Turning a New Leaf in Technical Education : Atul Sinha

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Atul Sinha,  Director, Department of Science & Technology Government of Bihar

The Government of Bihar is taking a number of initiatives to turn the State into a hub of technicallyqualified quality resources, says Atul Sinha, Director, Department of Science & Technology, in an interaction with Elets News Network (ENN)

What steps is the Department of Science and Technology taking for improving technical education in Bihar?

We are taking quite a few steps for improving the quality and level of technical education in Bihar. There is huge scope of improvement in infrastructure facilities, quality of teaching and teaching skills of our faculties in the seven government engineering colleges and 14 polytechnics operational in the State. We have made short-term and long-term plans for overall development and improvement of the academic environment of the State, which we will be implementing soon.

To begin with, we have a large number of vacant posts of teaching and technical support staff in our institutions to be filled in. We have already started the process of recruitment to 408 posts of Assistant Professors and 478 Lecturers in the government engineering colleges and polytechnics. In fact, the positions have already been advertised by the Bihar Public Services Commission (BPSC), and I hope before the next academic session, the recruitment process will be completed and faculties will be on board. Similarly, we are also trying to initiate the process of recruitment of the lab support staff.

Do you have any plan to upgrade the existing classrooms in the technical institutions of Bihar?

We have planned to provide modern classroom facilities in all the engineering colleges and polytechnics. Now-a-days, a lot of quality study material and multimedia contents are already available online, e.g. the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, has already provided very good collection of video lectures on a variety of topics in different engineering streams online on NPTEL website. With the help of modern classroom facilities, the present scarcity of teachers can be compensated to some extent by showing video lectures of eminent professors of IITs and other top-class institutions of the country. We are trying to make available modern classroom facility in each classroom and are procuring computers, projectors, interactive boards, etc., for the same.

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Further, we also have plan for setting up virtual classroom facility in all our engineering colleges and polytechnics with central studio facility at Patna Planetarium. It will help in organising centralised lectures of quality teachers of IIT-Patna and NIT-Patna for all the engineering colleges and polytechnics. In fact, we have already got the National Knowledge Network (NKN) connectivity of 1000 Mbps in two engineering colleges. NIC has assured to extend the NKN connectivity in the remaining five engineering colleges of the State by next month. Internet connectivity of 10 Mbps is being provided in all the polytechnics of the State.

Besides, we have already provided campus Wi-Fi facility in four engineering colleges and four polytechnics. The campus Wi-Fi facility also covers boys’ and girls’ hostels. All the remaining engineering colleges and polytechnics of the State would have campus Wi-Fi facility in the next financial year. We are taking several such initiatives to make Bihar the hub of technically-qualified quality resources.

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What steps are you taking to improve the overall quality of teaching?

There are many ongoing programmes for training the existing teachers to improve their teaching skills. Recently, in December 2014, we had organised a week-long workshop for our faculties in engineering colleges and polytechnics on “Role of ICT and e-Learning in improving the quality of teaching and learning”. The workshop was conducted by experts from the National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training and Research (NITTR) of Kolkata. We have also conducted a workshop on Training Need Analysis (TNA) to identify the training needs of teachers and students. We are trying to conduct specialised technical training programmes for improving the knowledge and quality of teaching of our faculties.

Please throw light on the proposed projects or initiatives.

We always try different methods and look out for continuous improvement in our infrastructure facilities, and quality of teaching and learning. We also keep inviting new ideas from all our stakeholders and best practices adopted by various other institutions located in other parts of the country. For example, we are organising a workshop in the month of March on Virtual lab facilities, which will help students and faculties conduct a large number of experiments online. Teams of experts from IIT-Delhi and Ma Anandmai University, Kerala, will impart training in use of Virtual lab facilities to our faculty members and selected students. They will inform how the facilities can be gainfully utilised for conducting advance experiments on state-ofthe- art scientific instruments, sitting thousands of miles away, round the clock.

Another initiative we are focusing on is creation of a “Digital Library”, which will facilitate availability of quality contents freely available on the Internet. Faculty members will also be able to use these contents for quality teaching. Contents for skill development and various professional courses will also be made available through the initiative. Through campus Wi-Fi facility, the Digital Library will be accessible by the students from the convenience of their hostels at anytime.

What challenges do you see in the technical institutions of Bihar, and how are you intend to overcome those?

The students in Bihar have high knowledge capabilities and have already proved their worth in various areas. But, recently we discovered that one of the major challenges for our technical students is the problem of English language and soft skills. Spoken English of the students is not up to the mark and not up to the minimum level acceptable by the industry. We received this feedback on the requirement to improve language skills sometime back, and we have taken it very seriously. One of the initiatives undertaken in this regard is a plan to establish a language lab in all polytechnics and engineering colleges of the State. We have already established and operationalised language lab facilities in the Government Women’s Polytechnic, Phulwari Sharif, Patna, and sanctioned the language lab set-up for another 20 technical colleges of the State, which will be available to the students by next month. This language lab is equipped with software, through which students can interact, learn the correct pronunciation of words and also make out how to spell a word. This will definitely improve their job potential in the market.

Secondly, for upgradation of the existing labs in our polytechnics, we recently submitted a project report to the Government of India for 12 polytechnics of the State. The central government has a scheme to provide `2 crore to each government polytechnic to upgrade its lab facilities. Once sanctioned by the Centre, we will be able to procure all required equipments and upgrade labs of our polytechnics quickly.

We are going to create a ‘Digital Library’, which will facilitate availability of quality contents freely on the Internet. Faculty members will also be able to use these contents for quality teaching

Which other Government of India-supported projects are you currently focusing on?

There are many. For example, the engineering colleges of Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur are under Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) scheme of the Government of India. We are already in the process of submitting a plan for upgradation of their labs to the Government of India. This would help these colleges meet the modern-day lab set up requirements. Teachers’ training programmes are also being planned under the aegis of TEQIP.

Also, we have plans to start the academic sessions in eight new polytechnics of the State from 2015-16 session. We are also planning to start MTech courses in the Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology. Recently, the Bihar Government initiated a project to set up an incubation center in BIT Mesra, Patna campus, to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation for the people of Bihar. I feel this initiative will go a long way towards the entrepreneurial development of the State.

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