Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Muralidhar Patkar is currently the Director at IIAEIT Pune. He is a Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of Burdwan and has research and development experience in armaments and missile development. Teaching experience of armament and basic engineering subjects at Def Institute of Advanced Technology, and presently Advisory Director for Shastri Group of Institutes in an engineering discipline. His expertise is in the disciplines of Project Management, Management of Personnel, Research and Development, Teaching.
Dr. M R Patkar on his experience in the education sector/industry
I am not very sure whether the education sector can be called as an education industry though the term ‘education industry’ has become very popular. There are many differentiating factors between the education sector and industry, I believe that the concept of the education sector is said to be based on the industrial model. Its basic function is to provide the industry with a source of educated people. I agree with Narayana Murthy when he said during the convocation of JNTU that the record of primary and higher education in India is pathetic. That may be because the education is becoming more commercial and maximizing the profits is the underlined principle. However, luckily, IIAEIT never favored profits at the cost of compromising the quality of education. Having a vast experience of research, switching over to the education sector was easy and rewarding professionally. Instead of doling out the course content routinely, the intricacy of the subject was dealt with from fundamental aspects which make the students easy to learn and understand. Training the teachers was of utmost priority for the quality transference of knowledge.
In industry, the routine work makes the individual stagnant whereas in teaching every time you deliver a lecture it is unique because though the essence of content remains the same, the method of delivery, the examples, the context changes and it creates interest in delivering the lecture and easy for the student to understand. There is a lot of scopes to improvise the lecture based on the latest developments giving vast opportunities to mold your lecture to the best of proficiency.
Leadership philosophy of the Director of IIAEIT
I was the Director during the developmental stage of the institute but presently I am an advisor. I believe students are seeking knowledge life-long and we should provide the knowledge suitable to them considering the present state of their requirement. Director needs the help of all colleagues in running the college and hence he should promote the development of positive relationships among the students, faculty, staff, and administrators. I encourage participatory leadership and give importance to the opinions of all the stakeholders. Reading the minds of the people is an art and science which helps in arriving at consensus decisions. People are at the heart of the organization.
I would like to be a moral leader, rather than a hard taskmaster who is looking for immediate gains and losing the track of long-term rewards
Vision and Mission are well defined and every effort is made to achieve them. Management shall be people oriented.
Challenges faced in the demanding education industry
As said by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world.” We should have taken this advise seriously and try to change our country if not the world. What are the basic challenges in the education industry? The basic challenge that I have faced is how to integrate the aims and goals of the students as compared to that of education providers. The student wants to acquire a degree and get a job of his like, whereas the education provider looks at his self-actualization for meeting the full potential as an individual.
Creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving skills and knowledge in the selected domain are the basic ingredients for a successful career of an individual
We tried to attend to these factors but the present examination system concentrates on the rote learning and reproducing the same in the examination. However, for many courses, we have adapted our own knowledge-based system of teaching, testing and rewarding.
Views on Project Based Learning and integrating it with the mainstream education system in India
A few decades back, the curriculum was based on the scientific principles of the subject and the student used to learn the basic theory and its principles. Application of these principles to the industry was achieved after the person joins the industry. However, once the competition for the jobs increased, the phrase that the present students are “not employable” was coined. There are different types of industries and each one has a specific demand for expertise, which cannot be integrated into the graduation level. If we adapt Project Based Learning (PBL) at graduation level in addition to the basic level of education, the graduates passing out from the colleges would be more readily adaptable to the industry.
If you see the present curriculum of any engineering discipline, it is very tightly packed and practically there is no space for adding PBL though, to some extent, it can be dovetailed. Maybe, internship in the industry during term holidays may be of help. In my opinion, a better idea would be, conducting campus selection process at the end of the third year, and taking up a project useful to the selected industry in the fourth year and conducting an internship at the selected industry during the fourth year would make the student empowered to do full justice to the job.
Ensuring the best studying opportunities at IIAEIT
I am presently an Advisor to Shastri Group of Institutes. However, when I was the Director of IIAEIT, the best studying opportunities in various domains of engineering disciplines, including aerospace engineering, were offered. There are two basic fields where excellence shall be maintained; they are faculty and infrastructure. For achieving excellence, the faculty must be of the top order and must have added experience in the industry, or at least familiarity with the industry.
