A CASE FOR LIBERAL ARTS
Keeping up with globalization has lead to an enquiry of knowledge domains, previously unexplored. The explosion of knowledge has meant that while specializations are in demand, yet subject parochialism can no longer pass off as acceptable. The previous yardstick of measuring knowledge value in ways no longer hold true. It demands a renewed conversation on the practice of knowledge production at this particular contemporary moment, and a broader conversation on the activities and institutions that shape an understanding of the utility and nature of such knowledge.
Binaries of class, caste etc have crept into education as well. As with all binaries, one entity invariably takes on a superior position. There are two distinct camps in higher education - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) vs Humanities. While STEM is seen to be practical, real, with high employment potential, liberal arts is viewed to be elitist, self- indulgent and vague. This misunderstanding largely emerges from understanding liberal arts to be synonymous with humanities. To make clear the confusion: Liberal arts is a fusion of pure sciences AND humanities. It defies the straight jacketed distinction of arts and science.
WHY INTERDISCIPLINARY EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT ?
A liberal arts education is not about learning any one kind of content or text book. It’s about learning how to synthesize novel ideas, develop critical thinking, develop an aptitude to research, ability to adapt to new situations, meaningful enquiries, to be tolerant of differences, develop problem solving abilities, effective communication, clarity of concepts and thinking etc. We have falsely come to believe that education is only about collecting degrees and finding employment. Yes! it is that too but if one hopes to attain success in a professional career one needs more than that.
The world is a complex place and there are no linear solutions to its problems. Problems like climate change, hunger, terrorism etc. cannot be resolved using parochial straight-jacketed solutions. They need a multidimensional approach.
The dominant thought is that only a degree in engineering or management can secure you a job. It is far from the truth. Media, fashion, education, publishing, commerce are some of the industries that do not involve STEM and yet provide livelihood. Even the IT industry requires all sorts of non technical employees to run the company. In the evolving global employment landscape, employees that can work in multi-professional teams and adopt holistic approaches to problem-solving are preferred over the ones who bring limited skills to the table. Only a scientific or technological education devoid of any social context makes a tool out of an employee not a thinker. Employers are looking for people who can find innovative solutions to problems and can approach the issue at hand from different angles.
Indira Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo, an inspiration to many, in an interview said that apart from hard work one needs to be well informed and have extraordinary communication skills to climb the ladder in any high-tech industry. An interdisciplinary education is a must to make us a wholesome individuals and inculcate these skills in the young graduates.
WHY WE NEED LIBERAL ARTS MORE THAN EVER BEFORE?
I believe that in the contemporary times of great division and bigotry, a liberal arts education is more important than ever. It forces us to admit and understand that a uniform world view is dangerous and boring. That world is fluid, there are no concrete truths and no one ‘right’ answer.
A liberal arts education ignites the passion for rational debate, the ability to ask uncomfortable questions, question the status quo and introduce students to an ever expanding world of ideas. It leans toward openness instead of containment. It forces us to continually revisit our view point, understand our own position in the world and broaden our ideological borders. Most importantly it makes us realize that it’s ok to not subscribe to the uniform notions in any walk of life. That people and cultures other than ours are as human and as real as our own.
In my view liberal arts education enables one to embark the path of innovation and creativity in whichever career one chooses to pursue. It is those who can think nimbly and responsibly who end up building bright careers.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
Being an International student makes you unique in a foreign country. Remember that it takes all kinds of people to make the world. So celebrate being different and wear your uniqueness with pride.
I was greeted by a deafening silence and deserted streets as I walked out of the Stuttgart airport on a chilly October afternoon. I collected my luggage and got on to the bus to Tuebingen, a tiny University town in South Germany. Once in the bus my eyes filled with wonderment. Snug little cottages along the road, carefully mowed lawns, intricate see-through curtains on the windows, winding tree lined roads and crystal blue sky! The sheer beauty of the place kept my sleep deprived eyes wide open. Everything was straight out of the fairytale! It was my first day outside India. I was going to be an exchange student at the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen for two semesters, spanning a year.
