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A wake-up call for colleges

A wake-up call for colleges
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A Wake-Up Call For Colleges. Many colleges in the two states are known to organise industrial tours without taking necessary precautions and allowing...

Many colleges in the two states are known to organise industrial tours without taking necessary precautions and allowing the students to call the shots. The recent Beas tragedy opens a can of worms.

There's anger and grief over the callousness of the college authorities of VNR VJIET that resulted in 24 students being washed away in the Beas River. While the search is still on for the bodies of the students, the tragic deaths raise serious questions on the functionality of the so-called industrial/educational tours.

The JNTU authorities have been quick to issue a circular to impose a ban on such tours and many in academic circles welcome it as they feel that though the intent of industrial tours is good, they have been reduced to mere pleasure trips, as it was revealed in an interaction with the faculty and administrators.

The present scenario

The ‘educational tour’ scenario today is a completely opposite to what it was in 1980s and 1990s.

Jaganmohan Gandhi, a 47-year-old ex-engineering student, says, “Industrial tours were generally plannedfor a period of five to six days. But it was all about learning something new everyday.”

A serious effort to conduct an industrial tour involves a few months of advanced planning – fixing appointments with industries, interviews with key personnel, availability of free time for demonstrating the functioning of machinery, logistics, etc.

In fact, many colleges organise educational tours which are nothing but an excursion in disguise.

To make it sound like an educational tour, there is a mention of a visit to an industry. For instance, the schedule for an engineering college mentions Gurgaon industrial city with no specific company being mentioned. In fact, the entire schedule is so tight that the Gurgaon visit becomes a casualty even as students are herded from one place to another without proper rest, says Sai Preethika Reddy, an ex-student of CBIT who had been to a similar tour from her college.

Another student, Subramanyam, studying his BTech 4th year in Computer Science from Aurora College of Engineering and Techonology confirms this as he says, “As part of our tour itinerary, we had a visit to Samsung in Noida. But after a jam-packed schedule to various locations around Kullu-Manali, we didn’t really have the time. Though we did visit the place, we had to cut short the time.”

Planned and executed by the students

The most interesting aspect about these industrial tours is that they are a student initiative, in general. The students are actively involved in planning the entire trip and the college is approached only for permissions. Sree Devi, studying 4th year BTech IT at Vasavi College of Engineering, says, “It’s the students who take an initiative to plan the entire trip. Some departments that didn’t get permission left on their own. The department who got permission took the lecturers with them.”

Her views are echoed by Ramya Sri who went on a tour with her classmates in the previous academic year. “It’s the students who are interested to go on the tours and so it is obvious they take the initiative.”

Big money involved

Further, there is big money involved in arranging for tickets, accommodation and other logistics and the managements seem to encourage the students for the tours. “Kullu-Manali” seems to be the favourite place for almost all engineering colleges. And tour operators charge anywhere between Rs 6,500 to Rs 10,000 per student depending on the facilities provided.

Cashing in on the craze among students and colleges competing to send students on tours, operators based in Hyderabad with branches in Delhi have come up with special packages and tight schedules brushing aside the difficulties faced by students while on tour. The credential of some of these tour operators is questionable.

Recreation or education?

A faculty member from a renowned college in Hyderabad says on condition of anonymity, “Students evince superficial interest in the laboratory work but insist on going on an educational tour. This is only an excuse to have a gala time.” His observation is echoed by Ravi Teja Jayanthi, a B Tech 4th year student at Bharath College of Engineering & Technology, who says, “What fun would it be to go for an educational tour and not see anything around? It would probably be nice for a day or two but after that we’d like to have something nice to view!”

Blame it on the ills of the age of the youngsters who want to indulge in every moment of their newfound freedom, says J Ratnamala, a parent of Amulya, a 3rd year BTech graduate in Kakinada.

Parental interest

Should students be solely blamed for such tours? Is there a role for the parents? Several people on being interviewed said that parents ought to take more interest regarding what their wards are up to, on and off campus. An administrator at the Nizam Institute of Engineering and Technology lamented, “We see parents at the time of admission but not many turn up for the parent-teacher meetings. They hardly get to know what the student is doing at college.”

In the recent event, a parent was surprised to know that his son was part of the tour. Is it dereliction of parental obligation or fault of the student? Says a senior professor in Osmania University College of Arts and Social Sciences, “When we organised educational tours in our department, we took various permissions and arranged for students to get maximum opportunities to see and learn. But we found a few students keen to go shopping and visit recreational places. There was a stage when students with bare minimum attendance turned up for the educational tour as the department would subsidise the trip and arrange for accommodation. Over the years, it was advisable for the department to drop the educational tour from the curriculum and plan for local field visits.”

In these circumstances, is putting a cap on such tours the answer? The answer is debatable.

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