The making of India as an engineering society

Authored by: Milind Sohoni

The Routledge Handbook of Education in India

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367466770
eBook ISBN: 9781003030362
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter offers a simple framework for analysing professional knowledge formation within a society and uses this to examine the conduct of higher education in applied sciences and engineering in India. We first apply this framework to the development of the profession of engineering in the West. We show how the role of the engineer has evolved and point out its socio-economic and cultural underpinnings. We then come to the training of engineers and scientists in independent India. We argue that a belief in the power of elite institutions and elite agents permeates our policies. This elitisation comes with a borrowed vocabulary of science and engineering without an appreciation of the social and cultural processes of scientific knowledge formation. This has led to (1) a decoupling of engineering institutions with the core agenda of bettering developmental outcomes for India’s people, and (2) a loss of scientific temper. Next, we embed our arguments in the broader philosophical framework of higher education as a choice of a shared social destiny and a plan to execute it. We connect the cultural attributes of consumption with the science and technology within a society and point out the long shadow of global knowledge. Finally, we use our theory to make concrete proposals to reform engineering education, based on the formal study of the vicinity and of providing agency and recognition to local actors.

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