In the days that followed I had a series of jaw - dropping experiences. Busses and trains were more punctual than your watch! The women at the visa registration office treated me with a polite smile and voila! in 5 minutes my work was done. It was a refreshing change from India where red-tapism can be exasperating.
Life felt like a breath of fresh air every day. But beneath the excitement I could feel a pit of sadness and nostalgia that came from missing my family and friends back home.
Life at University
I faced a real challenge once the classes started. The education system in Germany is very different from that of India. The classrooms in Germany are very student - centric and the professor’s role is that of a guide. Most of the learning happens through discussions, presentations and assignments rather than lectures. Coming to class unprepared is not an option! The study material, which is provided in advanced, has to be thoroughly studied before the class. I realized that German students were better equipped to research and work independently, a skill not nurtured in the Indian education system. Adapting to it was hard and I had several bouts of feeling incompetent. I had to constantly remind myself that I am amongst the chosen few to have bagged the opportunity to be on an ‘all expenses’ paid exchange program, and there is no way I could let it go in vain. I modified and evolved my study habits to gradually generate a new learning curve for myself.
Adapting to new ways of learning was only one of my classroom challenges. I was different and so was my accent. For me the accent of my fellow students was alien to an extent that initially I would lose trail of the discussions in the class, trying to understand the words that sounded too twisted on the tongue for my Indian ears. It took me a moment to wrap my ears around it. I was conscious of my own accent too. It took me a while to realize that rather than being conscious of my uniqueness I need to embrace it. If I embrace my uniqueness, others will too.
Life in Tuebingen
Life in Germany was a fairy tale except that it was real. Tuebingen is a sleepy little town which comes alive with the multicultural student community from across the globe. The building I lived in housed students from countries I had never heard of, up until then! Eight students on each floor shared a common kitchen and my Indian curries attracted much curiosity. On several occasions I ended up inviting complete strangers to my dinner table. Some of them remain my close friends till date!
By the time I landed in Tuebingen in October, Christmas was already in the air. Everyone told me to not miss the Christmas markets. I went to one in Munich and the word to best describe it is ‘Christmassy’. There was snow all around, white, red and greens ribbon decorations, and shops full of goodies. Steaming Glhue wine being freshly brewed on the roadside to keep you warm in the frosty winter and bilgy lights emanating warmth. But the Christmas day was lonely, most of my friends had either gone home or made plans to spend Christmas with other German families. I was fairly new in town to get an invitation yet.
Tuebingen has a strong Indian community and it made me feel like home away from home. But I made a conscious effort to not remain clubbed in a ghetto and made friends across cultural lines and mixed with the locals.
Of all the memories I made in Germany, It’s the random acts of kindness that remain closest to my heart. Once I was walking in a Christmas market when an old lady came up to me and admonished me for not wearing gloves in the cold. She pulled out a pair of gloves from her big hand bag and handed over a pair to me. I use those gloves till date!
Time flew like the wind and before I knew it was time to buy presents for the family and return. A part of me never wanted to leave. Coming back when your own country feels alien you realize that something in you has changed.
My fellow International students, carry your culture with you for its an expression of your roots. Embrace your uniqueness, don’t be scared to be different in the way you look, the way you talk, what your wear. Its beautiful to be different. Be your self. Represent your culture and do it with pride.
As an International student don't forget that you are a guest in that country so be sensitive to the cultural nuances and respect them. Make an effort to understand the new culture, keep patience and don't be quick to judge.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a Content Writer at Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
How secure are we from the peril of hacking?
Newton’s third law holds that every action induces an equal and opposite reaction. Every possibility manifests within itself a counter possibility as death is ever present over life. The Internet has opened up a host of possibilities unheard of and unthought of, yet it contains within itself the germ of its own vulnerability, most notable among them being hacking.
Interestingly, long before the term hacking came to be associated with fraudulent acts like stealing personal and corporate data from computer networks, it was used for fun and constructive learning activities and had nothing to do with computers.
