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The Complications of Designing an Engineering/architecture Curriculum

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Essay title: The Complications of Designing an Engineering/architecture Curriculum

Engineers and Architects are universally regarded as premier professionals, those that which possesses relevant knowledge, creates new knowledge, and have the capacity for its application. And the quality of these attributes has become determinants of the strength of a nation, and agents for change and development. But how do we train our future engineers and architects? Are they up for such tremendous challenges in an environment that is constantly changing? Can they adapt to a dynamic system that is not only confronted with technological advances but also with unstable national socio-economic and political issues? Here are some dilemmas for engineering and architecture educators in the Philippines:

Skills-based or Theory-based? Lately, a proposal came out for a ladderized curriculum for engineering education. This means infusing many technical skills competency subjects that can warrant a student some job even during his/her early stages in college. It is said that this scheme will address the demands of skilled workers in the country in the technical and technological field. Yes, this is a valid national concern, but, it has also been said that engineers and architects are supposed to be professionals with special analytical, innovative and creative problem-solving skills, a quality which can only be strengthened by a good foundation of scientific and mathematical theories. At the same time, this is still the competency reference for the test questions given in state examinations for engineers and architects. They do not ask how to assemble a pipe network, but instead, how to design pipes and pipe networks.

Present Needs or Future Needs? Present needs might actually mean producing engineering and architecture graduates who are able to pass the board exam. But will they eventually be ready for their future actual practice? Present needs may also mean knowledge on traditional and latest trends in technology. But will our graduates be able keep up with the rapid changes of technology in the future? And after identifying special knowledge and skills that is deemed to be relevant and useful in the most immediate future, how can these be added to the curriculum without putting a lot of burden to the students? Or, if the attitude and culture of constant self-learning will be the solution to this dilemma, how can we include this in the curriculum? But then again, it is always dangerous to talk about the future of anything. When computers were first created, T.J. Watson, the founder of IBM, predicted we might need about six of them. As recently as 1977, Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corp., believed that none of us would ever have a computer in our homes. These men were leaders and experts in their fields, and they still got it wrong.

Interdisciplinary or Specialized? It has become noticeable that the expected half-life of certain disciplines has dwindled down to just a few years. Many new disciplines are surfacing as fast as the sprouting of new technologies. This phenomenon gives the dilemma to the educator of whether to train engineers in interdisciplinary fields or in a specialized field. Flexibility, hence, employability will be sacrificed for a highly specialized training. Mastery and keeping up with the revolution of new disciplines, will be sacrificed for a genral interdisciplinary training. Studying the work-market for a relevant and a demands-based curriculum will even complicate the matter. Philippine industries’ needs are so diverse that they seem to be spread over a multi-strata value scale of social, economic and political issues. So how do we define the industry demand? Worse, if we need to consider the demands of the global work-market and global industries, then this dilemma will be complicated by another dilemma: globalization or indigenization?

Pedagogical or Andragogical? While college students are supposed to be treated as adults, experience shows that

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