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BW Businessworld

“We may see an increase in demand for education”

Nagarajan Ramamoorthy, Director, IIM Amritsar, in an interaction with BW Businessworld’s Upasana Saran, discusses the change in the thinking at B-schools brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and their relevance in the new world order. Excerpts:

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Where do you think the education industry is heading considering the Covid-19 pandemic?

The current crisis brought on by Covid is like any other. I don’t see it as something unique. It is just another crisis but with some unique features. I actually see it as a sort of opportunity. I see the future as something evolving into a hybrid model of conventional classrooms and virtual online model. For example, University of California, Berkeley, conducts some of the large classes through television board where the students can sit in the dorms. Although the students live on the campus, they actually don’t go to a physical classroom, instead they attend the classes from their dorms, watching the lectures on their TV screens. 

This Covid crisis has helped the education industry to realise that the conventional model of classroom instruction is not the only way of going. So, we can leverage technology to a great extent and try to make it close to the virtual classroom experience. Now, this also creates an opportunity for business schools to segment the market and create programmes to cater to the career stage of an individual or individual needs. This is also an opportunity for the institutions to see how they can upgrade the technology to take it as close to the real-life classroom where the students can typically sit in the classrooms or interact with each other. 

An international survey was conducted by a higher education consulting and digital marketing firm in which a lot of B-school deans said they think the health crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic will accelerate the closure of business schools. What’s your take on this?

I am sure we will overcome this crisis with flying colours. We may actually see an increase in the demand for education because people are unemployed. Typically, unemployment and economic recession tend to be positively related to an increase in growth in the education sector. The reason is simple: if you are unemployed, what do you do? Do you just keep doing the normal things or you try to see how you can re-skill yourself. When the economy is doing good, you can get a nice job and a good pay. So, there is an opportunity here, where people may look to re-skill themselves which may actually see a higher demand for education.

We have seen a shift from the traditional classroom to online teaching in the current scenario. How will IIM Amritsar replicate the campus experience in the online mode?

I was in an evening college. Going to the college was like going to the classroom, listening to the lecture, doing homework and then you were done with it. There was no activity outside – you went to class at six in the evening and got over by 9 p.m. and then you went home and slept and next morning you went to work. This was one model. 

The campus has its own importance. You have extra-curricular activities, cultural events, sports. That’s a different lifestyle. It goes beyond the classroom. It’s more a life in itself. Now can online education really replicate the campus experience? I don’t think so. How can we play a game of cricket or soccer in an online class? So, let’s not compare these two. These are two different models.