Nurturing Human Capital And The Role Of Mentorship Programs

Academic institutions need to incorporate mentoring programs into their offerings. Without such programs, carefully curated and flawlessly executed, the true human capital formation cannot happen.

Most students in Indian colleges and universities do not really have a good sense of the variety of opportunities available to them. Not only that, they do not even understand what it means to work in a professional environment – whether that be government, academia, business, or non-profit. They have never been responsible for themselves, nor had to earn their own livelihood. They simply have no appreciation of what it means to function in a messy, chaotic world that is transforming rapidly. They yearn for safety and security and control over their destinies, and at the same time, they want to keep “all options open”. When confronted with the responsibility of making a choice, they freeze.

In traditional societies, the journey from adolescent to adulthood is mediated by rituals and ceremonies that function as rites of passage, helping to discipline and shape youthful exuberance into emotional maturity and mental clarity about the purpose and meaning of life. In modern, capitalist societies, this aspect of life-preparation is conspicuously absent in educational and vocational training institutions. Especially in India, students are not encouraged to think critically, which is really the first step towards any kind of self-knowledge but rather compelled to learn by rote and excel at taking exams. As a result, most students are incapable of taking responsibility for their own learning or themselves. Their aspirations and expectations are too often out of alignment with their talents and abilities.

These are the reasons that mentoring can perform an extremely important function for students. 

Both academic and corporate mentoring is essential

The former kind of mentoring requires active engagement between teacher and student outside the classroom – perhaps in the context of discussing something that the student might be reading or writing outside of the immediate context of that student/teacher’s course-related interactions. This is the space for the teacher to influence and change the student’s habits of thought, to push the student towards critical modes of thought, and to help the student to take responsibility for his or her thinking. The higher faculties of the mind are activated in such interactions which only happen in those academic institutions where the ratio of teachers to students is high, and where teachers take their role as academic mentors seriously, becoming willing to spend time with students outside the classroom but still in a pedagogical context. 

The latter kind of mentoring takes place when students are paired with corporate leaders. Continued engagement is once again of the essence. When it works well, corporate leaders can literally transmit deep experiential knowledge to students through such engagement. They can help students think through options and make difficult choices. They can provide a frame of reference for the student to orient himself or herself towards the arena of public and social life. By narrating their own life stories, corporate leaders can convey to their mentees the contingent nature of career paths, and thereby disabuse their mentees of the many naive presuppositions and expectations with which they typically approach the task of choosing a vocation or line of work.

Academic institutions need to incorporate mentoring programs into their offerings. Without such programs, carefully curated and flawlessly executed, the true human capital formation cannot happen. 

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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