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Education in the 21st Century

O Pure Earth, may that we utilize your soil well, For creative production, Without causing you injury or harm and disturbing any vital element in you- Prithvi Sukta

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Higher Education

EChEGURU – The e-Learning way for Life-Long Learning

My 50 odd years of experience at IIT Kanpur, Texas A&M University, IIT Bombay, DAIICT, & PDPU has been packaged into eChEguru. I have opined in several of my posts and talks that e-Learning is a powerful learning paradigm and here is my own online learning package!

eChEguru currently offers ‘Chemical Process Principles’ which consists of 5 CBT/ L (Computer-Based Training/ Learning) modules. More modules are planned to cover the entire chemical engineering component of the undergraduate program (BTech for example) in the form of self-learning, stand-alone modules. Module on ‘Phase Equilibria Thermodynamics’ is in progress. These CBT modules are designed for Microsoft Windows.

The modules are:

Module 1:

  • Data & Information needs
  • Basic Information & Stoichiometry

Module 2: Material Balances

Module 3: Gases, Vapors, & Liquids

Module 4: Energy balances

Module 5: Material & Energy balances

These modules have been designed to provide a balance among conceptual understanding, skill development, and engineering applications.

Knowledge upgradation of students – science, chemical & other engineering, R&D scientists, as well as plant personnel – operators, supervisors, and others is essential for the industry to remain competitive in the global markets.

The enrolment in chemical engineering in India has substantially increased while proportional increase in the faculty is inadequate in number, quality, and motivation. We need to explore newer IT enabled learning to supplement classroom teaching.

Professionals find that formal education of 21 years or so is inadequate to remain competitive. Continuous knowledge and skill upgradation through life-long education and learning is essential.

eChEguru is designed as the ENABLER, which provides you with all this and more. It leverages the internet through e-learning that is changing the way people around the world receive and impart knowledge, information, and training.

We hope to offer you the remaining modules in due course of time.

For now

TRY IT
YOU WILL LIKE IT

First 5 Modules are now available Absolutely FREE.

For more details visit www.echeguru.com

The Student Life – Attendance, Internet, Ethics, Exams

In this post, let me address issues that have become more important and pressing for students as well as faculty.

Attendance

In recent times the general trend has been one of declining attendance and the reasons could be several. But really the question is, should attendance be compulsory or should it be voluntary? The answer is a variety of opinions, very many stating that it should be compulsory.

But of course its not that simple. Students learn differently. Their learning is a function of learning speeds, styles, preparedness, etc. Hence in a typical class, there are fast, average, and slow learners. The way a teacher addresses these issues in a lecture-discussion is very important to meet the varied requirements of students.

Today’s students, the 21st century generation, is technology & internet savvy, multi-tasking and wired differently. With an attention span of 10-15 min, they need constant mental stimulation and involvement, and are disinterested in the traditional methods of teaching (where the teacher is the centre-of-attraction!). We need a superior pedagogy, where the students are constantly involved. I visualize the new pedagogy to make this shift in its design:

A New Pedagogy

Finally, which would you choose, compulsory or voluntary?

My personal opinion is that it should be voluntary. Implement some or all of the components of new pedagogy, provide broad-band connectivity, make available open courseware from leading institutions of the world including the IITs through on-line learning, while counseling a student about the benefits of attending both lectures and tutorials. The course file on the intranet should contain the course details – objectives, outcomes, problem sets, homework assignments, special projects, etc. A student has to complete all the requirements for completing the course, including the tests and examinations satisfactorily, whether she/ he attends classes or not. The student is responsible both for attendance and for learning.

Internet

The other issue is connected with the free use of internet at the hostels/ halls of residence. The question is, should it be restricted or unrestricted? In recent times with the availability of broad band internet facility, some students spend considerable amount of time watching desirable and undesirable internet content late, sleep very late at night, and cannot get-up for the morning classes. Several of these students do not perform well in the tests and examinations and some have to drop out of the institution. This is undesirable not only for the student herself/ himself, but also to the parents and the institution.