White hat hackers. Black hat hackers.
In common computer palace, we distinguish between two kinds of hackers. The terminology of hacking is shaped by the cliche of a good guy wearing a white cow boy hat. Ethical hackers or white hat hackers break in to the protected computer networks with due permission of the company that has employed them. Their job is to point out the loopholes in the security system to thwart potential hacking in the future. Unethical hackers or the black hat hackers do so with a malicious intent.
The thrust for digitization has boosted business potency and enhanced the accuracy, transparency and convenience in financial transactions but it has also exposed us to a huge risk of our life savings disappearing in the wink of an eye. To deal with the menace of hacking financial organizations, social media sites and important government organizations including the United States headquarters of defense, The Pentagon, invite bug bounty hunters. Bug bounty hunting is a collaboration between white hat hackers and companies who then handsomely reward the ones who identify the chink.
Most Vulnerable Targets
India has a robust cyber law in the form of Information Technology Act, 2000 which criminalizes hacking among other cyber crimes under India Penal Code. But when are laws ever enough to keep people from committing crimes?
According to 2016 NCRB ( National Crime Records Bureau) report, 11,592 cyber crimes were reported out of which a whooping 13.5% are against professional hackers.
The financial sector and government agencies have been the chief targets of hackers, not just in India but the world over.
Evidently money attracts the most number of criminals, trying to con people of their hard earned money. That is why the financial sector has been at the fore-front of the risk of data hacking. However, in the last few years banks have injected huge sums of money to battle cyber hacking. In 2017, in the U.S. the banks have invested over $1.5 billions to mitigate the risk of breach in security. The scenario is rather bleak in India. In 2017, the data of 32 lakh debit cards of half a dozen banks stood compromised which is symptomatic of our unpreparedness to tackle the risk of hacking.
With a large amount of official data being stored online almost all government sites belonging to central and state ministries have been taken to the cleaners in the last few years. This may be rather dangerous in view of India being surrounded by hostile neighbors on the both sides.
Most upsetting of them all, earlier this year the rumors were rife about the hacking of Aadhar data. With the government invested to making Aadhar the sine qua non of India citizens, it is likely to be more susceptible to hacking and misuse in the future as well.
What to expect in 2018?
The predictions for 2018 are far from encouraging. It is predicted that along with the extra layer of comfort in our lives, IoT (Internet of Things) will also added additional risk of hacking. With millions of devices connected to each other, 2018 may put people at fresh risk of financial frauds and identity thefts.
The good news is that as consumers are waking up to the risk of hacking most companies in 2018 are going to opt for RBA (Risk-Based Authentication) and MFA (Multi Factor Authentication) to create layered defense to deal with the menace of hacking.
Cyber space is as fragile as any other operational space. So long as it exists, crooks will continue to meddle with sensitive data and the skirmish between the stakeholders and hackers is likely to be an ongoing one. In order to overcome these attacks, the government ought to act nimbly for which first the governments, banks and companies need to come out of their defensive groove and admit the ramification of cyber security breaches.
Secondly the governments and private companies should take advantage of bug hunters, make them collaborators and not threaten them with legal notices.
Thirdly, the financial institutions and other establishments need to adopt a proactive approach rather than relying on reactive measures in dealing with the future threats.
Authored by Shailesh Thaware, Assistant Professor, Faculty of STEM, Vishwakarma University
Art and Design: Are they different?
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is that of between lightening and the lightening bug, Mark Twain noted prophetically. Art and design are usually viewed in a synonymous relationship, and although they do share a complimentary relationship , the two terms are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. The difference is subtle , yet wide enough to merit a detailed analysis.
Art is fluid. Design is concrete.
Art is a manifestation of an artist’s feelings, emotions or ideology. It is boundless. An artist has any color, material or medium at his disposal to express himself. Art is for art’s sake; that is to say that it is a means of expression and not meant to serve any purpose other than the artistic fulfillment of the artist. Art is freedom.
