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“Our Educational System Will Take A 360 Degree Turn”

Dr Madhu Chitkara founded Chitkara University, Punjab in 2010, alongside Dr Ashok Chitkara. As Pro-Chancellor of the eponymous institute, Dr Madhu Chitkara speaks about the transformation of education, the importance of learning, imparting industry-relevant skills and the introduction of the new National Education Policy 2020 that is revolutionising the education sector. Excerpts.

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We have quickly moved from a teaching to a learning culture. Our response to the coronavirus outbreak last year has demonstrated how technology can help transform the way we teach and learn. Now, we have technology solutions at Chitkara that have the potential to transform and improve the university ecosystem so that students can achieve more and develop valuable skills with better outcomes. Students have been empowered to learn in flexible, often collaborative ways, both inside and outside classrooms and at their own pace. Faculty members have access to individualized real-time data on how each student is progressing, both scholastically and emotionally. Therefore, they can devise new challenges and offer appropriate support for each child to move ahead.

Encouraging innovation and research

Only those educational institutions can progressively move forward that are at the helm of innovations, hold industry-aligned skilled-human resources and have progressive leaders to support the whole cause. At Chitkara University, we have learnt from this challenge to improve learning and teaching for the future. When it comes to the university ecosystem, our research unit CURIN sets the framework of research in place at university level. Our academic team supplements their efforts by innovating progressive pedagogical processes to ensure industry-aligned outcome-based learning. Our incubation centres cater to all interdisciplinary research ideas and provide a strong ecosystem to convert those ideas into startups. Our Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED) has been a launch pad for many startups initiated by students as well as faculty members.

Strengthening the technological infrastructure

At Chitkara, technology’s most direct impact has been the emergence of ‘personalized learning where our students enjoy focused individual attention from their faculty members who access real-time data on their progress and problems. This is the fundamental breakthrough technology that has been brought at Chitkara University when it comes to students’ learning. The technology tools are helping our faculty members to observe all kinds of details related to students’ learning and to understand at a much deeper level what the needs of students are.

Technology in our classrooms has helped us to recognize patterns and certain conditions of students that might need intervention. We have become much better at supporting our students with their education, as well as, social and emotional well-being. We describe this as not data-driven learning, but people-driven learning at Chitkara University.
 
Leveraging industry-academia collaboration

Industry-academia collaboration is the primary key to catalyse innovation and growth in technology. Both stakeholders have complimentary contributions towards this collaboration model where industry often focuses on solutions with commercial values whereas academia focuses on building new knowledge through research and imparting specific education to students for accelerated development of new breakthroughs.

At Chitkara, we have exploited our industry collaborations to our advantage in terms of innovative ideas being converted into industry prototypes with a lot of patents as by-products. Co-teaching by industry experts has helped our students achieve their program specific outcomes (PSOs) effectively. Industry labs have helped our researchers at CURIN to come up with path-breaking solutions to various societal problems. In a nutshell, Chitkara University has leveraged the industry collaborations to its distinct advantage.  

Implementing NEP 2020

Our educational system will take a 360 degree turn once we fully implement NEP 2020 nationwide. In my opinion,  three aspects are the most relevant transformation outcomes expected from the proposed NEP 2020.

First, it will help drop-out students re-enter our education system. Second, under a higher education system, a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate program with multiple exit options will help a lot of students to decide their career options without any timeline stress and they may work on building knowledge as per their professional needs. Third, NEP’s focus on infusion of technology and online learning into our mainstream education will help us go for digital transformation of our age old orthodox blackboard – chalk based education system to a smart classroom based one.

Plans for the future

We are going to launch research-oriented programs in blended mode in cutting-edge domains and are even incorporating cross disciplinary areas. The unique feature of these programs will be ample academic flexibility and Academic Bank of Credits features. These programs will offer vertical and horizontal mobility of students to attain expertise in niche domains of the future.

Our entrepreneurship and innovation courses will now be offered as majors in all the programs, thus giving a dramatic boost to our intellectual property. Chitkara aspires to surpass its own benchmarks and continue to serve humanity with holistic education.