It is considered the institution’s responsibility that the student perform well and pass the course (implying attendance in all classes especially for ‘weaker’ students). On the other hand one may argue that the student is an adult, knows her/ his responsibility and is free to behave the way she/ he desires within the constraints laid down for the purpose of  residence. With the improvement of teaching philosophy and approach, it is expected that students would prefer to attend classes and learn.

My personal thinking is to allow free unrestricted access of internet with proper counseling. Even if the use in the residential halls/ hostels is restricted, the students can still access unrestricted internet facility in cafes, kiosks, and other such places.

Cheating & Ethics

In spite of giving in writing an ‘honor pledge’, while joining the Institution as well as before every examination, students, it appears increasingly indulge in cheating, whether in home-work assignments, examinations, projects, reports, …., using ingenious and innovative methods, and in spite of a strong value system from home. In recent years, the internet has facilitated writing reports as a part of assignments, where plagiarism takes place rather extensively.

What has gone wrong? Is it our methodology of instruction and assessment, as well as our attitudes that are driving them to cheat? Are we driving them too much towards good grades? Have grades become the ultimate panacea for a student? It does seem like, as we talk about CPI/ SPI (Cumulative Performance Index/ Semester Performance Index; similar to GPA, Grade Point Average), this student is 9 pointer, that student is ‘5-point something’; is it that a weaker student with low grades and those who have difficulty performing well, etc. are neglected?

Also when the country is marred with corruption all around and questionable moral values, how does one try to enforce these in our young, impressionable students? It does not help that a consumer oriented world sees increasing competition and decreasing opportunities? Timely counseling, ‘corrective actions’ to the frequent cheater, courses & projects related to ethics and moral values, may be required. But I am open to innovative solutions here.

Exams & Assessment

The student assessments in courses is by and large through assignments, projects, quizzes (short 10min and a little longer), 1 hr tests, mid-semester and end-semester exams. This is due to our continuous evaluation system that expects a student to be evaluated for her/ his performance on a continuous basis during a semester. By and large two in-semester tests with a final with homework assignments, projects appear to be the norm in recent years.

Needless to say, we need to evolve superior assessment methods, better attitudes towards and consideration for ‘weaker’ students so that they feel more comfortable. Each instructor depending upon the course taught has to devise appropriate assessment process. We need to do our best to remove the drudgery of tests and examinations and make them more meaningful to test students’ learning and knowledge acquired. Continuous experimentation is the only way to arrive at the optimum solution. We need a paradigm shift in the student assessment system. This is not an easy issue to tackle but I am sure if we put our heads together, we can evolve a superior assessment methodology that truly tests what a student has learnt. There is considerable research work available in public domain. We have to think differently, need innovation and urgently. Suggestions are welcome!

 

Quality PhDs in India

If India has to become a R&D and manufacturing hub, as also provide high quality higher technical education to its potential candidates, the number of PhDs has to grow tenfold to about 10,000/ year within the next 8-10yrs from the present level of 1000. How do we achieve this target? In the beginning the bulk of the demand for PhDs will be in academia and R&D institutions because of the present shortage in faculty and researchers. The industry need for PhDs will grow as Indian industry moves more into R&D, innovation, and product development.

The student target groups are: fresh BTech/ BE, MTech/ ME; professionals in industry and other organizations; non-PhD faculty in technological institutions; foreign students (need to aggressively market our strengths).

In recent years IITs have substantially increased their PhD output in engineering. IIT Bombay is expected to produce about 300 PhDs in engineering per year by 2013-15 and 600 by 2020. Similar drive is assumed for other IITs, NITs, IIITs, and private institutions. Also worth noting is the number of PhDs in technology from Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai (ICT, former UDCT, Mumbai), currently about 80, 100 by 2012, and 200 by 2020. The QIP (Government of India launched the Quality Improvement Program (QIP) in the year 1970 and established 8 QIP Centers at 7 IITs & IISc) has to be enhanced. Some of the NITs (out of 30 in India currently) have achieved high quality BTech graduates, but due to paucity of PhD faculty and resources, have not been able to push their Master’s and PhD programs to the desired extent. They have the potential and need to be supported financially and encouraged to increase their PhD output. They should be brought on par with the IITs in say 10yrs. The QIP or a new innovative program should be established so that a faculty member with MTech degree can obtain her/ his PhD, through a network of collaborating institutions.