Design exists to serve a purpose. It is user-centric hence it has to be precise and can’t afford the luxury of loosing sight of the end user. For example while designing furniture, clothes, bridges, a brochure or a website, the designer has to make sure that it is user friendly or else it looses it’s purpose. This is not to say that design can't be rebellious like art, it can do so in a limit.
Art is non- utilitarian. Design is commercial.
Art do not confirm to Jeremy Bentham’s popular idea of Utilitarianism, which preaches that best actions are the ones that maximize utility. Art adds to the cultural, intellectual and aesthetic wealth of the society. For some the utility of this wealth is less tangible to that of a design. Art is self sufficient and do not depend on an external entity or object for validation.
Unlike most arts, design is commercial and profit driven. Design is a communicative medium and exists to convey a clear message to the consumers or to increase the efficiency of a product. A design depends on an external object for its existence. For example, design of a car can exist only when there is a concept of car. A painting or a sculpture has no such dependence.
Art is subjective. Design is objective.
The very definition of art is subjective. Art verifies the famous saying that “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. One can find art in a heap of rubbish! An object of art such as a painting, sculpture, a piece of music or a work of literature lends itself to as many meanings as the eyes looking at it. The same piece of art can transform one person while appall the other.
Design is quite unlike art in this regard. A good design is always objective and leaves no room for ambiguity. It is easy to understand and convey clearly what it sets out to achieve.
Art is Left. Design is Right.
Good art asks unsettling questions to the establishment. It is supposed to disrupt the stats quo, be thought provoking and rebellious. Famous artists across the world have been persecuted for being outspoken and anti-establishment. Michelangelo’s work on Rome’s Sistine Chapel, now considered the pinnacle of Renaissance art was attacked for its nudity. Back home in India the pioneer of Modern arts in painting, the legendary M.F. Hussain had to flee the country to escape the wrath of right wing groups.
Design is supposed to answer questions. It is expected to simplify rather than complicate.
Art originates from a problem, so does the design.
Art and design are different but they are not worlds apart.
Most art stems from conflict and problems. Very often it is a cry for attention to the issue so that they can be addressed and resolved. The same holds true for design. Design can not exist in isolation of a need, a problem that needs to be resolved.
Art strives to be innovative, so does the design.
Renaissance art gave way to the Elizabethan sensibilities till restoration of monarchy in England infused a new ease and openness to arts. Old schools in arts have always continued to give way to new ones. Even the age old Victorian prudery was eventually toppled by the Modernist movement that turned every idea that traditionalists held dear on its head. Today we inhabit a post-modernist world where the distinction between high and low culture has blurred, an idea that would have hit even the most avant-garde Modernist on the face.
A cursory look at the history of design would reveal a similar lineage of innovation. Design like art has attempted to be innovative and keep pace with the sensibilities of the constantly evolving world.
Both art and design are visual representations requiring great degree of talent and skill. The purpose of this article is not to define the essential natures of art and design or to establish the superiority of one over the other. Having said that, having a vivid notion of where one belongs is a good start point.
Authored by Mr. Prashant Acharya, Assistant Professor, Department of Design.
Students of today dream of success in their careers and they definitely have the potential to craft their own success stories. But one common observation across the globe is the confusion in the chosen career. Students are not exactly sure what they want to do. They have some inclination but they are not very sure what they would like to do with
Psychometric testing can be used to make a better career choice. Psychometric testing can be used as a chisel to carve the statuette of a successful individual. Students have a billion options to choose from. And though it is helpful it definitely increases the confusion for most.
In India a lot of attributes affect students’ choice of a stream like family environment, gender, relatives’ opinions, family history, etc. But are these the right attributes? That is why you would notice a lot of individuals facing issues of job dissatisfaction, regardless of the income.
So what is actually needed while choosing a career? A student’s aptitude, interest, personality, adjustment capabilities!!!
