Disadvantaged engineering students learning at faster rates: Stanford study

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New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Engineering students from disadvantaged groups are learning at a faster rate than their counterparts from the general category, claims an ongoing study being conducted by the Stanford University for India.

The study is being conducted according to a pact between the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the American varsity struck last year, involving conducting a large scale survey of learning abilities on various measures of engineering students from across the country.

The tests, taken during October and November 2017, included two parts: academic and higher order thinking, wherein the former included tests for maths and physics, while the other contained tests for critical thinking, creativity, rational reasoning etc.

“Disadvantaged students (SC/ST/OBC) make significantly more gains than advantaged students in math, physics, and quantitative literacy from year one to year three. In non-elite institutes, they start to catch up in math, physics and quantitative literacy by year three,” an AICTE official said while presenting the study’s findings to media.

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It was also found that the even among the three disadvantaged categories, the Scheduled Caste (ST) learnt faster than the Scheduled Caste (SC), who learnt at a faster rate than the Other Backward Class (OBC).

“This shows that those from the disadvantaged class have a more burning zeal to learn,” AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe said.

The university randomly selected 50 technical institutes for the study out of which 42 were ‘non-elite’ and eight ‘elite’ – including the Indian Institute of Technology – Roorkee, NITs, and IIITs.

According to the official, the tests were conducted on approximately 18,000 first year and third year students over the month and the sample of students was selected in such a way “that every group was represented fairly”.

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Asked why the study was conducted with different group of people (first year and third year) instead of assessing same group over the years, Sahasrabudhe said: “The quality of institutes is not going to change drastically in two years. So, the survey done on the two groups is not likely to change the results much from if we conducted it with same group of people over two years.”

The next phase of the study will be conducted in 2019 with the same group of students who would then be in their second and fourth year of college, which will give clearer picture of the trends.

On gender parity, the study found not much difference in male to female ratio in the non-elite institutions, but found it more disproportionate in the elite institutions.

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“Females are under-represented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields in elite institutions but are well-represented in non-elite institutes. Women students make considerable gains in college in elite and non-elite,” an AICTE statement said.

The study also found that though much behind China and Russia in absolute numbers, Indian engineering students learnt at a faster rate than those from the two countries. This finding was based on the same tests that Stanford University conducted for the engineering students in these countries recently.

–IANS

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