In this note, I am describing my activities which are related to improvement in technical education. I would love to work with any organization whose work has a potential to improve technical education in India. These obviously include educational institutions (where I can help in improving various academic processes, curriculum, etc.). But these also include companies, who may be interested in improving their interaction with academic institutions. I also would like to work with rating bodies, since I believe that a carefully done ranking can lead to positive competition between institutions, which can only lead to improvement in quality. Of course, I am always open to work with government departments who want to create and implement plans to improve any aspect of technical education.
So, let me describe what I do or have done in the past to further my passion.
I am interested in research, because I sincerely believe that without doing any research, one becomes obsolete quickly, and that will certainly cause the quality of teaching to suffer. It is next to impossible to improve the quality of education without adequate focus on research.
Teaching, of course, is central to the quality of education, and I take my teaching very seriously. But teaching just a few students in IIT Kanpur is not completely satisfying. Therefore, I have participated in lots of short term courses for industry, induction trainings in companies, finishing schools, and quality improvement programs for teachers of other engineering colleges, etc. I have also created a video course on Computer Networks with the help from IIIT Hyderabad. I prepared course notes for IBM ACE computer training programme.
I have also published course notes for Computer Networks course on my website, so that other colleges may want to follow them in their own teaching.
Quality of technical education also depends on other aspects like curriculum, academic processes, interaction with industry and other stake holders, etc. I work on all these aspects whenever I get an opportunity to do so.
I was part of AICTE committee in 2001 to design a model curriculum for CSE undergraduate program. I have since then helped several institutions in designing their curriculum. (Unfortunately, the freedom to teach is severely restricted in India, as most engineering collegs are affiliated to some university whose syllabus one has to follow.)
I have participated in the Information Security Education and Awareness program launched by Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Government of India. While it has its own shortcomings, but it is a good initiative to improve quality of education in the area of computer security.
Infrastructure plays an important role in quality of education. And I have been part of several government committees to come up with plans to improve Internet access in various educational institutions. The most important of these was UGC's plan to connect all universities with Internet in 2002.
I have also helped in setting up a Center of Relevance and Excellencce in Network Engineering at Kalasalingam University near Srivilliputur in Tamilnadu, which is partly funded by Department of Science and Technology.
It was important for me to understand how technical education works at the ground level. To achieve that, I traveled all over the country for three months, from August 2006 to October 2006, and visited more than 30 colleges. In most colleges, I gave a technical talk, one talk on career counseling, and I met students, faculty, and the senior management (like Director or Principal). It was an amazing experience, and I realized that our education sector has huge potential. While today it is primarily delivering quantity, with some changes, it can start delivering quality also. While there is a serious shortage of quality faculty in most colleges, it is still possible to improve the quality of education by suitably modifying the academic processes.
At IITK, I have taken up various positions at the department level to understand how academic processes operate here. I have been Convener of Department Undergraduate Committee, Convener of Department Postgraduate Committee, Incharge of PG admissions, etc. I have also been Chairman of Senate Undergraduate Committee to look at Institute's academic processes, and have brought about several proposals to change the archaic rules. My experience has been that there is some reluctance to change everywhere, but if you do your homework well, and explain the rationale for the change, people generally cooperate, and permit you to go ahead with the changes.
One of the side-effect of all this experience regarding aspects of technical education in India has been a growth of my interest in counseling the young students. I provide help to students who are confused regarding their career choices (related to technical education only), primarily regarding choice of college and discipline at the time of admission.
Interacting with industry is very important for the quality of education. Any business must know what its customers want, and customers of our products are the companies. I have coordinated the Industry Affiliates Program (IAP) of CSE Department from 1995 to 1998, and we had a large number of student projects at that time supported by industry. Thankfully, the interaction with industry has continued since then, and the department continues to benefit from such interaction in variety of ways. I myself have worked with several companies on student projects, consultancy, organizing their lectures in IITK, going to companies and giving lectures, working with them in designing better interaction programs, and so on. Of course, I have also been department placement representative, and interacted with companies who have come to recruit our students on campus.
And, finally, one must understand that while improvement is certainly possible in colleges by improving processes, but that has a limit. To go beyond that limit, one needs extra resources. Fundraising from alumni, industry, and other well wishers is an important aspect of quality improvement. I did part of that as Coordinator of IAP which I mentioned above. I have been an elected member of board (then called Executive Committee) of IIT Kanpur Alumni Association (1994-96). For the year 2006-2008, I am alternate nominee of IIT Kanpur on the board of IITK Alumni Association, and I do work closely with Dean's office in alumni affairs.
Anything that can be linked to improvement in quality of technical education is of interest to me. If you have an idea to discuss, or want my help in any other way, I would like to hear from you.