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Going From Routine To Revolutionary

India’s higher education segment is the largest in the world. What it needs now is relevance

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In the higher education space, the India story wins on numbers and quivers on substance. With 762 universities, the gross enrolment ratio (GER) stands at 25 per cent for higher education, and more than 35 million students enrolled in approximately 48,116 colleges and institutions to pursue higher education. India’s higher education segment is the largest in the world. What is needed now is relevance.

Going forward, the response and responsibility of education institutions will have to be contoured around what I would like to term an ‘Empowering Pentagram’. A five-point factorial complex, comprising specialisation, innovation, entrepreneurial placement, content, and collaboration, should elevate teaching and learning from routine to revolutionary.

Specialisation: I believe we have now stepped firmly into the age of the specialist learner-doer. This translates into problem-solving specialisations and disciplines that address emerging business or societal needs. For instance, cloud computing and information architecture design would be infinitely more valuable than the vanilla mechanical or civil engineering courses. The call of the hour is focus, not sweep.

Innovation: A trend that is gaining speed and acceptability in higher professional education is the centrality of innovative and disruptive thinking. Colleges and teachers are rightly emphasising on the criticality of out-of-the-box action. This will help students to think innovatively.  In other words, believe and emulate an entrepreneur narrative with study programmes re-designed and re-imagined for fostering disruptive ideas, not for getting ‘jobs’.

Placement in startups: Young, dynamic, and disruptive employment opportunities are the dominant play now. Startups are doing serious business across the world and that stands true at home too. In fact, with startups becoming commonplace at campuses for recruitments, these are becoming as important as established companies during the placement season.

Rich-content: I foresee a sea-change in instruction content in the coming year; when professors would weave in videos from international institutions and organisations to augment their lectures thereby providing a real global flavour to learning. Already, one can see this dynamic at play in the manner in which students search and learn online for relevant content. It stands to logic therefore that web-based learning shall formally be a part of better education, going forward.

Collaboration: The last great shift that should occur in higher education has its play in the sustained and long-term collaboration that faculty will have to institute with their students. The world and opportunity of startups and new ideas demand that teachers stay with their wards from the classrooms, to the boardrooms, in as much of a mentoring way as possible. I am sure the faculty of tomorrow will be increasingly involved with the launch of new businesses and with the founding of collaborative projects where their role as guides will be of immeasurable value.

While the above trends are critical, the education sector needs to adopt measures for robust self-regulation and to improve quality in real terms through research and infrastructure development. Better rankings can only be an outcome of better inputs. This is especially relevant today when Goods & Services Tax-mandated structures are augmenting teaching input factor costs. A globally competitive and relevant asset set is what the higher education sector should aim at creating.

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. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 6 January 2018 higher education content opinion

Akshay Munjal

The author is president of BML Munjal University

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