Redesign Engineering Education for a Sustainable Green and Prosperous Future- Kulpati Prof PB Sharma
“As we move deeper into the scientific explorations and mind boggling technology innovations now on, the education in Indian universities should take on board sustainability and sustainable development goals as the guiding principles for accelerating innovations and rolling out startups powered by the inspired minds of young India to make New India a prosperous and happy abode of humanity alongside achieving the goal of inclusive development powered by mass entrepreneurship and sustained focus on creating a green and sustainable future. Kulpati Prof PB Sharma advocated a strong case for redesigning our education system tuned to sustainability while delivering the 11th Prof CS Jha Memorial Lecture at the recently concluded 26th Indian Engineering Congress at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi”
Paying his outset respect to theillustrious Prof Chandra Shekhar Jha, Prof Sharma expressed his gratitude to the organizing Chairman of the 36th Indian Engineering Congress for giving him this opportunity to deliver the memorial lecture in the name of an educationist par excellence, a visionary leader and an eminent policy planner who had left an indelible mark in history of technical education in India. His vision for the future and commitment to lead by example still remains as a great source of inspiration to the educators, policy planners and institution builders of our age and shall continue to inspire the generations to come to make higher technical education a valid means to build the world of our dream.
I had the privilege of working in IIT Delhi where Professor Jha was among the tallest academicians who were invited along with stewards like Prof KL Chopra, commonly referred in India as the ‘father of thin film technology’. Prof MS Sodha, Prof BC Nakra and Prof MK Jain, Prof PS Satsangi and BK Guhawho were among the initial genes that built IITs in India to a great national and global eminence. I was fortunate to witnessthe great contributions that Prof CS Jha made for steering technical education in India to high academic quality and industry relevance said eminent educationist Prof Sharma, a Fellow of Institution of Engineers India who is a former professor of IIT Delhi and founder Vice Chancellor of DTU and RGTU.
It may not be out of place to mention that great institutions are built around the academic and research culture that is germinated by the initial genes of the faculty eminence that lays the foundation for the growth of academic and research culture of quality and relevance. IIT Delhi, like the other IITs, attracted in its founding years the very best minds from all around the world, including the best brains of India who were abroad. Prof CS Jha was one among such highly talented and inspired minds who were attracted to join IIT Delhi with profoundness of his experience of working in a world class university and also in globally renowned industry and with his vision to create industry centric, high-quality education and research culture in IIT Delhi. The mantra that IITs adopted then was that “excellence is not an accident but cultivated by paying the greatest attention to the minutest details in an environment of integrity and unconditional commitment to quality and relevance”. It all worked well and in a short span of time after their establishments the IITs became the world class institutions producing highest quality of engineering and technology graduates and attracted world class universities to collaborate with them in frontal areas of research and development. Till today this tempo of the IITs continues to place India with pride in the global arena of higher technical education, said Prof PB Sharma.
Recalling his own days at IIT Delhi, which focusing on self- reliance for India in the strategic areas of science and technology, Prof Sharma cited examples of formidable contributions that the Centre for Advanced Electronics, CARE at IIT Delhi made to developing low level radar communication and later wireless secured network technologies. Prof CS Jha who later became the Technical Education Advisor of Govt of India was able to convince the Government then that the way forward for the advancement of the Nation on the pathways of Power of Science and Might of Technology and achieve Aatmanirbharta is to fund R&D in institutions of repute such as IITs and others and develop indigenous technologies to power India’s march on path of progress and growth.
Today, when the call of Aatmanirbhar Bharat has been given by our government it becomes all the more important to adopt the principle of funding research and development that is aligned to national missions and national priorities. Research of direct value and application for nation’s development assuring Aatmanirbharta, self-reliance is the need of the hour. The institutions of eminence such as the IITs and a number of other highly reputed institutions and universities such as BITS Pilani, DTU, Amity University, SASTRA, VIT, IIITs and NITs are in a position to accelerate our nation’s march on excellence in science and technology in strategic areas that today include besides defense, information technology, AI, ML, VR and AR and intelligent and smart technologies not only for Industry 4.0 but also for a number of strategic areas that include high-tech Aggrotech, Foodtech, Ecotech, Green Energy Technologies, Green Environment technologies, Waste Water Technologies, tomorrows Lifetech and a host of technologies that shall power the growth of smart cities and smart and sustainable villages of tomorrow, submitted Prof Sharma to the engineering and technology fraternity jam packed in the glittering hall of Vigyan Bhawan where the 26th Indian Engineering Congress was organized by Institution of Engineers India this year.