This will require:
1. A mentoring program through which faculty will mentor, excite and motivate large number of BTechs from all institutions (especially from the IITs) to continue for PhD degree. It will also involve aggressive marketing with assurance of challenging career opportunities and excellent placement with attractive remuneration package.
2. Attractive financial assistance (Research and Teaching Assistantships, about 40% of Assistant Professor’s remuneration per month, with tuition waiver).
3. Minimum time duration for PhD (4-5yrs beyond BTech/ BE) as well as flexibility in academic and research programs without compromising quality. This would be necessary especially for Corporate sponsored full time employees bringing their in-house problems for research.
4. Financial support for attending and presenting papers at national (at least once a year) and international conferences (at least once during PhD program).
5. Possibility of spending 6-9 months in a collaborating lab of a reputed university abroad under a joint research collaboration program. Also, create “virtual forums” using commonly available communication technologies to increase the interactions with universities and industries globally on a more regular basis than a one-off effort. This will also increase the networking with PhD students in other institutions and encourage collaborations. Individual faculty members probably engage in such activities already and industry (especially IT related) uses this extensively. So, we need to leverage this and make it more pervasive.
6. Working jointly with Industry R, D & T centers to identify research projects.

The funding required for PhD students as TA/ RA, foreign travel and other support for a 4-5yr period would be substantial. This source of funding could be as follows:
1. Funding agencies of GOI such as DST, DBT, DAE, DRDO, etc. through sponsored projects (TA, RA) (GOI: Government of India; DST: Department of Science & Technology; DBT: Department of Biotechnology; DAE: Department of Atomic Energy; DRDO: Defense Research & Development Organization)
2. Industry (fellowships, travel sponsorships)
3. Education cess of 2% (HRD Ministry, TA, RA)
4. Alumni

For more information, read:
1. Arvind P. Kudchadker, Anjan Bose, Ashok Soota, K. VijayRaghavan, K. P. Madhavan, Milind Rajadhyaksha, and Uday Agarwal,  download from here: PanIIT__Perspectives-1 R&IE 081110
2. Creating a new technological institute, A. P. Kudchadker, eBook, Smashwords; Amazon;
iBooks; Flipkart.

India’s R&D Scenario

After independence in 1947, India endeavored towards development and established:

i. A strong foundation of basic industries such as steel, coal, oil, defense, atomic energy, and space;
ii. A university system with a few excellent institutions, such as IITs, IISc (1909), TIFR (1945), IIMs (IISc: Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; TIFR: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research; IIM: Indian Institute of Management) (25+ universities, 5 IITs, 17 RECs – the Regional Engineering Colleges (now NITs), and about 575 affiliated colleges);
iii. A network of National and Regional Laboratories under Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); and,
iv. Atomic Energy, Space, and Defense establishments, to generate a large pool of scientific and technological person power, taking the Nation towards stated objectives, as defined in the two important resolutions.

Science Policy Resolution (1958): “To secure for the people of the country all the benefits that can accrue from the acquisition and application of scientific method.”
Technology Policy Resolution (1983): “Indian science & technology must unlock the creative potential of our people and help build the India of our dreams.”

The main objective of technical education in India is succinctly and elegantly stated by late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the First Prime Minister of Independent India:
“To provide scientists and technologists of the highest caliber, who would engage in research, design, and development to help build the nation towards self-reliance in its technological needs.”

