IIT-Delhi helping Ethiopia become tech-savvy

By Prashant K. Nanda,IANS,

New Delhi : Many students in Ethiopia are studying engineering and technology in virtual classrooms, some of their teachers seating in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, which is helping that country become tech-savvy.

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The idea to empower Ethiopia’s university students was mooted by its ambassador to India and even its prime minister was eager to have an association with IIT-Delhi.

“The Ethiopian government is making a rapid expansions in education but it doesn’t have the required infrastructure. The ambassador talked to us and then the process moved. Even their prime minister was very eager for this association,” M. Balakrishnan, dean of post-graduate studies at IIT-Delhi, told IANS Sunday.

“They want to churn out tech-savvy students and here we are playing a role. We have designed four courses for the Addis Ababa University,” said Balakrishnan, who is the key official in this project.

He said two courses – construction technology and management, and chemical engineering – have been taught for a semester. The other two courses – computer engineering and manufacturing engineering – will complete their first semester in a couple of months.

“Initially, we have a four-year agreement with Ethiopia. Our job is to develop curriculum, set up a laboratory, give teachings both through virtual classroom and face-to-face mode. We are also responsible for students’ evaluation. But the degree will be awarded by the Addis Ababa University,” said Balakrishnan, a senior professor in the school of computer science at the IIT.

He said that Ehtiopia has set a target of producing 10,000 science and engineering students at the higher education level in next five years or so, and for this it has availed of the expertise of the IIT-Delhi as one of the partners. It wants to become technology-savvy and “we are facilitating that”.

The elite institute is delivering the courses via a two-way video/audio link. “This helps make interaction two-way and participatory. Students ask questions and we answer them while sitting in our institute,” explained Balakrishnan.

At least 46 faculty members are involved in the project and the IIT-Delhi offers up to 70 hours per week of instructions. There are around 50 students in each semester in each course.

“During every semester, the chief instructors of all subjects go to Ethiopia once to teach students in person. The whole idea is to make the learning process better and smoother. We are happy with the outcome so far,” he added.