How can we identify these without greater error? Psychometric testing is the answer. Emerging as a new trend across the globe over the past decade, psychometric testing has been praised for its ability to help students navigate pathways out of school and into a career. Developed in the early 20th century, psychometrics are applied measurements of the mind that offer comprehensive and reliable insights into personal strengths and weaknesses.
We all make assumptions about our abilities. Psychometric testing can throw up unexpected results and pave the way for better career possibilities. A battery of tests is composed to encompass all these needs. The results are based on the students’ answers but there is a cheat-catch in almost each question that sifts out the human tendency to by-pass the truth. Hence they are authentic and reliable, most often. Psychometric tests are impersonal, standardized and objective so there is no question of bias. In fact the recommendations are based on actuals.
Many graduate recruiters use psychometric tests as part of the selection process for their graduate schemes because of all the above mentioned advantages. A lot of companies’ recruitment procedures have psychometric testing or aptitude testing.
Psychometric testing has now become the need of the hour for students across the globe to guide them across a right career path.
Authored by Asst. Prof. Jiyaa Khatri, Dept. of Psychology, Vishwakarma University, Pune
The aim of education is to equip us with the ability to analyze any situation logically, systematically and gracefully. Once the objective of education is clear, we can develop ways to inculcate it in students through their area of interest. One’s passion, priority and property -aptitude/inclination (3 Ps) should decide what one chooses to study.
Engineering as a knowledge field is valid only when it is supported by application. It calls for passion and a knack for lateral thinking. Engineering is the sum total of techniques, logic, design, analysis, statistic, probability, etc. The coordination between all these aspects result in products useful for the mankind.
However, lately engineering education has fallen into despair and seems to be losing its relevance. Most of the engineers are collecting degrees without learning the essential skills to handle core engineering tasks. According to an article published in the India Today, 1.5 million engineers graduate in India every year. Out of which 97 per cent of the engineering graduates aspire for a job either in software or core engineering. However, only 3 per cent have the required skill sets to find employment in software and the product market, and only 7 per cent are equipped to handle core engineering tasks. The rest simply do not have adequate skills to be employed.
This dismal state of engineering education is a result of a number of factors. Outdated curriculum, lack of updated reference/text books, insufficient academic rigor, the demand for readymade solutions, lack of innovation and knowledge-based outcomes, adopting an exam centric approach, absence of pedagogical innovations, ill equipped laboratories etc. are some of the onerous issues that stare engineering education in the face.
Rethinking the approach to education is the key to rectifying the situation.
Excellence in research and good quality teaching are inter-related. Stake holders should encourage fresh ideas and foster them till they see the light of the day. During undergraduate studies engineering students must contribute their knowledge at every level of functionality by identifying real life problems, designing methodology to solve it, analyzing the problem from a user point of view, executing the solution, checking the utility of solution. Mere successful completion of undergraduate study, does not make one capable enough to build any type of usable product. The knowledge and skills gained during undergraduate studies need to be strengthened either by pursuing post-graduation degree or by gaining work experience to successfully build products.
Understanding the basic principles of science is equally important as engineers build applications that are based on fundamental scientific knowledge. E.g. working of robots is based on physics and mathematics, water treatment is based on the science of chemistry. A deep understanding of engineering principles and practices may open you to a wide variety of career opportunities in domains other than engineering and technology. Good engineers may end up building successful careers in finance, marketing, etc.
Indian engineering education needs to take a leaf from the German universities to make engineering programmes more industry relevant. Engineering programmes in Germany run in a close symbiotic relationship with the industry which allows students to learn skills in real life scenario. While engineering education in India is largely theoretical.
Development of a civilization always go hand-in-hand with development of technology. Thus, good quality engineering education was, is and will always be needed in the society. For sustainable development of this field, we need passionate engineers, as passion combined with perseverance will definitely lead to excellence.
Authored by Maya Kurulekar. Assistant Professor STEM, Vishwakarma University, Pune
After the demonetization of currency notes in 2016, the media frantically reported that the new 2000 rupee notes shall carry a GPS chip embedded in them that can track the location of the person carrying them. It was later revealed to be a fake news.