Economy, R&D
Indian economy in 2014 is the 3rd largest in purchasing power terms. India is the second fastest growing economy in the world. India’s GDP has touched US $1.88 trillion. However, this rapid growth has not been accompanied by a just and equitable distribution of wealth among all sections of the population. Only in recent times the government is pushing inclusive growth. However, there is much to be desired in the process of implementation and effectiveness. Distribution challenges need to be tackled through better deployment of public resources for public good.

Table 1 provides some details regarding India’s R&D expenditure. For comparison, data for a few other countries is also provided. It is worth noting the data for Israel. India’s R&D expenditure is only 0.8% of GDP, most of the funding is from the Government, and the number of researchers per million population is alarmingly low as per the statistics of National Science Foundation, World Bank , OECD & Wikipedia (1,2).

Table: R&D scene India

Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India said in the 99th Indian Science Congress (Jan 3, 2012) that “Over the past few decades, India’s relative position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China…..As far as resources are concerned, the fraction of GDP spent on research and development in India has been too low and stagnant. We must aim to increase the total R&D spending as a percentage of GDP to 2% by the end of the 12th Plan Period (2012-2017) from the current level of about 0.9%” (3).

India has to substantially increase R&D funding and the number of scientific researchers for true global competitiveness and leadership (2). The Government is moving in the right direction and has increased allocation of R&D during 12th Plan period (2012-2017) to 75,304 Crore ($15billion) as compared to 25,300 Crore ($5billion) during the 11th Plan period (4). The question is how to ramp up the R&D researchers, especially the PhDs. The effect of low R&D expenditure by industry and government, especially the former, on national research related output from Indian scientists and engineers, is a small number of publications in reputed international journals, innovations, patents, start-ups, etc. in a billion-strong nation. It is felt by many that the quality of science research and innovation is also decreasing.

There is however, a silver lining and glimpse of hope in that in recent years, India’s several new grassroots innovators focusing on rural problems are making India a growing ‘incremental-innovative’ nation (5). Substantially more interaction between rural India and academia is needed to catalyze and expedite this innovation process. What is also crucial for India is breakthrough innovation, if it hopes to be a leading global economic power. I will address the issue of PhDs in engineering in my next blog.

List of referenced links:
1. “Science & Engineering Indicators, 2010”: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/c4/c4s5.htm; http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.SCIE.RD.P6; http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/29/31/45188215.pdf;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ countries_by_research_and_development_spending.
2. “Battelle”: http://www.battelle.org/docs/tpp/2014_global_rd_funding_forecast.pdf.
3. Manmohan Singh, “PM’s speech at the 99th Annual Session of the Indian Science Congress on 3rd January 2012 at Bhubaneshwar”: http://pmindia.nic.in/speech-details.php?nodeid=1119.

4. “The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) 2013 ”, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=91316
5. Anil Gupta, “SRISTI”: http://www.sristi.org.

Faculty Appointment & Tenure

Concurrently with excellence of the teaching programs, an Institute would aspire to be known for its research and innovation contributions, especially with respect to the society. It is essential therefore that the post graduate programs be continuously strengthened both in size and in the quantum and quality of research, with focus in certain selected areas.

In India, the fresh or initial appointments for faculty at the Assistant Professor level are made almost ‘regular/ permanent’ with one or two years of probation (12 month salary). Hardly any faculty (to my knowledge), when found ‘unsatisfactory’, has been asked to leave. Several faculty members at the IITs have performed elegantly throughout their career in teaching, research, and service, driven primarily by their internal motivation and self-commitment. They have been active in teaching innovations, research contributions, involvement with matters concerning society, and professional bodies. Their relationship with students is excellent and they have been good mentors to them. However, some of them have not been as active and productive as expected and desired. We, it appears, are in general not able to get the ‘best’ out of them.

Why this is so, needs extensive study and analysis. What will enable us to do so? Should the ‘probation’ period be extended up to, say 3yrs? Are there better models practiced in other universities within India and abroad? Is it time to explore seriously the ‘tenure’ model that emphasizes ‘external motivation’ and has been ‘successful’ in the US universities? It is accepted that ‘internal motivation’ is desired over ‘external motivation’ and needs to be encouraged. Are there models to do so?

