A New Vision For Education

It is time to disrupt the traditional outlook of education, if we want to see a rejuvenated education system of 21st century, vibrant and meeting the aspirations of students.

The new government at the centre, with a committed and charismatic leader at the top has raised the expectations of a generation of people like no other before him and probably will not in future. As true for any progressive dispensation, this government too, views education with highest priority. The draft new Education policy in preparation for some time, was released a couple of months back. How would the new policy pan? Mahatma Gandhi had said about education, “What is really needed to make democracy function is not knowledge of facts, but right education” As we edge closer to 2020, the younger population throw up a poignant question: Are we prepared to face the enormity and the gravity of the situation? Lao Tzu said “Shape clay into a vessel.
It is the space within that makes it useful. The challenge, of having to provide education, skills and gainful employment to a large population requires detailed planning, and a precise approach. 

In the past, a great emphasis has been laid on expansion, both in the government and the private sector. Several new IITs and IIMs were setup. Existing IITs have also seen increase in intakes. The private sector has seen an enhanced grown with several new entrepreneurs queuing up. However Narayan Murthy of Infosys lamented at a convocation address in IISc in 2015 that no products ever came from the IITs. What could be the reasons? 

The thrust on expansion has raised the GER of around 20 a decade ago to about 25 today. With the government funding reducing by the year, role of the private sector cannot be undermined. However the criticism has been lack of infrastructural facilities, lack of qualified teachers, insufficient teachers and lack of adequate funding. The government will do well to address the concern by suitable and adequate funding mechanisms. 

Our schools and colleges must nurture, challenge and inspire, students to become academically successful, lifelong learners, creative and innovative thinkers, ethical and globally minded contributors and healthy well balanced individuals who will thrive and make a positive impact in a complex and changing world. 

The quest for quality education is knowledge, deductive and experiential. While the student gets initial guidance and understanding of concepts and continues studying with his discrimination, experiential knowledge on the other hand, is expected to be gained on the job. However, several challenges skew this. Concerns undoubtedly include cost, workforce development, competency based education, accreditation, assessment, quality assurance, skills, leadership crisis, and challenges of online education. The policy must address the concerns by being student centric, representing all sections of society, and be inclusive. 

Unlike Universities in the west, ours are too small to be viable. Many of them would collapse without external funding let alone provide quality. Our university system needs to undergo a paradigm shift. It is the spirit behind the coming together of teachers and scholars that a university needs to nurture and preserve. An important tenet of a university is academic freedom, which guarantees the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education. 

The early universities nurtured all facets of education like humanities, liberal arts, social sciences, basic sciences and applied sciences besides many others. However pursuit of applied science and its applications, grew several fold, at the expense of basic sciences, since it closely connected the needs of the society. If one were to examine the influence of humanism on scholars in medicine, mathematics, astronomy and physics, one would perceive that humanism and universities were a strong impetus for the scientific temper and revolution. 

Over the years, what has our universities delivered other than degrees and diplomas? A host of administrative problems, faculty vacancies, and petty fights within departments, one-upmanship and corruption have all brought the universities to knees. Academics is not even mentioned except for conduct of examinations. It is time to disrupt a traditional university, if we want to see a rejuvenated education system of 21st century, vibrant and meeting the aspirations of students. Let’s invent and nurture learning 2.0 similar to Modi Sarkar 2.0. Universities will then rise from the ashes so to say. Like many industries allowing people to work from home, we could even explore students encouraged to study from home. There is a need to reinvent the curriculum by dovetailing industry specific online joint certification programs. The placements will only multiply as a consequence.

Innovation thrives in inter/Intra/multi-disciplinary eco systems and not in isolation. None of our Institutions lay stress on productization leading to disaggregated research. Several departments in social science, liberal sciences and even basic sciences are closing due to no students, no faculty and no academics. Consequently, a steady fall in global rankings and lack of internationalisation is seen. The success of any university depends on its ability to forge strategic alliances with global international partners. Foreign students and faculty from top institutions, across the globe, is almost nil on our campuses. Students from several African, some Asian and even trans-pacific nations, would love to come to our institutions, for the sheer cultural diversity and relatively better education. A National level entrance test on the lines of GRE, specific to these countries could bring them in hordes. 

Innovation evolved when, in 1939, Joseph Schumpeter defined it as constructive changes in business models happening when firms leverage inventions into them. Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT, defined innovation as a product of invention and commercialization because one without the other equals nothing.  One without the other is either just an idea or just a commercial model. Real innovation is about taking ideas, technology, business models, etc and combining them such that they create value in excess of the comprising asset value. Simply put, innovation is about creating a ‘whole’ that is greater than the sum of the parts. Can we expect our Universities in the new era nurture these ideas? 

Eminent faculty from across the world, would look to either making more money or work with better research facilities or explore a possible interaction with the best or participate in industry consultancy that can lead to new products, processes, thereby adding patents and IPR’s to their repute. Post doc researchers on our campuses are as very rare. Faculty from across the world would hand hold such initiatives adding great value.

Several factors influence one way or the other, the Indian education system. Let us explore and introspect. According to MBC Times survey, in Finland, the top country in a list of 20 where India does not even figure, the school starts at 7 years, no homework is ever given for young children and no exams conducted until one turns 13. Set norms need to be junked if one were to excel. A great opportunity to revamp is on hand because of the sheer size of the electoral mandate. Let us all join together to make it the most celebrated. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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