Urgent need for educational reforms
Oct 01 2013
During this period, India was a country with a great advantage because fresh graduates with sound basic degrees in engineering, information and communications technology (ICT) and related subjects were in huge demand. Industries did not bother whether these graduates possessed application-oriented skill education or not. Most industries took care of training these freshers in skills needed for various production processes simultaneously while they were at jobs. The graduates were just trained in a focused manner in the product-manufacturing component. Hence, these former students just had knowledge about the product or some of its parts, which was their real task. In effect, it led to the production of trained knowledge-skill-labourers while these students, fresh out of college, enjoyed this process in return for a decent salary.
However, in 2001, things started changing. Products became more user-oriented. Good business was required to be generated which demanded combined knowledge in fundamental subjects from different disciplines, strong understanding of skills in a generic manner, and focused understanding of the link between knowledge and product for global success. This is where the world universities, and of course, countries like India, were caught in understanding the blend of fundamental subjects and skills.
In the past decade, the world has witnessed some drastic changes. Developed countries are dramatically bringing new delivery systems in universities. They are adopting three approaches. First, they have changed the academic structure. A credit-based modular structure has been adopted wherein modules-based teaching is done in core subjects, application-oriented subjects and technology integrated information about the subjects. This is added along with financial clarity with reference to advertisement, promotion and enhanced distribution of products in different cultures, countries and the populations’ purchasing tendency. It is not just that you are a part of the production process, but you must be familiar with the global changes.
Secondly, the universities are seamlessly creating friendship with businesses and industries. They have started recognising domain-fixed expertise acquired by senior production as well as operating officers. They are also recognising them as focused experts in their job task. This would allow them to teach a module and become a legalised academic component of the university. This was a wise approach because for several centuries, people with Ph.Ds in their subject were only taken as recognised teachers. With the new and flexible approach of giving academic recognition to ground level production experts, the universities are getting full support from such renowned persons. Even the industries’ relationship with universities has become more friendly and supportive towards each other.
Thirdly, now western universities are using the latest technology for online teaching and learning processes for various modules that are covered even in classroom teaching. Teachers are very comfortable with such an approach and have understood the process of creating lectures for online training and learning. They can blend in their teaching methodology, which is digitised immediately, with the expertise and knowledge of teachers from other universities around the world. The impact of these changes has been enormous in western universities: (a) Industry and business persons are picking graduates with grace and dignity. (b) The finances to the universities have increased both from the governments and the industries. (c) The online teaching material is being used and even sold in developing and under-developed countries.
Unfortunately, India remains far behind in these reforms. If one looks at articles published in the Indian press, talking about outcomes of conferences at major universities or IITs, remarks of industry persons and statements made by both state and central governments, then one can see that we are very clever in making such ‘speeches’, but completely fail in making our universities adopt these essential reforms at operating levels.
Academicians and teachers write articles and talk about the importance of reforms, mostly by imitating the writings that appear in the western world. But they have never put any time or efforts to be a part of new delivery methodology. The government and even industries allocate funds to educational institutions for hardware, connectivity and training and universities even organise focused programmes, but they are forgotten when the activity is over. The government has put in enormous funds and universities, which the academic bodies accept and even discuss their utilisation in academic councils. However, the final output is negative. The time has come to make owners of educational institutions, the teaching community and universities’ authorities to be made legally tagged with reforms. If they do not follow the reforms, then one needs to eliminate all such entities from the education system. This country has a large number of academic expertise eagerly waiting for such a change and they can be a part of the reform revolution.
(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)