History of University Engineering Education (Fifth Installment)
Saya U Soe Paing (EE)
Practical Survey Camp and Industrial Training
From the 1930-31 academic year onwards students had to undergo practical survey training at Survey Camps, and to various factories for practical industrial training during the long holidays.
Practical survey camps
In the 1930-31 academic year, two senior years attended a 14 days’ Survey Camp on the University Estate during the October Vacation during which they produced a contoured survey of the lake front bordering the Estate.
In the 1931-32 academic year, the two senior years attended a 20 days’ survey camp held at the University Estate during the October vacation, during which they prepared a contoured survey of the University College playing fields. The survey camp which ought to have been held during the long vacation fell through owing to the U. T. C. training camp not taking place.
1931-32 Session. During the Session a Survey Camp was held at Kalaw and attended by the 3rd and 4th year students and on the breaking up of Camp opportunity was taken to visit the new bridge in course of erection across the Irrawaddy at Sagging and the oil fields at Yenangyaung.
Owing to financial stringency and the comparative poverty of many students the Survey camp was held in the vicinity of Mingaladon during the October vacation.
A successful survey camp for the third and final year students was held for the 1939-40 academic year at Taungyi. It lasted for 3 weeks and about 15 students attended.
The 1940-41 academic year camp was on the Estate during the October holidays. The students prepared a contoured survey of the lake front bordering the estate.
In the 1930-31 academic year, the students visited many factories in Rangoon for studying their operations. The various engineering works visited are (1) Rangoon Docks: New R. I. C. wharves and transit sheds. (2) Messrs. Bullock Brothers Works: the large steel caissons manufactured for the Sagaing Railway bridge pier foundations, (3) Adamjee Hajee Dahwood match factory, and (4) the general building works,sewers and water supply on the University Estate.
After the Kalaw Survey Camp training in 1932-33, students went to visit the construction site of the Sagaing Railway bridge and to Yenangyaung oil fields.
For the summer industrial training in 1937-38 academic year, 24 students went to BOC oil fields, 4 went to Syriam oil refinery plant, 1 went to Rangoon Electric Supply Company, 6 went to Public Works Department, and 2 went to Consolidated Tin Mines, Tavoy in the summer March holidays.
In the 1938-39 academic year, 26 students went to BOC for the industrial training during the summer holidays in March. Some graduates were employed by the BOC. In the 1940-41 academic year, students visited Gyo Phyu water works, Mingaladon Wireless station, Zeyawaddy sugar factory, Steel Bros. rice mill, Adamiee Hajee Dawood’s Match factory, Burma Rubber works, Burma Pottery works, Soap factory of E.C.Madha, and GTI for excursions. Those who joined university training corp (UTC) went to Summer Camp for the military training.
Burmah Oil Company continue to extend vocational training facilities to our students. This year they have intimated their willingness once again to take the maximum possible i.e. 24 students.Other bodies who have been persuaded for the first time this year to extend similar facilities to our students are the following : B.O.C. Syriam 4 students, R.E.T. & S. Co 1 student, P.W.D. 6 students, Consolidated Tin Mines of Burma, Tavoy 2 students.
Number of Engineering students
Engineering courses started in 1924 with 17 students. The number of engineering students increased to 69 in 1930-31, but started to decline from 1931-32 up till 1934. The number of students again increased after 1937. The list of the number of engineering students from 1930 to 1941 is shown in Appendix (1E).
Out of 13 students who appeared for the final exams in the 1930-31 academic year, only 4 passed. From that year onwards the examination failure rate was very high. In the 1929-30 academic year, 32 students appeared for the first exams, only 8 passed, while 22 students appeared for the final exams and only 9 were successful and graduated.
Regarding the high failure rate, Prof. H.C.F. Cherry made the following comment:
(1) very few students yet appreciate the importance of accurate drawing and quick neat sketching in the profession and that the necessary skill can be acquired solely by continuous zealous practice.
(2) only a few students realize the wealth of knowledge which can be obtained by closer attention and interest in the practical work which the college is able to offer them due to the wonderful equipment the university possessed.
(3) only a few students took trouble to obtain the prescribed text books and study them diligently
(4) very little initiative was shown by the students in the matter of visiting the various engineering works in progress on the Estate.
Attendance of students in 1931-32 was satisfactory but the results of the exams were not. In the first year exam, 11 appeared and only 2 passed. In the second year exam, 11 appeared and 3 passed. In the final year, 18 appeared and 8 passed. The ability of the Engineering College to produce in quantity was weak.
The status of producing graduate engineers starting in 1929 was as follows: 9 in 1929, 4 in 1930, 9 in 1931, 8 in 1932, 8 in 1933, 5 in 1934, 2 in 1939, and 11 B.Sc.(Engg) and 9 Diploma holders in 1941. Looking at these pass rates was not a satisfactory condition regarding the annual turnout of engineers. Hence annual production of engineers were not encouraging.
At that time students attending the Engineering course were of various races and religions. There were Burmans, Indians, Chinese, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Anglo-Burmans and a few others. Religion-wise there were Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and a few others.
When the diploma course in combined Mech/Elec started in 1934-35 academic year, the number of students gradually increased yearly. Since the advent of the combined Mechanical and Electrical degree course in 1938-39, there has been a marked decline in the enrollment for the Mechanical and Electrical Diploma course in favor of the new course. Formerly it was customary to enroll an average of fifteen students annually for the Diploma course. That year despite a record enrollment of 47 for admission to the College the number for the Diploma course amounted to 4 only.
In the academic year 1938-39 there were a especially large number of new students, and the authorities advised to allow only around 30. In the academic years 1939-40 and 1940-41, the number of students increased and there were problems of insufficient number of teaching staff and insufficient accommodation.