All initial full-time faculty appointments in the US universities are ‘tenure-track’ (mostly on a 9-month salary) and such faculty are expected to enhance their creativity in generation and dissipation of new knowledge, thus fulfilling and furthering the objectives of the institution. They are evaluated for their performance in about 5-6yrs from the initial appointment. The evaluation process is rigorous and primarily emphasizes research contributions in terms of quality publications in peer-reviewed journals. After being supported for initial 2-3yrs by the Institution with seed money to establish research, they are expected to generate research funding from funding agencies, public or private that may also cover their 3-month salary. They have to compete for Master’s and PhD students as well as for post-docs with other institutions for research funding, supported as research assistant/ research associate through their research grants, publish and present their work at conferences, file for patents, etc. This approach, I have found from my own experience in the US, creates external motivation for faculty in addition to their internal motivation, sets a ‘pattern’ for young faculty to be active in research, and remain active for much longer periods, almost throughout their professional career. I have known several professors in the US, active and productive much beyond 80yrs of age. The research and innovation output of the US probably justifies the means.

One also observes, ‘publish or perish’ situation that is really not desirable. Also some others feel that the quality of publications may also suffer under this policy, and there may be a tendency to neglect undergraduate teaching and the quality of teaching suffers. There appear to be appropriate checks and balances to carry out corrections of the policy. However, my personal feeling is that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and we need to evolve a system (may be a hybrid one), based upon our own experiences and needs in India.

The faculty is expected to contribute to teaching, research, academic management, and service. Teaching and research are related so closely that a faculty member must demonstrate competence in both. We all would agree that the quality of the publications, concern of and addressing the problem of the society, and a continuing interest and effort towards defined objectives, are more important than the quantity of work produced.

Autonomy to an institution means that the institute will carry out all its functions while being governed by its Board of Governors (BOG). Total autonomy of an institution implies academic, financial, and managerial autonomy, so that the institute can function efficiently, effectively, and promptly through its BOG, Head of the Institution, (normally Director/ Vice Chancellor), its faculty, and staff without any interference from external bodies.

It is strongly believed that an institution will not become a Center of Excellence and responsive to change unless given real autonomy. In return, the institution should accept total responsibility, accountability, quality, and transparency to its sponsors, clientele, and multiple expectations of the society. Too much regulation, too many restrictions, short-term policies and external pressures will prevent institutions from becoming proactive and entrepreneurial, a requirement in the knowledge society. Main objective of total autonomy is to take all decisions internally for superior governance and management of the institution. This includes organizational structure, policies, systems and processes, selection of leaders, faculty, students, staff, study programs and degrees offered.

Autonomy and academic freedom actually go hand-in-hand. The institutions are expected to operate with full academic freedom, decentralized decision making, and rapid adaptation to changing environment for drawing the best out of its faculty and students, as well as for efficient management.  It is relevant to quote here what the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) committee on Autonomy of Higher Educational Institutions in their report in 2005 said, “Autonomy of Higher Education Institutions is a pre-requisite for enabling them to achieve their goals and objectives. An honest exercise of autonomy – academic, administrative and financial – will lead to making these Institutions as centers of innovation, excellence and development….. Institutions need to be insulated from internal and external pressures of all kinds, may be bureaucratic, political and other groups…..” (1).
IIT Council

The IITs have been enjoying considerable autonomy over the years in most of their functions, especially academic and managerial functions with President of India as the Visitor. The IIT Council is the highest Governing Body with HRD Minister as its Chairman, and Officer of HRD Ministry as its Secretary. The Chairmen and Directors of all the IITs with representatives of the Central Government, Parliament, Indian Institute of Science, UGC and others are the members of IIT Council. The IIT council in 2010, decided that it was time that each BOG (Board of Governors) should be well-represented in experts from the field of science, engineering and education, as well as, have local industrialists and alumni on the Board. Also the chairman of each Board will nominate a panel and the IIT council will finally appoint members of each IIT BOG.

