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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

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!

 

You Mumbaite, My Child, What are you doing to Me!

Nostalgic, I am of the 50s and 60s, so nice and wonderful
Green cover much of me, many beautiful spots
Powai , Vihar, surroundings, enjoyed my children, one and all
Birds chirping, kids playing, cleaner air and water
Made me, your mother happy, loving care and more
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

Have I not reared you, nurtured you, sheltered you, my children
Taken loving care, gave everything you wanted, much more
Do you realise what you are doing to me, my child?
Are you so ungrateful and irresponsible, don’t you feel anything at all
When you continuously, knowingly hurt me so badly and cruelly
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

Like a good mother would, reprimand you, discipline you
Spitting is your hobby, urinating in public is your pastime
Defecating all over me is your birthright
Do you need spit all the time at bus stops, train stations, everywhere
Am I so dirty and filthy that you feel nauseated?
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

You, my daughters succumb nature’s call, most humiliating conditions
Years and years without complaining, without agitation
Nobody listens, take it for granted, problems solve by itself
Very, very sad I feel, though Sulabh excellent solutions provide
Surely, effective, implementable, sustainable facilities for children ensue
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

You fill my arteries and veins with dirt and filth
You choke my lungs with carbon, hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, and more
You poison me with lead, mercury, inorganics, and what not
Entire body covered with eczema, eruptions, wounds
Killing me, you are through unplanned, haphazard growth
Unconstrained, continuous influx all over my delicate body
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

You cover me with gunk, potholes, chip me off with utmost disregard
You carry out surgeries on me over and over again, same place
Mindlessly and randomly with blunt instruments,
No proper suturing, creating misery, pain, agony
You chop me off as and when you like, where you like indiscriminately
Remove my protecting cover, expose me to worst conditions. What Pain!
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

No stopping you, is there, you don’t care, do you, my child
Pleading with you, I am and warning you as well
STOP exploiting your Mother, you incorrigible brat, I cannot bear it any more
Do something quick before I burst, Bombay First, Swachh Bharat
Delay any longer surely dooms day for your Mother
Is it too late already? Only you my new generation can save me!
Oh, it was so good in those good old days! And NOW!!

My head, body, legs very heavy with concrete jungle
Built through unscrupulous means and nexus
You have crucified me, ruined my beautiful and serene areas
Towers, Houses every where with no land, rolling hills in sight
I have headache, I am aching all over, I cannot breathe, I am paralyzed
I am losing all senses, I am dying…….., I am dying,……..I need to stretch a little, I have to
Haaaaaaa! It feels so good. All Quiet, Peaceful, Tranquil at last!!

Industry-Academia Partnership

In this blog, I will talk about industry-academia partnership and involvement, not merely industry-academia interaction. This partnership requires efforts to integrate the world of scientific and technical education with the world of work resulting in a broader & deeper model of engineering education.

Such a model necessitates active partnership of industry-academia-society-government to create a unique engineering graduate, exploring and exploiting the strengths of each other for the benefit of the student.

Various avenues, internships – rural, industry, and research; joint projects at the students, faculty, research, education levels; constant discussions and deliberations; team-teaching courses; joint evolution of dynamic curriculum, etc., will result in a graduate who is technically sound, sensitive to societal needs, exposed to the industry culture, and who quickly adapts to a new situation with ease in a rapidly changing world.

There is a lack of overall commitment to this partnership currently probably because of lack of perception and belief that this partnership will add substantial value to each partner. These partnerships take time to develop and typically involve many complex relationships. The onus appears to be on the academia to keep pushing the industry for their active involvement and partnership. The prerequisite is a strong R&D base, thinking, and commitment by the Industry. Issues regarding IP (Intellectual Property) and very clear and quickly enforceable IP laws need immediate attention.

An excellent example is the recently established IIT Madras Research Park that “facilitates the promotion of research and development by IIT Madras in partnership with industry, assisting in the growth of new ventures, and promoting economic development. The Research Park assists companies with a research focus, to set-up a base in the Park and leverage the expertise available at IIT Madras”. The Park has evolved an ingenious, innovative ‘credit system’ to attract and retain companies.

I believe we academics need the industry more than they need us! If we agree that this is desirable, doable, and must be done then we together need to do the following:

  1. Generate dynamic curriculum to match students’, industry, and society needs.
  2. Build technical skills based upon strong science, engineering science fundamentals, design focus, and provide practice in using these skills through problem-solving approach and well-designed innovative experiments (involve industry engineers and scientists in teaching or team-teaching roles; industry involvement and support of academic laboratories).
  3. Encourage students for self-study, life-long learning, discovery of knowledge, and excitement of research (rural, industry, and research internships, joint research projects at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, open-ended problem solving, etc.).
  4. Motivate students to continuously renew skills needed to succeed in the knowledge society.
  5. Impress upon students the importance of HASS & Management courses, effective communication, interpersonal dynamics, and the benefits of cooperative approaches to problem-solving. In addition, assist them to tackle complex real-life situations.
  6. Provide opportunities and encouragement to working professionals and make it simpler for them to register for Master’s/ PhD degree through flexible admission criteria and innovative time scheduling without compromising quality.

