“Indian Education needs to keep pace with industry requirement”

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As the director of industry marketing, Dr Sameer Prabhu, MathWorks, manages a worldwide team of marketing managers who lead the effort to foster the adoption of MathWorks products for technical computing and model-based design across vertical industries.

Dr Prabhu has over 20 years of experience applying MathWorks products in various application areas and, prior to joining MathWorks, has engaged in the R&D of complex control systems through his work at Visteon, Caterpillar, and Tata Motors.

In this exclusive interview with Pradeep Chakraborty, Dr Prabhu touches upon the level of exposure students in India get toward gaining practical know-how in regard to tools like Matlab and Simulink, and how MATLAB and Simulink for verification and validation can be used throughout the development process. Excerpts:


139_Sameer-PrabhuAUGUST 2012: Are you satisfied with the level of exposure students in India get toward gaining practical know-how in regard to tools like Matlab and Simulink? If not, how do you think it would be possible to improve the situation?
While engineering education in India has evolved over the past few years, there is still a considerable skills gap when it comes to industry requirements. According to the National Employability Report (NER) 2011, while India produces more than five lakh engineers annually, only a miniscule 3.51 per cent are appropriately trained to be directly deployed on projects.

Further, only 2.68 per cent are employable in IT product companies, which require greater understanding of computer science and algorithms. One of the main reasons for this is lack of exposure to industry standard tools and software. The current curriculum places considerable emphasis on theory, rather than practical technological applications in industry. Limited interaction between industry and academia is also an important factor.

India is fast turning into a hub for high-end engineering projects in areas such as aerospace and defence, automotive, energy, telecom, computing and medical devices. The Indian education sector needs to keep pace with industry’s requirement for a talent pool of employable graduates to sustain R&D needs.

Universities and colleges need to move from a theory-based curriculum to courseware that is a blend of theory and practical applications thereby providing students with the necessary exposure to real-world scenarios.

In the auto industry, for example, technology is evolving rapidly to meet increasingly stringent industry norms and fast-changing customer perceptions and demands. Typically, graduates wishing to make a career in automotive engineering will have an edge if they have gained exposure to automotive industry-standard software tools and technologies as part of their courseware. This will ensure that they are productive from day one in an industry as competitive and dynamic as the automotive industry.

As an organization with a strong user base in the industry and academic sectors, MathWorks is uniquely positioned to foster collaborations between both sectors. We believe strongly in the need for industry-academia collaboration and student access to industry standard tools and software to plug this gap.

MathWorks is a keen proponent of active learning techniques such as project-based learning where students can see, hear, and touch what would otherwise be very abstract. In order to facilitate this, we make available a host of classroom resources such as links to videos, code, models, books, courseware for a range of disciplines and other resources for classroom instruction or individual learning on the ‘Academia Section’ section of the MathWorks website. MathWorks also supports faculty members in curriculum development.

Earlier this year, we signed on Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT) for a campus-wide license for the MATLAB and Simulink product families. With this implementation, MIT’s students will gain hands-on, practical experience with software used widely in industry, and MIT’s faculty can engage in research and devise curriculum based on their experiences with these tools.

Following are some examples of programs supported by MathWorks in India, to encourage high quality technical education:

Support for Student Competitions: MathWorks provides free software, training and mentoring for student design competitions across a multitude of real-life challenges to facilitate practical exposure in technical education and encourage project-based learning.

MathWorks Book Program: MathWorks supports authors interested in writing books based on MATLAB and Simulink by providing publisher referrals, access to new versions of MathWorks products, and promotion of the book on the MathWorks Web site. Many of these books serve as courseware and reference material to aspiring engineers and scientists.

MathWorks Academia Seminars: MathWorks regularly conducts free seminars across several India cities to familiarize engineering faculties in the use of MATLAB and Simulink for teaching and research, and guiding instructors on ways to incorporate project-based learning in courseware.

How would you rate the educational field in India when compared to other developing countries, say China or Korea?
As mentioned above, the industry-academia skills gap is a major area of concern in India. As a result, the research landscape in Indian universities is also at a nascent stage.

By comparison, universities abroad, including China and Korea, have realized the need to tie-up with industry to provide students access to latest technology, thereby improving the scope for better and commercial viable research. Universities in India have only recently come to realize the need and value for such tie-ups.

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