Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document


CS & IT Academia: How To Relieve Suffering of Students, Parents and Employers



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CS & IT Academia: How To Relieve Suffering of Students, Parents and Employers


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.com/2011/11/cs-it-academia-suffering-students.html

I think it is universally known that Indian CS & IT academia has very poor software development skill set - as its focus is on theory and research publication skill set. 

Who is suffering due to this lack of software development skill in CS & IT academia? Is it the CS & IT academics? No, not at all. As their promotions are based on research publications and not on software contributions. 

The people who suffer are students, parents and employers. The software industry suffers and so the economy of India where software is a very important component, suffers. In fact, software is so pervasive in all fields today that all the industries needing software skill set suffer and not the software industry alone. In general, I think I can say that almost everybody is suffering due to this lack of software development skill set in CS & IT academia.

But are the CS & IT academics to blame? No, not at all. They are human beings like all of us. The academic system gives far more importance to research publications instead of software contributions and so they naturally focus on research publications. It typically would be a wrong decision career wise for a CS & IT academic to focus on software contributions - that is the plain and unvarnished TRUTH. Once the CS & IT academic system changes, the problem will get solved. As simple as that, IMHO.

Prof. S.S. Mantha, the AICTE chairman is a mechanical engineer by training but is also a software specialist! See: http://www.aicte-india.org/adcv.htm. He has implemented e-Governance projects, provided IT expertise for IT initiatives of several departments of the Govt. of Maharashtra, and is currently the IT Expert for the Department of IT, Government of Maharashtra. He also has co-authored a book on C++ Programming (Prof. Stroustrup created the C++ programming language). So Prof. S.S. Mantha, a professor of Mechanical Engineering, seems to have a software contribution record which most CS & IT professors in the country will not be able to match!!! As the CS & IT professors focus on research publications instead of software contributions due to lack of significant rewards/recognition in academia for software development work.

Further Prof. Mantha does not seem to have any academic qualifications for CS & IT. He seems to be self-taught in software. And he is not alone in that regard. Here are some well known self-taught software preeminent people:

a) The Late Steve Jobs, perhaps the most famous computer technologist today, known for the iPod, iPhone and the iPad amongst other things. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs [Steve Jobs was far more into hardware but did have software knowledge too.]

b) Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and famous philanthropist. Fortune recently listed him as the fifth most powerful person in the world http://www.forbes.com/powerful-people/. Here is his wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates

c) Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. He is only 27 years old now and Fortune recently listed him as the ninth most powerful person in the world http://www.forbes.com/powerful-people/. Here is his wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg

All the three persons above dropped out of college before finishing their graduation. But they developed / were instrumental in developing very significant software which had a MASSIVE IMPACT on the world. I am quite sure their research publication record, if any, will not be great. So we can conclude that the software contribution/development skill set is a very different skill set from a CS & IT research publication skill set.

I think it is clear that for the dire situation to improve, CS & IT teachers must become experts in software development and have significant software contributions. Otherwise how will they be able to capably teach software development skills to CS & IT students? And for that to happen, IMHO, AICTE/UGC regulations should have two simple changes:

a) Provide promotion incentive for CS & IT teachers based on software contribution record as well as research publication record. The software contribution record should be given as much importance as research publication record.

b) Make it mandatory for CS & IT departments to show software contribution record as well as research publication record of all CS & IT teachers on its website so that prospective students and their parents, and prospective employers can make well informed choices about which college/university to join/recruit from. 

Currently AICTE/UGC may be following a "one size fits all" policy with same recruitment and promotion norms for all branches of science, engineering, commerce & humanities/arts. CS & IT are very different areas with explosive growth in knowledge and in applications of that knowledge across almost every aspect of life like life-saving surgical equipment, technology enhanced education, business process workflows, e-Governance, home entertainment etc. Software Development has become an inter-disciplinary skill set with almost all branches of science, engineering, commerce as well as humanities having a need for it at some level. E.g. Language learning software is quite popular to teach/learn English.

Given this background AICTE/UGC must treat the practice oriented CS & IT branches differently from other branches like Mathematics or Physics.

I think it is high time AICTE/UGC change CS & IT academic regulations to provide promotion incentive for software contribution (development). Otherwise CS & IT students, parents of those students and huge number of employers needing software skilled professionals will continue to suffer. Note that the employers are not limited to software industry as software has permeated almost all walks of life today and so software skill set is needed in all kinds of industries and offices.

So I think I can say that the entire country will continue to suffer unless AICTE/UGC act.

Friday, November 4, 2011



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