IITs have been operated with this Governance model since their inception, and I believe it is time to move from the centralized model to a distributed model with total autonomy to each IIT and let the BOG of each IIT govern the Institution, keeping in focus the National requirements of equal opportunity to all its citizenry, without compromising on merit. Currently each IIT by and large operates independently in matters connected with academics and management. It is best to allow them to govern themselves with funding from the Government with transparency in accounting and audit. The selection of Board members would be the responsibility of each IIT through a search committee comprising of, for example, outgoing chairman, two members of Board, three distinguished alumni, director/ VC, and two Professors.

Autonomy

The autonomy situation is substantially different for a large number of engineering colleges, mostly private as they are affiliated to a university (affiliated colleges model). They have to abide by the university academic programs, assessment systems, admission procedures, rules and regulations, etc., whether good or bad. These affiliated colleges have neither independence nor autonomy to experiment and develop superior academic and administrative systems. They need to be freed from over-regulation and micro-management by the Universities. The result of this system is well known to be elaborated here.

Others

 

It is time that the affiliated college system is replaced by converting several of these deserving government and private colleges into autonomous institutions with well-defined norms, systems and processes, proper hand holding, and guidance. The central body necessary for this purpose should be efficient, effective, and transparent. The current system of giving ‘recognition’ to these institutions should be scrapped or substantially modified to bring in transparency and accountability, as has been emphasized by National Knowledge Commission (2,3), Prof. Yash Pal committee(4), Kudchadker et al. (5), and several respected professionals.

My own suggestion for the accreditation body is a non-governmental professional body, formed by the Indian professional engineering bodies + national academy of engineering + national academy of sciences. The model could be like the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET), USA (6) or superior.

Once the autonomy issue is taken care of, one can focus on other important issues such as quality faculty, curriculum, infrastructure and facilities, etc. We can then provide high quality education and learning and produce quality graduates with substantial skill-sets and problem solving abilities. Hence instead of only 20% of our graduates that are employable, we should shoot for 100% employable graduates and see to it that they get gainful employment.

Employability

The implementation of several policies on Higher Education is moving too slow for comfort. The Government of India appears to have the right ideas and therefore should withdraw itself from running higher educational institutions (no need of IIT Council as stated above; this will require amendment of IIT Act, 1961), while blessing them to do their best. While I am on this subject, I would like to add that faculty salary structure including the Director in the Government financed institutions, the IIT Director included, should be delinked from the Government Secretary salary as the basis, if it has not been done already! More on this coming soon in a future post! 

  1. “Report of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) Committee on Autonomy of Higher Education Institutions, 2005”: http://www.teindia.nic.in/files/reports/ccr/cabe/ahei.pdf.
  2. “National Knowledge Commission: Innovation in India, 2007”: http://knowledgecommission.gov.in/downloads/documents/NKC_Innovation.pdf.
  3. “National Knowledge Commission: PhDs in India, Letter to PM, 2008”: https://nationalknowledgecommission.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/recommendations-on-more-quality-phds/
  4. “Yash Pal Committee Report on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education, 2009”: academics-india.com/Yashpal-committee-report.htm.
  5. Arvind P. Kudchadker, Anjan Bose, Ashok Soota, K. VijayRaghavan, K. P. Madhavan, Milind Rajadhyaksha, and Uday Agarwal, PANIIT Perspectives – Research & Innovation Ecosystem, 2010:  https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B4tTTW7Cu7zjZWFlMjFiZjEtYWIxMS00ZWUwLWJkYjMtZTExYzk4N2FkYTE1&hl=en
  6. “Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET)”: abet.org/.

Reservations in Educational Institutions in India

Let me briefly touch upon the reservation issue because I feel it is important. India is fast becoming a nation of reservations and quotas, a political compulsion! The IITs and other academic institutions are no exception. The current extent of ‘Reservations’ is 49.5% in education at all levels, with 22.5% for SC & ST (15% for SC, Scheduled Caste and 7.5% for ST, Scheduled Tribe, since 1973) and 27% for OBC (Other Backward Classes, since 2008) students. Some States are planning to add more groups!

