Should an educational institution devote itself to preparing free, right thinking and creative individuals or cater to the needs of the industry?
This was one of the serious questions that surfaced during a panel discussion on Industry-Academia Connect, organised by ICFAI Univerisity, Ranchi at its Ashok Nagar campus on Wednesday afternoon.
"Industry drives economy and academia provides fuel (read talent and know-how)," said .R.S. Rao, vice chancellor of ICFAI University while introducing the topic. Citing different sources, he mentioned that only 17 per cent of fresh engineering graduates, 21 per cent of fresh MBAs and 25 per cent of information technology (IT) graduates were found employable in the country in 2011.
Pointing out that failure to apply (at workplace) what they learnt in classrooms was a major hindrance and Rao advocated a meaningful partnership between industry and academia.
The participants in the panel discussion, barring one, were all associated with various industrial sectors and as expected they stressed on such an education system or at least a curriculum that would be industry-friendly.
S.K. Behra, vice-chairman of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Jharkhand chapter, who came from Jamshedpur, said the present education system was not suited for the industrial sector. He strongly recommended compulsory training for engineering students at industrial units so that they acquired basic knowledge in their chosen field.
Rana Chakravarty, chief of corporate communication at Mecon Limited, Ranchi, did not, however, endorse Behra's views."Trainees take these training very casually and are just interested in taking the certificate," he opined. Training would be helpful only if those undergoing it are monitored properly, he added.
"We send everyone to a rural unit for three months as part of compulsory training, but most don't like that and want to remain in cities," said Dhirendra Kumar, managing director, Jharcraft. Training provides competence, he said, adding that competent professionals actually don't even need to be supervised.
Hoteliers Prabhakar Singh and Ravinder Singh stressed on practical exposure as there is a total disconnect between theory and practice.
Jalaluddin Mandal of Vodafone felt that students should be taught in such a way that they get acquainted with the "basics" of the industry.
K.K. Nag, former vice chancellor of Ranchi, Bhagalpur and Vinoba Bhave Universities, who, despite favouring increase in employability of students, felt that universities were actually meant to be knowledge hubs and students must inculcate values and become good human beings.