India’s most loved profession needs a reality check

Today, sharp distinctions and the bureaucratic need for categories make a lot of practitioners feel rebellious — whether architects, engineers or planners. The roles of engineering students and teachers stand poised to be transformed. Books like A Whole New Engineer — The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education predict that innovation in and across fields will happen more reliably when students can seamlessly transition between working in technical realms and lived contexts. 

Imagine what can happen in India if the ‘whole new engineer’ becomes the dominant paradigm? The Indian middle-class’s love affair with the engineering profession is well-known. According to some estimates, 80% of youth aged 16 and 17 are interested in pursuing engineering as a career. India boasts one of the world’s highest numbers of engineers along with Russia and China. But it has to face harsh judgements about the quality of their education. 

This is attributed mostly to lack of infrastructure and other material resources. But what the country lacks in resources could be made up in creativity and responsiveness to context. If the new engineer is someone who can learn from and compose with the most challenging situations — everything can change.