Architecture Education in India – Challenges and Opportunities

by Akshay Rege ,
Winner : Juror’s Choice award – ‘Architecture Education in India -Challenges & Opportunities’ at Annual NASA Convention 2019 Writing Architecture Trophy

1. Introduction

Education whether formal or informal has been a subject of much interest to Indians. Accordingly, they developed systems to create, update and propagate knowledge. Even through tragic and eventful history, the belief to get educated survived uptill this day. Through this essay, we will look at the Indian Architectural education using the following lenses: A comprehension of the past, an appraisal of the present and a speculation for the future.

2. Of Precedents and antecedents: A historiography of Indian architectural education

The Indus valley civilisation marks the genesis of Indian Architectural Education in 2600 BCE. The building of this civilisation provided a canvas for nativity of profound knowledge, proliferated through oral traditions ultimately manifesting in the form of written scriptures called Vedas (1700 BCE). Formalisation of education happened initially through Gurukuls and later through the establishment of schools of art and architecture (Gandhara, Mathura and Amaravati), which believed in teaching through practice and theoretical discourses. Long occurrences of warfare and the colonisation by British further degraded the education system. Initially neglecting to educate, the British later tailored the system to fulfil their demands of labour and vocational resource in colonies teaching drafting techniques and replicating building elements. Post-independence, prominent school like CEPT and SPAs were established in a quest for an indigenous Indian education system, along with other colleges.

3. Locating the missing bricks: Analysing the absence of the quintessential in the present system.

A comprehensive analysis of the present system through an understanding of the three phases associated with architectural education i.e. Pre- University, University and Post-University, shows the following lacunae:

Pre – University :

The inclination of existing pre-university pedagogy is such that students in a natural progression of things pursue the two popular fields of Engineering and Medicine. The absence of space to make informed choices of profession through self-introspections of talent and capabilities, leads to the popular belief of architecture as an alternative to aforementioned fields.

University

Indian schools of architecture largely follow studio based education where in learning takes place through appreciation of student’s natural talent, learning from senior’s work, the critique of students work. The learning also happens through ‘case study’ method where in students study the projects of stalwarts in the field and apply that understanding in their personal works. Factors lacking are personalised attention, opportunities for individual development and a scope for comprehensive practical experience. Pedagogy on advanced knowledge also takes a beating within academics, in spite of advancement in building technology. Furthermore, ensuring of quality of pedagogy & timely updates through teacher training are also absent.

Post – University

The education system categorically fails to produce an architect who is capable of entirely handling and accomplishing an entry level project. Additionally, most architects cater to elitist populace while neglecting the needs of the non-priviledged. An absence of infrastructure and motivation to facilitate activities owing to intellectual nature is vastly observed in spite of the existence of an educated population.

4. A Proactive Manifesto for an Updated Future: Of suggestive reforms and speculative possibilities.

Engaging Early birds

An amazing profession with incredible possibilities, the lack of knowledge dissipating mechanism to inspire young talent is the prima facie factor in resisting architecture as a popular choice of profession amongst children. Setting up of ‘Fun Design labs’ or ‘creative clubs’ is an idea that may provide the talented young students with resources and appreciation to make an informed choice of profession.

A quest for an indigenous Indian education system: Ideas and suggestions

An understanding of historical precedents of Indian education system shed a light on the fact that, education was disposed through Practice. A look at ancient school of art and architecture (Gandhara, Mathura and Amravati), the typical image of a guru teaching yoga under a tree or the gurukul pedagogy through a way of life are all indicative of practice leading, theory following. Suggestive of the industrial age hangover, schools procure humans as raw materials, program them and manufacture them with neither a guarantee nor warranty.

Taking a bold stance, I would propose acknowledging architecture as a practice first and learn architecture through practice & Experience. With many students residing away from home for education, institutes today are no less than Gurukul in theory but far from it in practice. Structuring the course in two parts – The practical and the Theoretical, students must be substantially exposed to practical aspects upon a yearlong induction program into the course. Refraining to function as ‘Houses of Information without action’, Institutes should be autonomous and act as professional design ateliers being allowed to take up and execute projects with experienced faculty as overseers and students as apprentices with an hierarchical increase in complexity. Theoretical discourse can happen parallelly.

It is time institutes should act as anchors of development and awareness in the various regions they are located in. Autonomy should enable institutes to contextualise and tailor the syllabus and course structure to suit their locational context. Lastly, a deep rooted industry – academia collaboration can ensure continuous renewal of knowledge, possibility of materialising thoughts, availability of funding for collaborative research & development and generate potential for future employment.


Developing Intellectual and Cognitive ability

The real meaning of education is not imbibing information, it is about inculcating the process to comprehend information and ideate into creative expressions. Architects should be visionaries who bridge the limitations of vocations thereby segregating vocation from profession. Additionally, Institutes should act as forums to discuss, speculate and test new ideas. Institutes can benefit from the diversity of ideologies. Senior students and faculty must get involved in the discussion and generation of theories and new ideas. Functioning as scientist and social workers, architects should possess an inventive spirit and a spirit of positive social change.


The business of Architecture and Self-Empowerment

Employment seeking majorly arises due to Lack of experience/ credibility and lack of start-up funding. In the contemporary era, architects should be empowered to start up upon graduation whilst institutes should act like incubators of young talent ensuring continuous flow of opportunities. A sense of business management should be inculcated through education as the profession of architecture today is a business and architects categorically fail to possess an acumen for business.

In Summation, I believe aforementioned ideas can radically transform the nature of architectural education in India in order to benefit the profession and society at large.


References:

  1. Mazumdar, Sanjoy. (1993). Cultural Values in Architectural Education: An Example from India. Journal of Architectural Education. 46:4 (230-238)
  2. Prasad, Vriddhi. (2016). Investigating The Contemporary Architecture Education Challenges In India. International Journal Of Educational And Pedagogical Sciences.10:3 (1055 -1058)
  3. Menon, A. G. K. (2000). Educating the Architect. India Seminar.
  4. IIA – Nagpur. (1999). Status and Future of Architectural Education in India.
  5. Chandavarkar, Prem. (2018). Architectural Education: A Road Map to Reform. Think-matter.in
  6. Deshpande, J. (2011). Architecture Education in India. International technology, Development and Education conference.

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