The en-masse closure of engineering colleges in every state of India is indicative of many things including plummeting interest of candidates, diversification of career choices after K-12 schooling, the vulnerability of those passing out to the fluctuations in the market and economic undercurrents. It has been seen by analysts as a boom to doom story.
There are major agencies involved in the establishment and regulation of the institutes of engineering and technology namely, University Grants Commission, All India Council of Technical Education and the provincial universities. It is AICTE that heads the policy-making under MHRD.
Is there a way open to the private engineering colleges to channel the resources without facing crippling depreciation of assets? Evidently, there is, and that is the subject of the present article. It suggests how Eduprenurs can remain Eduprenurs and keep contributing to society and the nation.
Insight into the state of affairs
The closure of an educational institution may have matching antecedents but the perceptions of the promoters regarding the wrap-up, premature of course, are significantly different. For some, it is a pragmatic decision for others fait accompli, but there is a segment for which it is an abrupt deletion of a vision of tangibly and directly creating futures and, in the process, leaving a legacy.
At the turn of the century, the proliferation of engineering colleges created opportunities for engineering aspirants, the young people who have just passed their + 2 exams. The dominance of technology in all spheres and communication or Information revolution saw the demand for seats in engineering institutes soaring. Liberalization also helped the promoters of the engineering and technology colleges and sooner than expected institutes of engineering and technology became ubiquitous enough to be counted upon as reliable landmarks for wayfarers and motorists.
It is notable that, engineering colleges constitute 70 percent of the technical education seats, remaining 30 percent are constituted by computer applications, pharmacy, architecture, applied arts etc.
The colleges that excelled started growing into ‘group of institutions’ with college of pharmacy, designing, management etc., while others started to witness decline in admissions in several trades and soon they found themselves falling within the ambit of policies that mandated reduction of 50 percent of seats in the institutions that have less than 30 percent of their seats filled in last five years.
A variant of this scenario is where a group of institutions decides to close down one of their constituent institution /college lagging behind in admissions. Having experimented with a technical diploma or degree college, they finally rule out the feasibility thereof and choose to abort.
Switching to a school —conversion downscaling and metamorphosis?
The trust or societies closing their undergraduate colleges have opted for using the infrastructure, network and resources created, accumulated and cultivated for the undergraduate institution to start K-12 schools. This is one of the options, others being transferring the college to different management (it rarely makes a difference) or simply ceasing operations. The colleges that have seen ‘progressive closure’ -- in which case they cannot take in first year undergraduates but can retain the existing ones until the students are through with their respective courses and degrees-- have time to think about the future of their educational establishment, which is akin to a stale mate unless a plan of conversion is in place.
An engineering college or other undergraduate vocational degree colleges facing closure are scarcely surprised when the encyclical demanding closure arrives. Deterioration in the strength in various trades is decidedly a prelude to what awaits. It is therefore rational to take tough decisions with a democratic bent of mind and prepare to resurrect the establishment in one way or another.
It can hardly be denied that years of association with academia and pedagogical culture predisposes the management to excel in the educational enterprise. And fortuitously, the infrastructure that is in place could accommodate a full-fledged K-12 school. The curriculum that one wants to implement would depend on the promoter’s choice which is informed by several factors and previous experiences and knowledge of the community’s inclinations.
Running a school is both qualitatively and quantitatively different from running a college. Likening them to different species, we can say that the colleges do not differ in phenotype, the genotype, however, is different. A minute mutation in the DNA of the engineering college can lead to the creation of a successful school.
Which type of new school suits the college facing closure best?
After finality is reached, the engineering colleges which already have certifications of the soundness of building and wherewithal for sustaining a school can apply to the District Education office to secure a permission for opening a school and subsequently, its affiliation with the board of education of choice.
Why open a school?
You will not be prone to market fluctuations as opposed to the engineering college and placement thereof. The seats would not remain vacant unless the planning is dismal. People with advanced knowledge will enrich the curricula and pedagogical standards will inevitably go up.
Summing up, the odds of success of an offspring school are decidedly better than that of the marginalized engineering colleges.
The difference in the revenue will be substantial, yet an incisive observation will show that this belief springs from conjecture rather than analysis. The number of classes or years student commits to school education is almost twice the number of classes and student tenure in the college. There exist N numbers of examples where bodies running successful K-12 schools have established degree colleges—technical or otherwise.
Leadership and opportunities for Excellence
Even if the lecturers of a closed college aid the school through consultation, they can certainly add value to the curriculum. The advent of international schools including IB and Cambridge International present an opportunity. Their teaching-learning culture in these schools is conducive to prepare standard collegiate that brings in the opportunity for retaining an environment suited for higher education.
Both IB and Cambridge have the demanding curriculum and the advanced schooling or pre-university diploma programs are academically intensive and with the inputs from higher education’s management, it can set examples for adoption of International curricula by other capsizing colleges.
Effects on the children
Children in these schools are likely to become tech-savvy and get a glimpse of the future from the relics of advanced education and get oriented. Interest in adding to the body of knowledge can be inculcated and research scholars can be produced.
The challenge before the management of a technical undergraduate college is to become child-centric. Importance to sports infrastructure, the difference in the levels of motivation between grown-ups and young and increased rate of attendance demands diligence in new areas.
Engineering colleges have essentially compartmentalized and specialized streams. Schools, on the other hand, requires cross-disciplinary pedagogy and wholesome educational experience. It will be incumbent on the management committee to ensure multi-dimensional growth.
Opening an international school is more pertinent for the promoters with the engineering college, the reason being the internationality that matches the nature of higher education. Managing the medium of instruction that is predominantly English becomes easier in the case of international schooling. Foreign languages, initiation into technology, even artificial intelligence are certain features of international academic and non-academic curriculum that are elements of familiarity.
If the members of the faculty are retained in considerable proportions all of the aforementioned advantages of converting an engineering college into a K-12 school become nearly insured. Indeed, there will be more animation in the class but collaborative learning that is the mainstay of technical education will help the teachers to adapt.
Besides, International Convention on Child Rights and Right to education act protocols are to be observed and children with learning disorders like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia etc. besides other psychological issues have to be accommodated with sensitivity.
College culture is marked either by rebelliousness or total commitment and students possess relative clarity about the future. School goers on the other hand manifest submission, indifference caused by dilemma and parental intervention. These are the facets which have to be taken into account by the management while they start the venture of converting an engineering and technology college into a K-12 school.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.