Snapshot of Student Admission Reservation Percentages
Reservation Scenario

 

IITs currently have no reservation for faculty positions, nor should there be in any education institutions. There have been different arguments against reservations, primarily concerning their lack of preparedness and subsequent performance at the IITs and the resulting quality dilution, as the cut-off for these students is lower than for the general category students.

Needless to say that the economically deprived SC & ST sections of population do deserve all that we need to do to upgrade their education level to high standards, to enable them to compete.   It did take considerable effort and ingenuity from the IIT faculty to tackle this difficult problem of 22.5% SC & ST reservation through one year preparatory courses. Their background was just not adequate to compete with the rest.

This large scale problem can be best solved on long term basis by treating it at the roots. That is, at the KG-12 level by creating ‘special residential schools’, with highly motivated teachers, equipped with modern infrastructure and facilities, use of multimedia technology, etc., continuous monitoring, to bring them to a much higher level. With superior education, these students will be more comfortable and able to effectively compete with the rest. One approach is to establish several more Navodaya residential schools (an excellent experiment that late Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister of India initiated) all over India wherever needed (with only 30 students in a class). Another model worth emulating is the Eklavya model residential schools (EMRS) of Gujarat. The uniqueness of these schools is that they are managed by professional bodies (public or private) with expertise in running schools, while funding is provided by the Gujarat State. In 2008, we visited 3 of these Eklavya schools in the tribal belt of Gujarat and were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the quality of education imparted, commitment of the teachers, activity-based learning, enthusiasm, discipline, and self-help among students, facilities, etc. We found it to be a successful model worth emulating on a larger scale.

This will require large funding and Government should have no hesitation to create such excellent facilities for the benefit of those, who have been neglected for too long. A serious effort on the part of the Government and careful implementation with dedication and commitment is required urgently. This will go a long way in elevating the economically and educationally deficient people of India, while eliminating this reservation problem at the higher education levels. For the last 50 years, the Government has played with this very important issue and have brought us today to this sorry state of affairs, where large section of such population still do not have opportunities to obtain quality education even at the school level. The IITs and other Institutions must convince and assist the Government to think in a rational way – tackle the problem at the roots. For several years parallel approaches need to be pursued – continue with the current reservation policy only for the economically deprived persons from among these, while implementing large number of Navodaya and Eklavya schools for easy accessibility to all those who need it, and after 10yrs discontinue the reservations. Proper implementation and  commitment are essential.

Preamble

In recent times, there has been considerable criticism of Indian higher education in engineering in terms of quality of students, faculty, curriculum, employability of graduates, contribution to the society, etc. Specific concerns have been raised regarding large scale reservations and quotas in education, lack of autonomy and modern infrastructure; dismally low research output; proliferation of low quality private engineering colleges, and the process of granting accreditation. One often wonders whether there is something seriously wrong with our engineering education and for that matter with higher education in general.

In this section of my blog, ‘Higher Education’, I want to discuss a few important issues connected with technical education in India. In the coming blog posts I will talk about several aspects of the system such as ‘reservations and quotas’, ‘autonomy and academic freedom’, among others.

While these blog posts will be my thoughts in brief on the critical issues that impact our education system today, I have also authored ‘Creating a New Technological Institute’. A book where I bring forward the ideas, observations and suggested solutions curated from my experiences of a lifetime in Indian Education, from being a student, to being the Deputy Director of IIT Bombay, to finally founding DAIICT and PDPU, reputed technological institutes for engineering.

The 21st century will require bold, different, and judiciously chosen approaches, newer implementation strategies, and a new thinking in education in general and technical education in particular. We need a mind-set change in order to provide a student with the kind of education that will prepare her/ him to face the challenges of the 21st century knowledge society.

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