Computer education was introduced in ’90s in premium colleges of India. In the next decade or so, it was adopted by almost all technical institutions and even at schools. But since its inception 20 years ago, computer education has not changed much in Indian institutions.
The kings of programming languages in computer education are C, C++ and JAVA. If you ask engineering students whether they know programming, they will proudly say “Yes, we had C/C++ in syllabus”. C, for all practical purposes, is the basis of majority of computer infrastructure, along with its sibling C++. It is small in size, easier to learn, simple enough to embed with hardware and build other languages and infrastructure on top of it. JAVA is another programming giant with similar structure but much more general purpose usage.
That being said, as a fact, an average engineer coming out of Indian colleges is not a good programmer. Why? Because they are seldom taught to ‘Program’, they are taught to pass exams and earn marks. While programming has the power to transform ideas into products and solve existing problems using it, it has been degraded to a level of ‘Just-another-subject’ in a majority of colleges. While the world sings praises of programming, with people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg motivating everyone to learn it, colleges in India seem to have their own way of neglecting the elephant in the room. As a result, students coming out of colleges ‘know’ what programming is, but don’t know to programme itself.
It should be noted that C and Java are still very powerful languages, and there are fields where one cannot replace C/Java with anything else. But the fact to be noted is, C and Java are ‘saturated’. Enough C and Java programmers exist to fulfill the global demand multiple times over. Add the bad C/Java programmers graduating from colleges and you get an ever-growing crowd of same old technologies.
The general trend of the industry has become to learn programming AFTER you graduate from college and get a job, if you are lucky.
Youstart, an initiative started by two brothers, is trying to change this trend. Abhishek, a BITS PIlani alumnus, has been programming since his 10th standard and has worked in companies like DELL EMC and CISCO. Abhijeet, an IIT Delhi alumnus, has worked for ISRO in rocket design. Together they create and teach the latest technologies’ courses at their training center, as well as in college workshops.
“The idea behind Youstart is to empower students enough to start something of their own. This will happen only when students know the latest in technology and use it to make a product or service. And when students are empowered enough to start something of their own, getting a job is just a matter of choice for them”, says Abhishek, founder and BITS Plan alumni.
Youstart has started its first office in Jaipur. The technologies offered by Youstart training programs are nowhere available in Jaipur, not even in the whole state. Youstart’s vision is to transform programming and technical education from boring rote learning to interesting self-motivated practice. “When we learn to make the thing, then we actually make things. Theory, while essential, never gets a startup running, never gets a product made”
Along with the new technologies, Youstart has brought in the intuitive concept of Practical Programming. Every student brings a laptop or is provided with, and the code as they learn. There are absolutely no notes making in our classes. Even whiteboard sees very small interaction. The instructor teaches by coding on his own laptop, connected to the projector, and students follow it programming on their own.
“Coding as you go is not enough for students to become industry ready. We assign pair of students a minor and a major project during their training sessions. Major project is an application related to that technology e.g. an app or website for AngularJS/nodeJS trainings. Working on a major project gives you idea of how things are developed in industry. They also get to know their strengths in programming, some are good in designing UI, some are good in writing algorithms while some are really good at reusing already learnt stuff for wide variety of applications”, says Abhijeet.
Youstart also provides info on valuable industry trends to students which can help them get good jobs, create a great online programmer profile or connect with right set of people in industry. “The problem is, everybody knows Facebook, Instagram, but people don’t know LinkedIn, HackerNews, Github etc. There are such powerful open source tools available for programmers, that one never needs to go to a college to become an industry standard programmer. Making students aware of these tools is something we specially do, that no one else is doing”, says Abhishek.
Youstart has trained more than 200 students and professionals in Jaipur in 2 years since inception. Abhishek tells more about the small number- “ We keep the batch sizes very small for individual attention and quality training. We don’t want to run this as a coaching class and fill every batch with hundreds of students. We even take tests before admission in certain trainings. ” Students trained by Youstart have cracked ‘Google Summer of Code’ and interviews for Google internship.
Youstart is venturing into different ways to inculcate programming in students’ lives. Youstart takes interns from their training batches and provides the opportunity to work on live projects in their own development studio. YoustartKids, a branch of Youstart, teaches programming to school kids from class 5-9, teaching them how to make games, videos, websites using smart languages like Scratch (by MIT). They are aiming for hardware and embedded programming in coming months, both for school and college students.