Thursday, 12 March 2015

What's Wrong with Engineering Education?

What's wrong with engineering education? Where to start? How about the following?

1. It isn't usually delivered by engineers, or even people who know what engineers do

2. It doesn't consequently usually involve learning much about the things engineers do

3. It does however involve learning a lot of things about what scientific researchers do

4. It does involve rote learning, regurgitating and then forgetting uncontextualized "facts"

5. It does not involve use of the creativity which distinguishes a good engineer from poor one

6. It does not often involve working in collaborative groups, as engineers do

7. It is too hard in all the wrong ways

8. It does not require synthesis of the various modularized subjects which are taught

9. Types of mathematics which professional engineers never use are emphasized

10. Scientific research skills, tools and software unused by engineers are emphasized 

11. Essays and lab reports are taught, though engineers never write either

12. Drawings are often not used at all (even though these are what engineers mostly work with)

The reasons for this are manifold, but most notably, there was a mistake in setting the model of engineering education after the second world war, and a consequent handing over of engineering education to academics.

Unfortunately for the engineering profession, almost all academics see the teaching aspects of their job as that of producing more academics, irrespective of the name of the department they work in. Engineering academics usually have far more in common with the academics in the classics department than they do with professional engineers.