Let the Kenyan Varsities revamp how they teach engineering

By Dr. Eng. Victor M Mwongera

The Engineering profession has always been something to aspire to; a course that takes only the crème de la crème of students. Only the highest-performing students in Kenya get a chance to train for five years to graduate as engineers.

In this training, there is a crucial aspect that we must continue to examine; the teaching of our young engineers within the universities. An engineering student studies for five years in whatever field they choose: the first two of these years are spent on units that tend to cross-cut almost all engineering disciplines. This is a practice that was once popular across many institutions globally.

However, engineering disciplines have continued to evolve, grow and specialize. Take for example mechanical engineering. Over the last 100 years, the mechanical engineer’s career prospects have grown to include the design of cars, aeroplanes, ships, industrial machines, building works, robotics, ventilation and refrigeration systems, farm equipment and many more areas of design that are too numerous to list here.

In fact, mechanical engineering has become so broad that many universities have moved to make this a school of its own, with many departments each of which has many programmes within it. The same can be said for most of the traditional engineering fields such as civil, electrical, agricultural and computer engineering. In Kenya, however, we still hold on to these degrees as the standard for engineering programmes; so much so that a university is unlikely to be accredited as an engineering institute without them. With the industry continuously evolving, the result is engineering graduates with general training in multiple engineering disciplines who are not able to work in the specialised industries that wait for them.

As a fraternity, we need to examine this and find a way to review and recommend a modified method of training students, a recommendation Let the Kenyan Varsities Revamp how they Teach Engineering needs input from all stakeholders, not just academics.

We need to look at how our counterparts in other institutions are training their students, especially those that have a high employment rate in the industry. We need to determine the practices that make our programmes strong, and those that we find outdated. We need to accept that the world keeps changing and that we need to change with it. And we need to accept that continuous reform of our programme structures is not a vice, but a virtue.

Dr. Eng. Victor M. Mwongera is Chairman, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering & Technology

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