by July 14, 2001 0 comments

The recent controversy regarding a high-profile training institute has once again focused attention on the sad state of affairs in computer education. The industry has begun to look like the Indian stock market. Every few years, a scandal emerges, a great deal of noise is made, and then everything is forgotten. Is there any solution to the problem? I, for one, am skeptical.

Many people feel that the solution lies in better regulation of the computer-education sector, say an accreditation body that would set standards and evaluate institutes. However, such measures alone can’t solve the problems in the education sector. To begin with, it is difficult to standardize course contents in today’s fast-changing world. And accreditation bodies tend to move slowly. Being the first to launch a course is often the critical advantage for a training outfit. The recent emergence of C# is a case in point. No accreditation body would have been able to lay down standards and accredit courses in time. Forget high technology, even
staying on top of different versions of suites such as MS Office would be impossible for an accreditation body. 

Moreover, IT is quite nebulous. Take something like ERP. There is no accepted definition of what constitutes ERP and it is defined by companies selling the product. If the accreditation body has to certify a ERP course, it could follow two courses. The first is to ensure that the institute covers a particular piece of software, such as PeopleSoft, in depth. The second is to ignore specific products and ensure that the course provides a solid grounding in ERP fundamentals. 

Both are hard to implement. The first can be done only if the accreditation body employs experts in the product being taught–a difficult proposition as such people are in great demand. Furthermore, large numbers of experts would be required. The second course of action suffers from the fact that there is no widespread agreement as to what constitutes ERP in the first place.

Interestingly, some difficulties arise out of the unreasonable expectations from students themselves. Let’s consider a hypothetical student called Vikas. He completed Class X with 45 percent in his Board examinations. Performance in Class XII was marginally better with 52 percent in the Commerce stream. He did his graduation through correspondence taking four years instead of the normal three. Vikas now wants to be in the IT industry. Nothing wrong with that–he could probably make a career as an operator dealing with accounting applications. But Vikas wants to design e-commerce applications in Silicon Valley.

For this he enrolls for a flashy e-commerce course. Now the fact of the matter is that his chances of successfully achieving his aim are minimal. He has neither the IQ nor the aptitude. But he will never admit that the fault is in him and not the course. Even the best institute cannot keep him happy. A good institute would of course be one that deters him from joining the course in the first place. But all that would achieve would be to drive him to an unscrupulous one. Either way, off-seen the training industry would have to take the blame. This is an oft-seen example.

The bottom line: There are no shortcut fixes to the problems plaguing private computer education. Both students and the industry should mature first.

Gautama Ahuja 
runs a turnkey software development company, AHC Infotek

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