Evolution of Software Development Education – Part VIII: Indian Response to Curricumum Design

Posted on February 24, 2012

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Author: Sanjay Goel, http://in.linkedin.com/in/sgoel

This is the final article in this 8 part series.

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Recognizing the growth potential, Government of India sponsored   Indian Society for Technical Education (ISTE) to propose the first model curriculum in this area. The ISTE interacted with academia, industry, and professional bodies like Computer Society of India (CSI) and Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers (IETE) and proposed a curriculum in 1987. The group over-sighted most of the important international up-to-date recommendations and manpower requirement projections with respect to computing education, especially with respect to information systems and software engineering. It nearly failed to foresee the tremendous growth of offshore and outsourcing software service industry that already existed even in the  1970s, started to take off in the mid 1980s, and was growing fast in the  late 1980s and the early 1990s.

The model curriculum proposed by this committee and published by Rajaraman [2] did not make a mention of this growth or any up-to-date study related to manpower requirement. It only included an outdated report of 1980 on manpower requirement by the Indian Planning Commission. He did not mention any rational reasons or arguments for this retrogressive curriculum that did not find it suitable to put even a single computing course in the first year, and chose to put discrete mathematics in the fourth semester. The committee ignored the already well recognized developments in database management and software engineering. This paper also did not relate itself with the large body of educational research literature.  Most surprisingly, none of the ACM or IEEE reports related to curriculum recommendations are included in the reference list. Instead only one UNESCO-IFIP [3] recommendation was included as a reference. However, possibly as an afterthought, for comparison purpose, Denning et al [4] was referred.

Rajaraman [2]   distinguished the proposed Indian curriculum from the western model [4]   as one with a bias towards electrical engineering.  He did not respond well to the real demands and trends of the local or global industry.  The growth of undergraduate computing education was slow till the early 1990s. Even in 1993, approximately 3000 students were completing their undergraduate engineering degree in this discipline. However, the growth of Indian education programs in this area has been phenomenal in the subsequent years, and this number has multiplied by more than fifty times in the last last fifteen years. Availability of low-cost desktop computers is the main contributing factor to this growth.  It has fuelled the demand for more software, and hence trained manpower, especially in the software sector.  The setting up of computational facilities in educational institutes became much cheaper. This phenomenon was largely over-sighted or under-estimated by the curriculum designers.  Even today, the curriculum of many universities has not deviated much from the earlier model curriculum.  Rajaraman’s paper raised the issue of faculty shortage; the issue is much more serious today. Every year, more than 2,00,000 undergraduate students enter colleges to study computing courses.  However, most of the required knowledge related to information systems and software engineering is picked up on the job.

The model curricula designed by AICTE, India [5-6] for undergraduate engineering programs in computer science and engineering and information technology totally ignore the integration and experiential aspects of curriculum design. Most carelessly, the curricula even failed to project basic working definitions of either of the disciplines. With reference to humanities and social studies courses, the committee seems to have totally succumbed to the short sighted economic goals.  There is only one language/communication course in the first semester that can qualify as a non-management humanities course.  All other humanities courses have been replaced by management courses.  It seems that to the curricula have been designed without seriously examining any of the earlier recommendations of any of the educational research literature or even specific curriculum related recommendations of international professional bodies, like the ACM, IEEE, or IFIP.

References:

[1]  

[2] Vaidyeswaran Rajaraman, Undergraduate Computer Science and Engineering Curriculum in India, IEEE Transactions on Education, pp 172-177, February, 1993.

[3] UNESCO-IFIP, A Model Curriculum in Computer Science, UNESCO, 1994.

[4] Peter J. Denning, Douglas E. Comer, David Gries, Michael C. Mulder, Allen Tucker, A. Joe Turner, and Paul R. Young, Computing as a discipline, Communications of the ACM, pp 9-23, January 1989.

[5] All India Council for Technical Education, Model Curriculum for Undergraduate Programme B.E./ B. Tech. in COMPUTER SCIENCE & ENGINEERING, 2000,   http://www.aicte.ernet.in/download/OnlineBooks/compsciandEngg.pdf.

[6] All India Council for Technical Education, Model Curriculum for Undergraduate Programme B.E./ B. Tech. in  INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, 2000,  http://www.aicte.ernet.in/download/OnlineBooks/it.pdf.

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