Prof Sharma, however, cautioned that research and development of high quality and great relevance to the nations cannot be carried out without the research driven, innovative and enterprising minds of human resources that we need to create today in plenty from our universities and institutions of higher learning as also to attract from the reputed universities abroad where many of the talented Indians had gone for higher studies and post doctoral research. It is equally important to recognize that the age of knowledge and innovation demands a major shift in the ways education specially the technical education is designed and delivered to create the inspired, innovative and enterprising minds of graduates of engineering to man our industries and enterprises and to give rise to new age mass entrepreneurship powered by the innovative genius of young India.
In this new age higher education, more so in engineering education it is absolutely necessary to integrate education and research and nurture the creative and innovative capabilities of young India by fostering a culture of innovations and technology incubation and translate innovations into new enterprises and startups. The new design of Engineering Education has to take on board not only the new and emerging areas of Science and Engineering but also future science and technology that shall meet the goal of inclusive and sustainable development. We have seen in the past how science and engineering education devoid of care and concern for society and environment leads to mountains of pollution and environmental degradation on one hand and glaring rise of economic disparity on the other hand. The lack of emphasis on sustainability also creates a society largely insensitive to restricting its exploitation of natural resources and gives rise to ever escalating greed and ever-increasing consumption. This is what we see around the world today including here in India where technology innovations are powering economic growth and creating a consumerist society largely unconcerned about the impact it shall have on our future and the future of coming generations.
We need to create university and college campuses practicing highest levels of sustainable green practices gravitating with technology innovations that shall power sustainable and inclusive growth. These green practices apart from extensive use of renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass shall include extensive rainwater harvesting, efficient wastewater treatment, its recycling and reuse to save enormous amount of fresh water, implementing energy efficiency and energy conservation and developing the campus along the pathways of green building designs. But then we also need to adopt green practices in governance of the university and the colleges and create an abiding conviction in one and all in the university community for compliance to sustainability and green practices. This way the campus environment shall empower the students and research scholars with science and technology capabilities for the New India and inspire them to engage throughout their life in inclusive and sustainable development. This will also create the human face of technology and enrich the spiritual power of science, so important to wipe out poverty, hunger, unemployment, diseases and create harmony and peace for peaceful coexistence on planet mother earth. I am indeed delighted to mention that in Amity University Haryana we have implemented a number of green initiatives including green building design, renewable energy from solar power, extensive rain water harvesting, effective treatment of wastewater and its reuse and effective waste management to qualify to be a LEED Platinum Certified Campus by US Green Building Council, said Prof Sharma who is the Vice Chancellor of Amity University Haryana, Gurugram.
The learned gathering of scientists and technologists at this Engineering Congress need not be reminded that we are in a highly opportune time today in India. On one hand there is a positive environment for fostering world quality education and research in our universities and colleges and at the same time the young innovative minds of students and talented faculty have understood the value and worth of innovations and startups rolling out from the colleges and universities. The ecosystem for innovation, technology incubation and startups and also the funding of R&D in areas of high national and global relevance is an agenda for support by the government as well as the corporates. The Policy document Strategy for New India@75 of NITI Ayog clearly emphasizes on creating an enabling ecosystem to enhance thespirit of research and innovation and to Improve employability of students completingtheir higher education. The National Education Policy-2020 has also presented before the nation a blueprint of major reforms in higher education, engineering and technology education included. The charter of the NEP-2020 focuses on interdisciplinary education that is so important to produce tomorrow’s engineering and technology manpower that would be required to work in teams comprising of interdisciplinary expertise. The NEP-2020 also mandates accreditation by National and International bodies to keep the quality of education right and strong industry integration in all aspects of education starting from curriculum design to curriculum delivery and value addition by direct involvement of industry in whole lot of industry readiness courses and internships. The engineering and technology education should take full advantage of the policy thrust of NEP-2020 for redesigning engineering education for the new India.
“Education, especially higher technical education, is to be the fountainhead of a developed, prosperous and enlightened human society that shall contribute to peace, prosperity, harmony and happiness all around. This is, of course, a tall order, but then who other than the Indian universities, the repositories of tremendous wisdom of the Orient, blessed with enlightened and inspired minds of faculty and students and the torchbearers of the faith of people could deliver this promise. This calls for a sustained focus on Quality, Relevance and Excellence, nurtured in an environment of Integration of Education with Values so that the universities in India could become, in true sense, partners in progress of nation’s development and meet the global aspirations of human excellence opined KulpatiProf Sharma inviting the Vice Chancellors of India’s technological universities to provide a major shift the design of technical education for the New India”.
