PALS hopes to become a centre of excellence

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on October 29, 2019

Mohan Narayanan, Chairman, PALS

PALS, an educational initiative by pan-IIT alumni that is now in the seventh year, hopes to become like a centre of excellence that will create workflow and processes for similar such projects across the country.

Mohan Narayanan, Chairman, PALS, says the programme launched in 2012 by IIT alumni to help improve standards of education by targeting both students and teachers can be replicated in other places where there is a strong institute-industry linkage to make a similar impact.

It started off with six institutions in 2012 and now covers 32 engineering colleges in Chennai, Tiruchi, Coimbatore and Madurai. PALS, which earlier stood for Pan-IIT Alumni Leadership Series, has impacted more than 28,000 students and over 2,250 faculty members since its inception, according to him. In 2018-19 alone, it impacted more than 13,100 students and 1,250 faculty members. PALS has also tied up with more than 50 companies for field visits.

Narayanan, who has a Master’s in electrical engineering from IIT-Madras, says the need for a finishing-school kind of arrangement for engineering students where the IIT alumni could contribute was felt because of the gaps that were noticed when these graduates went for jobs, especially in the software industry. A few IIT alumni got together to see if they could help in bridging this gap, using the infrastructure that IIT-Madras provided. While finishing schools typically focussed on soft skills, the idea behind PALS was to hone the engineering knowledge and thinking abilities of the students.

The programme for students includes campus lectures, leadership development, skill development and innovative thinking. The students also get to spend time on IIT-Madras campus with laboratory sessions and classroom lectures and visit to the IITM Research Park, which houses a number of start-ups.

Along with focussing on students, PALS has programmes for faculty development, according to Narayanan, who has worked in companies such as Macneill & Magor, Tata Burroughs and Cognizant, before turning an entrepreneur. He is also an angel investor. A large part of the programme was on faculty development, where faculty members from the participating institutes were brought up-to-date on the latest methods of teaching engineering concepts and subjects, according to him.

PALS has tied up with more than 50 companies where field visits are arranged to the factories, for both the faculty and the students for them to see how some of the engineering concepts are implemented on the shop floor. The programme charges ₹2 lakh a year per participating institute with the money being used to conduct programmes in various locations and for maintaining an administrative office.

The programme typically covers students who are in the third year of their course, says Narayanan. Faculty members get to spend a few days at IITM’s teacher learning centre where the teachers are taught how to teach. “This,” says Narayanan, “is a three-day residential programme where the TLC (Teacher Learning Centre) teaches teachers how to teach,” adds Narayanan.

Published on October 30, 2019

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