There are numerous such instances that reveal the rampant corruption in the media today and its malicious manifestation in the form of fake news. It has exposed the credibility deficit and a lack of journalistic ethics prevalent in media today.
Origins of fake news-
‘Fake News’, a term heavily popularized by the U.S. President Donald Trump may have gained currency in recent times but it has been around as far as the history goes back. There are numerous examples in history where misinformation was spread against rivals to gain political mileage. Octavian, the first Roman emperor and his campaign against his rival Mark Antony being the case in point.
What is fake news?
Fake news defies the journalistic ethics of honest and balanced reporting and present distorted facts or false information as real news to mislead the masses. Fake news would typically be biased towards a particular party or ideology and carry selective quotes to support a particular view point. It is not only limited to fake stories, doctored videos and photo shopped pictures as much make for fake news. The intention could be political propaganda, financial gains or to create sensational stories to attract web traffic on social media.
Reach and influence of fake news-
TV and print journalism are as much infected with fake news as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media sites. With easy accessibility to internet and the average time people spend on social media the reach of fake news is bound to be widespread. However, reach is different from influence. The quantum of influence it has on making public opinions is debatable.
Steps taken to curb fake news-
In the face of mounting criticism popular social media sites have taken steps to root out the menace of fake news. But the fact that even seasoned journalists and politicians fall prey to it and end up sharing and posting doctored pictures and videos shows that the check mechanism need to be escalated.
Journalism and Mass Communication Department
Last week, the Builders Association of India (BAI) Pune Chapter started its 11th cycle of hiring interns. BAI has been taking interns for the last 6+ years and has been very successful in growing and sustaining this activity. This year itself, more than 150 students from various engineering institutes of Pune have been selected for the one-month internship at various sites of the members of BAI. 45 students out of these are from Vishwakarma Institute of Information Technology (VIIT).
As I was addressing the students, memories of my internship with Tata Motors which was for a period of one year, came to mind. I was assigned to Tata Automation Limited (TAL) for the first six months and the six months to the C Block Pimpri Plant which was the gears manufacturing plant.
In TAL, my boss Mr. R.K.Joshi put me on his design team for machines and systems. TAL had its own manufacturing plant for manufacturing of special purpose machines and had customers from across industries and geographies. One day my boss asked me if I had a license to drive a car and if I was proficient at it. To which I answered in the affirmative. He said, “Good. Tomorrow the Vice President of one of our important customers is visiting Pune to see the progress of the machine that we are making for him. I want you to receive him at the airport at 7 am. Also, our engineer who is working on the project is on leave and will join only at 11 am tomorrow. Hence, I do not want you to bring the customer back to our office before ”
I was taken aback. I believed I was there to train to be a good engineer with learning in engineering technology. And here I was being asked to be a or driver! I was there to be an engineer. I needed to learn technology. I was now being asked to receive as if I was a or a driver.
Not wanting to go up against a higher authority I did what was asked of me. For the next two I became the Customer Relationship Officer of our group. I had to do an airport pickup, have breakfast, lunch, or dinner when the seniors were not available, coupled with Pune Darshan and shopping for the wives and kids of the visiting officials. I hardly had any time for any engineering related work. I couldn’t imagine what I would write in my Project Report at the end of my internship. How would I answer my guide? Would I fail if I said that I was a driver and picked up no engineering related work?
Today, after 15 years in the profession, I the importance of that learning. I that it was that learning that made me capable of talking and befriending customers, vendors, partners, and other professional relations. I today cherish all that time. In fact, my guide gave me extra marks for this work and appreciated me for doing this in addition to the engineering work.
I suggest to all students that internship is a must for hands-on knowledge. Along with that not remain attached to only technology. We must develop social skills and do every task that our intern manager would assign us. Am sure the internship experience would help all as it has been a huge benefit to personally me.
Bharat Agarwal @ the BAI
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