When I say infrastructure, I mean, laboratories, latest equipment, up to date library with latest volumes of important journals. Activities like sports, competitions in design and manufacture of components, assemblies, and equipment related to their specific domain of specialization. Exposure to industries, attachments to various industries during vacations etc. are compulsory. English language coaching was offered for those students coming from rural areas, personality development, social studies, psychological assessments, etc. Mentoring for each student was provided which proved to be very useful.
Being available for the students
Ours was not a very big institute where thousands of students are moving around the campus. Being basically aeronautical engineering institute the admissions to the courses was quite limited and it was easy to establish rapport with the students.
Strong social relationships among and between students, teachers, and principal are essential for productive learning climate and successful environment of the institute
The principal would have an influence on the students through his influence on the teachers. This does not mean that the principal has no contact with the students. It often happens that the principal gets the inputs from the students and after discussing with the teachers the decisions are taken.
I firmly believe that the principal must be in contact with the students and understand their problems for maintaining effective administrative and academic environment. In fact, there should not be a hierarchy like military environment, and the access should be always open. Principal, teachers, and students do not form a hierarchy but they form a triangle so that each has access to the other two. Liberty of the student to access the principal should never be denied.
The ideal school environment should be aimed at achieving self-achievement
The environment of the college is a very important aspect for the growth of the individual and the growth of college itself. Unfortunately, we cannot follow the much sought after Gurukul system due to the exponential growth of students, dwindling resources and diminishing values. We must not forget that the object of educational institutions is to impart quality education while earning reasonable returns. Quality of education shall be given utmost priority and for maintaining this quality, we need quality teachers and quality infrastructure. This costs money.
Maximizing the quality and quantity of education is on one side and the maximizing the profits at any cost is on the other side of running an institute. Both extremes are interdependent and a balance must be struck for optimizing the education system. This balanced education system is what we call an ideal school environment.
It is not a difficult task to cultivate an ideal school environment.
The individual should aim and achieve self-attainment, develop value systems, and have a larger perspective view of his goals
During this journey, he should take people along, lead them to the desired goals. Develop Standard Operating Procedures taking into consideration the requirements of students, staff, and management and adhere to them. Once these procedures become habits, the sailing will be smooth and everybody would work towards achieving the goal.
Importance of extracurricular activities in one’s personality development
Erik Erikson, in his eight-stage theory of human development, chose to focus on how social relationships impact personality development during the entire life-span. Extra-curricular activities develop friendship and relationships with other students and learn about getting along socially and develop mental health and wellbeing. The gain is evident in the fields of communication, empathy, assertiveness, problem-solving skill; all of them contribute towards personality development. Holistic development is not included in the curriculum. It can be inculcated only through extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, cultural activities etc. This fact is also amply enumerated in the Vedas and Upanishads.
Extra-curricular activities are positive experiences that contribute to the wellbeing and happiness. Generally speaking, students who are involved in extracurricular activities get higher grades in the college and have better self-esteem and are healthier. They think creatively and have better memory skills.
Top qualities that an aspiring engineer must possess and IIAEIT’s role in helping its students to become budding Entrepreneurs
In a simple definition, engineering is the integration and use of scientific principles, mathematics, and technology to design or make things. It also includes the practically oriented research providing systems and processes that themselves create ways of acquiring new knowledge. Learning to engineer is drastically different from Arts and Commerce. In my opinion, the top qualities that an engineering student should possess or endeavors to possess are creativity and innovation, problem-solving skills, proficiency in mathematics, analytical mind, attention to detail, a longer span of attention, etc. He shall be a team player and a constant learner with natural curiosity. Discipline and motivation are two main ingredients that nurture engineering discipline.
Budding entrepreneurs shall have certain qualities like curiosity, sociability, and attention to basic human needs, reasoning, and flexibility. Entrepreneurs shall keep an eye on the development of technology around the world. He must locate and study the deficiencies to find a solution and work fast in developing the new product/facility. It is essential to establish a network of like-minded people to engage with and use for support for solving the problems in basic human needs.
Entrepreneurs should be stubborn enough to keep preserving and working on the idea at the same time is flexible to recognize if the attempts are off the mark.
Now, the above requirements cannot be learned by the students by themselves. Institute has to give training in acquiring the entrepreneurship. Institute has been encouraging the budding entrepreneurs, giving them training and handhold them till they are on their own.
Suggestions for the aspiring students
There is a stiff competition for openings with the big employers. Unless one stands out from the crowd, there is no prospect. On the other hand, don’t always look forward to a job; think about entrepreneurship as it is an important pillar of India’s future prosperity. Identify the people who inspire you and find out what makes them tick. You must find your flaws and fix them. Maintain a good professional network.