China’s engineers

I saw this being discussed in the forum recently and I see it’s becoming a big story.

Most of the engineering students in China are not qualified to practice the profession upon graduation, a newspaper reported Friday.

Educators from China and abroad cited a lack of quality education and professionals working in the field as the source of the problem in the country with 8 million engineering students, the largest number in the world, the Shanghai Daily said.

As a result, only 14 percent of engineering graduates become qualified engineers, and most graduates give up engineering and take up other careers within nine years of graduating, according to research conducted by East China University of Science and Technology and presented at an engineering-education symposium at the Shanghai institution known for its technology programs.

“An increasing number of employers began to raise the embarrassing question that engineering majors lack professional knowledge and have poor communication or teamwork skills,” said Tu Shandong, the university’s vice president.

Such a low percentage of graduates going on to practice the profession shows that their education suffered in both content and methodology, said He Renlong, director of the university’s higher research institute.

I know from my years in Silicon Valley that, for whatever reasons, a hugely lopsided percentage of the engineers there are Chinese (or at least that was the case back in the mid/late-90s) who got their PhD’s in America. So it’s not the students themselves; something is seriously amiss with the way China’s universities are educating its engineers and until they start to get serious about it, China is still going to rely on Taiwanese, Hong Kong and other expat middle managers to keep the economic miracle moving.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

With salaries going up and a general rise in standards of production — I would expect this trend to accelerate. I know a several Chinese managers who only look at Overseas Chinese or locals with overseas experience. Otherwise they say it’s like hiring non-engineers.

August 19, 2006 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

There were a lot of Chinese engineers in the 90s in Silicon Valley. Now there are many more Indian engineers. Many of the Chinese have gone on to other businesses — finance, etc.

August 20, 2006 @ 8:41 am | Comment

McKinsey recently put out a report titled “China’s Looming Telant Shortage”. Quite alarming as well.

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1685&L2=18&L3=31&srid=131&gp=1

August 20, 2006 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

Not surprising is it? Another article on this forum mentions the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in Chinese history. When a nation decided to destroy its intellectual and creative base the result is felt for generations to come. University education in China is not up to snuff? Imagine that. With few qualified professors and freedom to explore intellectual curiosity stifled by CCP paranoia it’s no wonder that the best and brighest are betrayed by their own education system. It’s not the students….it’s definitely the system. We are probably another generation or two away from restoring the sheer numbers of qualified people to the pre-1966 level. The problem is that by then the world will have evolved another 80 years.

Mao’s legacy of defecating on his own people continues.

August 20, 2006 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

Spot on, Ahmet.

August 20, 2006 @ 9:45 pm | Comment

Woops, forgot to add:

“To combat the problem the university plans to expand the education for engineers to include basic art and management classes.”

More art? If this is the proposed remedy, I’m not looking for any improvement soon. ๐Ÿ™

From everything I gather, it sounds like engineering students need less instruction on pure theory, and much more on professional application of theory. They also need more instruction on basic professional skills (like how to work on project team, give a presentation, etc).

Although they are the primary victims in this, to be fair, I think students share a part of the blame. If your coursework basically consists of copying someone else’s papers, you shouldn’t be too surprised if upon graduation you end up with little more than a hollow certificate.

August 20, 2006 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

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