skills, from next academic year, life skills, business economics and principles of management are being introduced as compulsory subjects in all engineering colleges in the state,” says the report.

It is a good sign that the university is realizing the need for communication, team skills and business knowledge for engineering students. However, the planned curriculum is likely to be insufficient to achieve the stated goals. “The idea behind introducing these courses in the BTech curriculum is to develop communication competence, managerial skills and understanding of business environment in the students and enable them to convey their thoughts and ideas with clarity and focus,” said KTU pro vice chancellor M Abdul Rahman [2].

It seems the university needs to do some learning first. Communication and team skills consist of the ability to behave in effective ways, avoiding ineffective behaviors. And the only way to achieve these skills is repeated practice, after learning the essential techniques. The curriculum does not reflect this understanding, and the emphasis is on “book knowledge.” Before the university can teach its students, there is a need to understand, set the right goals, and find effective learning methods for achieving those goals on the part of the university.

“Managerial economics” is an oxymoron. Instead of teaching nonsensical economic theories [2] that have no practical value for engineers, it would be far more useful to tech them accounting principles, bookkeeping, basics of finance and banking.

In addition, it is high time for the universities in the state to wake up to the fact that all students need communication, team skills and business knowledge to be employable.

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Topics and issues related to Kerala economic development challenges.

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