This august assembly of leading technologist and engineering fraternity at the Engineering Congress should resolve to make Higher Education in India a vehicle of transformation of our great republic into a vibrant, developed and prosperous country, inhibited by responsible citizens, exhibiting highest respect for human values, personal integrity and professional ethics akin to the modern digital age, and make Mother India proud of its higher education and research that shall foster highest levels of sustainability and inclusive development of our 1.37 billion sisters and brothers in India, said Prof Sharma.
It is all the more important today than ever before as the 21st Century bestows upon the institutions of engineering and technology a great responsibility to provide to the nation the inspired and ignited minds of graduates and post graduates and scholars of eminence to fuel unprecedented growth and development while keeping the sustainability index of the highest order so as to wipe out poverty, hunger, disease, unemployment and also enormous pollution(air, water and soil) and advance the frontiers of knowledge, shrink the boundaries of ignorance and create the bliss and happiness all around. And that too, by nurturing creativity and innovativeness in abundance to manifest the fullest of human potential yet protecting the interest of man and Mother Nature together.
It is our responsibility, distinguished Fellowsand members of the prestigious Institution of Engineers (India)to support and mentor our institutions of engineering and technology in India to make them a major partner in progress in the making of the New India of our dream.To do this, we need to play a catalytic role from professional bodies like IE(I) to create the enterprising and creative minds in our institutions of engineering and technology and thus transform them as the“factories of Innovation, Technology Incubation and Enterprise development” alongside with producing Industry-ready-professionals for the new knowledge age which is rapidly descending in our industry, trade, business and governance, and in fact in all aspects of human endeavors.
I therefore, hope that the synergy of mind created at this congress shall enable us to present a road map of growth and development of engineering and technology educationthat shall assure quality of world standards, relevance of our research and innovations and contribute to the accelerated growth of startups and enterprises from the campuses of our Indian engineering institutions to meet and greet the current and future challenges so as to make India a world leader in sustainable and inclusive growth in the coming years, said Prof Sharma.
We need also to create in us and our engineering community a sense of pride in our ancient wisdom that once made India a cradle of globally acclaimed engineering and technology acumen that made India a highly prosperous and technology highly developed nation that at the same time ensured a highly sustainable and blissful habitat. We must commit ourselves to reviving the ancient wisdom of practicing a righteous way of life based on strict compliance to truth, maintaining purity of thoughts and actions, conforming to self- discipline, unending quest for research and new knowledge creation, but on top of that a caring concern for the wellbeing of mankind and Mother Nature, attaining perfection in work activity and conformance to work ethics and professional morality, discovering the meaning and purpose of life, and living a live full of divine bliss and happiness on planet mother earth.Our capabilities as engineers and technologist of the new age must enable India to lead the world by example of creating a heaven on earth here in India as we have a great opportunity given the wisdom of the past and the enthusiasm and interest in rising to great esteem in modern science and technology.
It is important to realize that the Gurukuls of ancient India provided education in harmony with nature and inspired the seekers of knowledge to adhere to the principles of peace, purity and righteousness as the cardinal principles for leading a dignified human life. The focus here was on integration of education with values, capabilities with virtues of humility and simplicity to serve the society and Mother Nature with utmost devotion and unconditional commitment. We need create such an avoiding commitment to integrating capabilities with the virtues of nobility and simplicity in our engineering and technology community that shall devote to making engineering profession a privilege to serve and a privilege to excel and always refrain from allowing engineering education and the engineering profession to become a privilege to earn and a privilege to exploit.
I need not over emphasize the fact that the power of science and the might of technology are the major driving force to today’seconomies and national development strategies. As such we need to ensure that the national development is supportive of the growth of sustainability and inclusive economic growth so that the benefits of science and technology are enjoyed by the people at large. For this to happen we need to practice science and technology for society and its inclusive growth and development. Further, as we have seen in the recent times that technology life science has both the positive as well as negative impacts on the society and its people, it becomes the responsibility of the scientific and engineering community to align the mindset of all those engaged in science, engineering and technology education to remain aligned to the righteous conduct and a positive attitude to serve the society at large and work consciously up to the last breath of life to the wellbeing and welfare of the global community.
It is my considered opinion before this august assembly of the engineering fraternity of our great nation that the care and concern for the society, catering for local and global needs and service to society and Mother Nature should find an important space in the curriculum for engineering education and should become an important aspect of higher education and research in our colleges and universities, added Prof Sharma,
The idea of a university todayshould revolve around providing a learning environment that promotes the spirit of enquiry, a sense of commitment to find solutions to the pressing problems of the society, an unending quest to discover the truth of being and to unveil the secret of creation and at the same time engage in pursuits of translating acquired knowledge and capabilities to create a better tomorrow. It is this idea of a university; we need to seriously ponder today when education is being seen as a powerful vehicle of transformation of nation’s economies and wellbeing of the vast humanity.
