VINAY JHA PILLAI
Higher Education in Electronics and Communication Engineering
Higher education is ready for a major revolution. For those who wonder about future of education, this proclamation will come as no surprise. It is so typical of us to think and talk about the changes to come, and we have become an expert at it. Our familiarity with upcoming change, however, may have numbed us to what it will really mean. Technology has made great and deep impact on us. Technology has changed the way we order life. It has moved us toward a different kind of economy and modified ways of living. We are in the midst of changing from an energy-based to a knowledge-based economy which will alter the rules of international economic competition, thrusting universities into roles they have not traditionally played. Two of the greatest challenges our institutions face are those of harnessing the power of digital technology and responding to the information revolution. Addition to it, our institutions are looking forward to the needs of industries to frame their curriculum. To a great extend, institutions are exploiting the available resources and technology with constant updation. The opportunities and challenges technology presents are far greater than at any previous time in higher education's 750-year history.
There is still debate about exactly where higher education's history began. Irrespective of whether it was in Paris, Oxford, or Bologna, historians agree that it began at the start of the 13th century. It has not changed much since. Fundamentally, higher education is still a process of imparting knowledge by means of lectures to those who want to acquire it. This essay describes the forces accelerating change in Higher education with respect to Electronics and Communication Engineering, raises difficult questions that will help us determine what a transformed learning environment could be, and offers some thoughts on why it is important for higher education to take the lead in realizing that vision.
WHAT IS ELECTRONICS AND COMMUNICATION ENGINEERING?
The word “electronics” is a combination of two words, “electron” and “technology”, electron being derived from the Greek word “elecktron” which means amber. The word was first referred to describe amber's attractive properties by William Gilbert in his 1600 text De Magnete. In physics, an electron refers to a particle of charge quantified in terms of Coulombs. The word “electric” was first used by Francis Bacon to describe materials like amber that attracted other objects. The first usage of the English word electricity is ascribed to Sir Thomas Browne in his 1646 work, Pseudodoxia Epidemica. Scientists like Einstein, Feynman, and Maxwell used the word “electron” more frequently to elaborate on their findings of quantum physics and electromagnetic theory.
Accepting electronics as a circuit science is now generally referred to as a subject that deals with the flow of electricity or current and its behavior when it passes through a conducting material or a semiconductor to precise. Various electrical phenomenon like voltage, current, power, watts, amperes are used to quantify various metrics in the circuit science engineering domain. Electronics is not confined to circuit science and semi conductor theory as such but a general intuition with the word “electronics” gets linked with the notion of flow of charge carriers in a conducting material. Cambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (1972) defines electronics as "The science and technology of the conduction of electricity in a vacuum, a gas, or a semiconductor, and devices based thereon". Electronics is hence an age old concept which gradually evolved and is now a significant part of human existence.
Electronics and Communication engineering today is centered around reliable communication networks and data transactions at high speeds. The internet has become the backbone of almost all existing communication networks. Electronics and Communication is a vast field in itself.
Communication, signals and systems, control systems, power electronics, computer networks, image processing all integrate to form a part of electronics as a whole. Initially, Electronics and Engineering was a small domain of Science. Science has been ever evolving reflecting the human mind and education has always been an integral part of learning and evolving. Education system has been such that it has tried to practice the human mind to think, learn, unlearn, relearn and innovate. Alvin Toffler said “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” To keep this motivation going, education system has slowly structured itself in the technical side to aid learning.
In the ancient period, science was taught to students through practical understanding with nature. For example, when a stone is dropped in water, it creates ripples and with time, these ripples settle down to become still water. This is a good example to illustrate stability of a system in a very basic sense. The example coated is associated with nature rather than a laboratory with equipments to illustrate simple science. Not to negate the current methods to make one understand, but to state that as time as passed, sophistication is reflected in every aspect of life and in some way or the other, has caused more damage than good!
CURRENT TRENDS IN THE INDIAN HIGHER EDUCATION
Students who obtain at least 60 per cent marks in the B.Tech. course and a high GATE score can explore higher study options, especially the M.Tech. course. A GATE score makes them eligible for scholarships for doing the course.A high score in GATE, a national-level examination conducted by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) every year, is a prerequisite for M.Tech. admission. Those with an engineering or architecture degree, and those in the final year of the degree course, may appear for the examination.
For admissions, almost all institutions give 70 per cent weight to the GATE score and 30 per cent to the merit in the qualifying examinations. In fact, the main criterion is the GATE score. Only if applicants with the score are unavailable will selection be made through an entrance test or by considering the marks in the qualifying examination. Students should note that even some public sector undertakings are using the score to recruit engineers. Prepare well to obtain a high percentile or score.Graduates in electronics and communications have several higher study options. Specialisations or options in the M.Tech. course include embedded systems, VLSI design, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, digital systems and communication, opto-electronics, digital signal processing, cyber security, robotics, and software engineering.
Master of Design (M.Des), MBA, and MS information technology courses and postgraduate diploma programmes in industrial management and system software development are other options.The Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) offers an M.Tech. course in electronics with specialisation in digital electronics, microwave, and radar electronics. Those with a B.Tech. degree in electronics and communication, electrical engineering, and electronics and instrumentation with at least 60 per cent marks and a GATE score may apply. The university conducts an M.Tech. course in opto-electronics and laser technology, admitting graduates in electronics and communication, electronics, electrical engineering, and electrical and electronics engineering. At least 60 per cent marks in the degree course and a GATE score are required. (www.cusat.nic.in)
IIT Madras offers M.Tech. courses in communication systems; digital signal processing; micro electronics; and VLSI design. (www.iitm.ac.in)
IIT Delhi offers a course in electronics and communication engineering. (www.iitd.ac.in). IIT Guwahati offers a course in signal processing and VLSI (www.iitg.ernet.in). IIT Kharagpur conducts an M.Tech. course with specialisations in fibre optics and light-wave engineering, micro electronics and VLSI design, telecommunication system engineering, and embedded system engineering. (http://gate.iitkgp.ac.in/mtech)
The Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering of the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Kozhikode, conducts M.Tech. programmes in electronics design and technology; micro electronics and VLSI design; telecommunication; and signal processing. Graduates in electronics and communication with a GATE score are eligible for admission. Selection is based on the GATE score. (www.nitc.ac.in)
NIT Surathkal conducts an M.Tech. course in electronics and communication. (www.nitk.ac.in).
The Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal, conducts M.Tech. programmes in digital communication engineering and VLSI and embedded system design. Graduates in electronics, electronics and communication engineering, and telecommunication with a GATE score are eligible for admission. (www.manit.ac.in)
Amrita School of Engineering, Ettimadai, Coimbatore, offers M.Tech. programmes in VLSI design, embedded systems, wireless networks and applications, cyber security, and so on. Graduates in electronics and communication with at least 60 per cent marks are eligible for admission.
Selection is based on academic merit and interview or entrance test. Those with a GATE score will get preference. (www.amrita.edu) The PSG College of Technology, Peelamedu, Coimbatore, affiliated to Anna University, offers ME and M.Tech. programmes in communication systems, VLSI design, biometrics and cyber security, and nanotechnology.
Electronics and communication graduates with a valid GATE or TANCET score are eligible for admission. (www.psgtech.edu)
Delhi Technological University, Delhi, conducts an M.Tech. course in signal processing and digital design, microwave and optical communication, and VLSI design and embedded system. (www.dce.edu)
Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi, conducts an ME course in electronics and communication engineering, information security, and nanotechnology. (www.bitmesra.ac.in)
The Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering under Anna University, Coimbatore, offers ME programmes in communication engineering, VLSI design, digital communication and network engineering, optical communication, digital signal processing, wireless technologies, and embedded system technologies (www.annauniv.ac.in).
M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore, conducts M.Tech. courses in digital communication engineering and digital electronics and communication (www.msrit.edu).
Atal Bihari Vajpayee Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Gwalior, conducts an M.Tech. programme. Computer science and engineering, electronics and communication and electrical engineering graduates with at least 60 per cent marks and a GATE score are eligible for admission.
The Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala, at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram conducts an MS course in information technology. Those with a degree in any branch of engineering or technology with minimum 60 per cent marks are eligible for admission. Selection is based on an entrance test and an interview. Students with at least 65 per cent marks in the qualifying examination are eligible to get a scholarship of Rs.8,000 a month (www.iiitmk.ac.in).
IMPACT OF MARKET AND TECHNOLOGY
Technology has advanced magnanimously and the pressure is now on the students to know everything and anything that is up in the market as a consumer electronic device. Students who take up engineering, especially electronics and communication engineering are often unaware of the course structure and what are its further implications in their career front. Previously, students were not as confused as to what stream leads to what kind of a job and where to they fit themselves well. But current education systems simply creates pressure in the minds of the students and parents as to how to choose a stream in engineering and what is the job opportunities related to it.
A lot of introspection is required to intricately design a course structure for technical education. A decade back, one could conveniently say that there was significant distinction between a hardware oriented technical course and a software oriented technical course. But now things have changed and the fast moving modern world only demands of an inter-disciplinary course which can fetch employment in many different industries. Every subject is interlinked to every other subject and this inter- disciplinary aspect of making a course well suited for multiple industries of hardware or software or hardware-software co-design has played a significant role in making a structure of a particular technical course.
Once the student has chosen the field of interest of electronics and communication, he/she is less motivated to do the basic understanding of the subjects like signals and systems, basic communication theory, electronic circuits to name a few. The reason for lack of motivation is them being prejudice that those subjects are made to kill their confidence and only make them slog to pass an examination of 100 marks in which they got to score a 40 to pass through. Laboratories concerned to subjects are also taken as a burden rather than enthusiasm to learn and understand the basic concepts taught in class. As time has passed, education in the technical side has simply degraded and not many quality engineers are produced to contribute towards a better country technically.
Students today face the pressure of keeping themselves updated with the latest versions of software and hardware as a part of peer pressure. The basic understanding being novice to them are simply getting lost in the rat race to know every trendy technical advancement and trying to be the so called “techie tech”. Lot of research goes in to make those high speed gadgets but as Moore’s law has predicted that the no. of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every 18 months is simply a pressure point to technical education.
Technical education in our country has always been talked relative to the IITs , IISc and NITs where the quality of education imparted are supposedly far more better than the same being taught in a regular engineering college. It is also seen that these institutes have actually progressed in technical learning and imparting knowledge and also growing in terms of research and innovation. Statistically, a student who has completed a degree in electronics and communication from the top technical institutes holds a better opportunity in the market than a student who has passed out of any other engineering college in the country. The point of reflection is how these institutes are working towards a better higher education than the others. By simple observations, one can make out that these institutes take up huge projects from various research organizations funded well enough, and faculties and students work hand in hand to complete those complex tasks with deadlines. They also employ internet based learning, lectures given on the internet, e-learning, collaborating with other foreign universities to explore other perspectives of the same concepts. So with these institutes as a reference, one can say the country is growing in terms of technical education. There are other universities and institutes who are trying to establish themselves with quality learning, excellence and service.
The challenge to educators is to preserve the essence of traditional education while changing with the times. Our highest obligation to society and to ourselves is to work within the context of change to ensure that it follows a trajectory of maximum benefit to society.