“Did you had cereal for breakfast?” Though most people may prefer to ‘have’ cereal for breakfast, almost a third of engineering graduates in India would prefer to ‘had’ breakfast. This poor grasp over grammar by engineering graduates is highlighted in a report by employability measurement and recruitment firm Aspiring Minds.
The report on the English learning levels of engineering graduates, based on the firm’s employability test, Aspiring Minds Computer Adaptive Test (AMCAT), said only 57 per cent of Indian engineers could write grammatically correct sentences in English. According to the report, 25-35 per cent of engineers are unable to comprehend in English, which included their day-to-day conversation and academic lectures, affecting the overall delivery of knowledge.
According to Varun Aggarwal, director, Aspiring Minds, “Recruiters and HR managers around the world report that candidates with English skills above the local average stand out from the crowd and garner 30-50 per cent higher salaries than similarly-qualified candidates without English skills. The trends in India are no different, with English fluency being one of the key qualities recruiters look for during the interview process.”
Indian engineering graduates grapple with English
- More than 25% engineers don’t possess English comprehension skills required to understand engineering school curriculum
- Only 57% engineers can write grammatically correct sentences in English
- Less than 48% engineers understand moderately sophisticated words of English
- More than half of all engineers (52%) would not be fluent in a majority of words that are used with regular frequency at the workplace
- Not more than 30% of engineering students, who undergo stress and exhaustion while preparing for entrance exams, were acquainted with the word ‘exhaust’
- Around 50% engineers possess grammar skills that are not better than a Class VII student
Source: Aspiring Minds report
In terms of vocabulary, the report said while comfort with conversational English words was high at 78 per cent, only 48 per cent of engineering graduates showed aptitude for words often used in business parlance. In terms of classification of vocabulary levels based on frequency, only 28 per cent per cent of engineering students displaying competency in words like decadent, nefarious and impasse. These words were classified in the low frequency, high difficulty category, meaning infrequent in common facets of life, but are important for knowledge-based profiles such as research and business analysis.
Further, it said 36 per cent of engineering graduates would be unable to read official reports and transcripts and derive information out of these, even when the information is explicitly stated.
The firm also conducted a survey of mid to senior managers across organisations in the knowledge-based industry, to know if the findings are more relevant to the employment context. They were asked about the relative requirement of knowledge of different English words in daily life, and entry-level positions as software engineer (English for internal communication) and business analyst (English for business writing and client interaction). Here, it was shown that familiarity with words for knowledge-based jobs was poor. For example: The word ‘tacit’ was known by only 21 per cent engineers while ‘accrue’ was known to 25 per cent of the engineers surveyed.
The report also offered suggestions to bridge these gaps by way of interventions in the higher education system. “Level of language fluency cannot be developed in four years alone. The onus lies on schools to clear the basics and inculcate in students a love for reading and writing in the English language. Consistent efforts over the four years of engineering education would bolster the command over all aspects of the language, making students more employable,” it said.
It also added that scientific assessment should be done in the first semester of the undergraduate degree programmes to identify students with deficient skills. The report is based on a test conducted on 55,000 students from around 250 engineering colleges in India.
All findings in this report are based on the objective test-attempt data of these engineering students who undertook AMCAT English, a competency-based standardised assessment of English developed by Aspiring Minds.
Each item (question) in the assessment is mapped to a competency and the inferences for each competency are thus analysed.