Universities and Institutions of engineering are to be the lifeline of the local industries and drivers for change both at national and global levels to cause technology revolution and innovative new product development. This requires a paradigm shift in the way research is carried out in the universities and in institutions of higher learning in science and engineering. We need to devise mechanisms which supports the growth of Solution Research and with the active participation of the industries engages the innovative minds of the faculty and students in developing technology, knowhow and innovations that shall give rise to the growth of new enterprises.The new structure of the Higher Education in India need to rejuvenate the universities and institutions of higher learning in science and engineering to create the desired ecosystem for Solution Research, Technology Incubation and supportive environment for I2IP, ideas to innovated products and commercialization. In short, it calls for a major departure in our approach from “Universities and Institutions as centers of learning and scholarship” to “Universities and Institutions as Global Knowledge Enterprises for Sustainability”i.e. centers of learning and scholarship, technology incubation, innovation and enterprise development. Universities then shall adopt the mantra “Knowledge to Sustainable Prosperity” and become the propulsive thrust for accelerating the inclusive Socio- Economic development of the society.
The need of the hour is therefore to nurture interdisciplinary education, engage in cutting edge research and technology innovations for sustainability, cultivate translational and solution research and foster creativity and innovations in abundance and take them to the level of commercially viable technologies and products of vital value to make India a world leader in quality education and research.
The new world that we wish to create should not be the same as the one we have left behind before the Covid-19 pandemic that had taken by surprise the nations of the world in March 2019. We also do not want the developmental policies and program that cause a major penalty on environmental health and would not wish to be part of the development that creates a strong economic divide, nor we wish to see a world that exploits the natural resources in the name of development and cause miseries of global warming and adds to enormous load of air and water pollution, cause diseases and misery unbearable, said Prof Sharma. But we also cannot herald our progress and the economic growth so essential to create a developed society. So the question is how to go about creating this new world.
We have learnt by now that our quality of life and the wellbeing of our people cannot be assured on the models of growth that promote accelerated consumption and exploitation of consumers through a market driven philosophy of trade and business. “The time has gone when the prosperity of a nation was judged by the quantum of per capita consumption and its GDP. Today, and in the times ahead it would be judged by its policies and the impact they create on creating responsible citizenship and the governance that assures sustainability, minimizes waste and the pollution load and assures the health of its environment”.
In my opinion, we need to seriously question today whether we need a lifestyle that heavily leans towards possessing more and worry not about the vast humanity. Should we not care for the vast humanity that looks towards people of knowledge and wisdom to care for one and all with compassion and Aatmiyata? Should we not imbibe the age-old Vedic human values such asAparigriha, that is possessing just as much as necessary and consume only as much as needed? These and many more such questions should compel us to redesign our education as well as our developmental strategies. The panchamritof Academia, Industry, R&D organizations, Society and Government offers an effective strategy to redesign such an education ecosystem.
Inviting the educators of New India, Prof Sharma said “Let you keep the noble objective of Janani JanmabhumishchaSwargadapiGariyasi, that is, to transform our own Motherland as a haven on earth while at the same time serving the divine cause of Vasudha evKutumbakam. I invite you to create the Panchamirit of Academia, Industry, R&D organizations, Society, and the Government so that we succeed in making our universities, in true sense, partners in progress for the success of our National missions of Make in India, Skill India, Innovation and Startups India and also meet the Sustainable Millennium Goals for which the nations of the world including India have committed to”.
Fellow Engineers, as you leave after this Engineering Congress, take back the collective wisdom of the Noble Minds of the Engineering Fraternity of this great nation, enrich your soul with the fragrance of sustainability, get inspired from the deliberations at this congress to create the human face of technology and the spiritual power of science and then make a profound impact on your place of work and also in the society to which we all belong to. Let the Engineering fraternity also enrich the policy framework for good governance powered by integration of technology in service of society and make India and Indian society proud of its Engineering and Technology prowess, submitted Prof Sharma who ia also the past President of the Association of Indian Universities, AIU..
Let this historic 36th Engineering Congress being held at Vigyan Bhawan in the capital city of Delhi at a time when our great republic is celebrating its Amrit Mahotsava, to celebrate 75th year of our independence, inspire us the science and engineering fraternity to fully redeem our tryst with destiny and reinstate our firm resolve to make India a heaven on earth. Let Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargadapi Gariyasi be the guiding philosophy of all of us, the engineering and technology sons and daughters of Mother India to lead the world by example and march on pathways of sustainable and inclusive growth in our great republic, concluded Prof Sharma.