There were 47 students in the first year, 41 in second year, and in the third and fourth year combined, 14 in Civil, 6 in combined Mech/Elec giving a total of 108 students in 1940-41 academic year. The number of students attending Engineering courses from the 1930-31 academic year to the 1940-41 academic year and those graduated from 1929 to 1941 are shown in Appendix (1E).
Prof. C.H.E.Cherry, head of the engineering department wrote in his 1930-31 report, that the students were healthy, well disciplined, took part in various college activities, punctual in attendance and had good relationships with the staff. The students actively took part in various University’s sports, and showed special interest in football, tennis, rowing and cricket.
The Engineering Science exhibition was held for two days in the 1937-38 academic year, and students enthusiastically took part and was very successful.
The year had been one of great activity for the students. The first number of what is intended to be the Engineering Students Annual Journal was published and when issued, was unanimously proclaimed an unqualified success.
The students also submitted for the first time a combined paper on Testing of Materials to the Association of Engineers of Burma. It was accepted and was read before the Association on 9th October 1940.
On the 12th November1940, through the courtesy of the Principal, an AT HOME of the Association of Engineers of Burma was held in the quadrangle of the College. His Excellency the Governor was present when he inspected all the college laboratories. On the 25th November His Excellency paid another visit to the College.
During the year, the students took a keen interest in the papers read at the meetings of the Association of Engineers of Burma and also participated in the discussions which took place. As a mark of appreciation of the interest shown by the students, the council of the Association of Engineers decided to invite student members to submit papers on any engineering subject and a suitable prize being awarded for the best effort.
Another student activity was joining the University Training Corps. Students were keen to attend the summer camps opened by the Corps. By doing so, it was beneficial not only physically but also in preparing for later field experiences.
University Training Corps
The Rangoon University Training Corps (UTC) was formed around the middle of the 1922-23 academic year. Many students joined as soon as the applications were accepted. The unit was recognized as a battalion and named as the “6th Burma Battalion, University Training Corps”.
Mr. Campbell, a registry officer of Rangoon University was the Commander of the Corps and given the rank of Major. A Captain of the British Army was appointed adjutant. Most of the students remembered Captain Westmoreland. There were sergeants from the British Army to assist the Captain. Sgt Maj. Rhodes had a good relationship with the students, and after retiring from the army, he became the supervisor of the University estate’s building, water supply and sewage systems.
Saya U Pho Chu and Saya Khin Maung Myint were given posts to command the University College students’ Corps. Saya Htin Si commanded the Judson College students’ Corps. When engineering and forestry courses were offered, separate corps had to be formed because of the increased number of students.
Every year tents were put up and a camp was made and students had to undergo rigorous military training for one month. At the beginning these camps were made in sparsely inhabited areas such as around Gyogone areas and besides Inya Lake. In 1928 the annual camp was made in Maymyo.
Whenever there were ceremonies such as laying the foundation stone for University buildings, students with good parade skills were selected to form the Guard of Honor for the ceremonies. They had to train for about two months for these occasions. The highest rank for the students could become was Sergeant Major. Many engineering students also joined the training corps.
Addition of Engineering Courses
From 1924 to 1934, only the Civil Engineering course was taught at the Engineering Department. It was proposed in the 1931-32 academic year to replace the courses offered at the Government Technical Institute (GTI) with more advanced engineering courses at the Rangoon University Faculty of Engineering. The syllabus for the combined Mechanical/Electrical diploma course was developed and the course was started in the 1934-35 academic year.
At the same time discussions were held for the curriculum for the Civil Engineering (Honors) course to be opened. There were limts on the number of students admitted for the first combined Mech/Elec two year diploma course. This was due to the insufficient facilities in laboratories and teaching staff, and not much demand from the industries. Thus a limited number of 9 students could be admitted at the start. The first batch of diploma holders were produced in 1936.
The Civil Engineering (Honors) class was opened in the 1937-38 academic year but no records were found when the course was discontinued. The combined Mech/Elec degree course was started in the 1938-39 academic year.
Even though there were not enough teaching staff, the engineering department tried hard to meet the demands of industries and factories for engineering graduates. The existing staff had to bear the overload in teaching the newly opened Civil Engineering (Hons) course, the combined Mech/Elec degree course as well as the Civil engineering degree course.
Arrival of Equipment and assisting external/outside industries
Although enough equipment for the workshop arrived in the 1930-31 academic year, the equipment for the Electrical Engineering Laboratory had not arrived even in the 1932-33 academic year. At the same time there was still difficulty of not enough teaching staff.
The complete set of equipment for the Electrical Engineering Laboratory was received in the 1934-35 academic year and the students did the installation themselves. With these equipment, the high standard of teaching could be maintained. Mr. D. P. Davies was temporarily appointed to teach Mech/Elec subjects in the absence of a permanent staff.
In the 1935-36 academic year many equipment for the Mechanical/Electrical Laboratory were received and made teaching more complete.
The equipment installed in the laboratories helped in performing the testing requested by the outside industry. With the equipment complete in the laboratories, when outside department and industries wish to do testing relevant to their work, they would come to the department for their testing work. The department was always willingly helped them. By doing so, the department got invaluable help in return. The department received help in terms of students doing study tours and practical training in the factories and industries, and employment for the engineering graduates.
Pre-war Engineering Education System
Under the pre-war engineering education system, students who passed Senior Intermediate exams had to attend 4 more years to get an engineering degree. Students had to attend common classes in the first two years. Only in the third year the choice of Civil or combined Mech/Elect was made.
Examinations were held at the end of the first and second year courses. No examinations exams were held at the end of third year. Only at the end of the fourth year the students had to take the final graduation examinations. There were only three exams during the four year course. Regarding practical training, there were survey camps, study visits to factories and industries, practical training at these factories during the holidays, for the third and fourth year students.