It would be desirable to have the Academic institutions, Development labs, and Entrepreneur Park in close proximity with each other, preferably on the same campus, with in-built mandate for cooperation and collaboration – students, faculty, researchers (a multi-way process). This arrangement would facilitate converting ideas into innovation and thence to manufacturing.

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.

Education Policy and Management – India

Preamble: Education consistently remains the top issue of concern to the Indian society and Policy makers in the 21st century as 35% of Young India below 18yrs (about 400 million/ 40 Crore) need to be educated. Currently, rural & urban (Central & State government supported) schools are facing numerous challenges – Accessibility, Affordability, Quality, and Relevance. If and when these issues are addressed, we would have an Education System, which enlightens and empowers. Visible gaps are evident when we look at our system from this perspective.

The result of the present system is: many more students than quality schools; student: teacher ratio generally about 60:1; large number of students living in poverty and with uneducated parent family; several have difficulty reading, understanding & speaking even in regional language as well as in English; and large number of drop outs. In addition, these schools have shortages of qualified and committed teachers, principals and support staff, inadequate school buildings and teaching materials & technology, and decreasing financial resources. The political and commercial influences have caused education to lose its pristine glory. This situation has to improve and soon. Government has to focus on schools as their priority and substantially increase funding for the next decade and more. The present educational system has become divisive and discriminatory. Education being a concurrent subject between States and the Centre, has its own problems, resulting into a widely varying degree of quality in educational system across India. (Please see Note below).

  • Increase funding for Education to at least 5% of GDP for the next 5yrs.
  • Implementation of our policies is our greatest weakness that needs immediate correction.

Suggestions:

0URGENT & IMPORTANT:  Government Schools are not delivering their mandate to students from KG to Class 12 and are in a state of decay. Huge amount of funding has been spent without any commensurate output. They are failing YOUNG INDIA. If this state of affairs continues, the demographic dividend that all of us are waiting for will turn into demographic disaster. Wake up HRD Ministry, State & National Governments, all stakeholders and remedy the situation before it is too late. Give School education the topmost priority for the next 10 years. Forget for now, controlling Higher Education. They can take care of themselves. Just give them adequate Funding, Autonomy, Quality Norms, and leave them alone.

  •  Be Mentor, Facilitator, and Delineate overall framework, direction, and philosophy. Do Not Interfere in day-to-day affairs, please.

1.Reduce Education Gap: The education gap between the haves and have-nots is increasing alarmingly. The economically deprived families cannot offer environment that is conducive at home to their children to study and learn. The result is drop-outs and economic loss to the nation. This is a serious problem. It needs education to suit the contextual environment. Besides economics, there is a lack of perception about the importance of education in empowerment of the youth. Also more than 50% of our children below 5yrs of age are mal-nourished resulting in physical and mental deficiencies. This should be corrected immediately and subsequently they should be provided with nutritional mid-day meals and regular health check-ups in schools. In order to make education all pervading, adult literacy should be additional agenda to create a community better enabled to lead a more proactive life style.

  • Use modern technology & quality online learning material effectively to supplement classroom teaching & adult education.
  • Introduce after-school activities and vocational training for students, and illiterate & uneducated adults involving neighborhoods & community qualified volunteers.
  • Bridge supply-demand gap by augmenting existing network of schools using criteria sans political influences-apply scientific asset allocation approaches to optimize allocation.

a) Drop-outs: the objective is Zero drop-outs. Special attention, counseling, and mentoring are required for each such student (weak students should be identified in the beginning of the year) and may be special classes need to be provided after assessing their learning styles, speeds, preparedness, motivation, etc.

  • Special attention & innovative approaches needed.

b) Reservations: Establish Navodaya / Eklavya/ Navasarjan residential schools in every district/ sub-division to provide high quality education & learning only to the economically deprived individuals & communities, such as Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe. Thus phase-out current ‘reservation policy’ after 10yrs having resolved the problem of caste bias. (see my blog post on Reservations).

  • Superior solutions for inclusive growth of education & learning.

2. Excellent Schools: Provide increased opportunity and ecology to every individual of our country including those with intellectual & developmental disabilities to acquire the best possible education and learning at all levels, KG – 12, with effective implementation. In doing this, create more equitable and excellent schools and provide 21st century systems & processes of education & learning for all students with special emphasis on the girl child. Strengthen KG-12 school system in terms of quality teachers, modern & dynamic curriculum, excellent labs & infrastructure including ‘Tinkering’ lab in every school, sports & personal development facilities, etc.

  • Establish more Quality schools in rural & urban area to meet increasing demand.
  • Engage family and community in the process of educating children.

3. Education Process & Outcomes: Emphasize education and learning process and outcomes that encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, self-learning, life-long learning, communication, team work, collaboration rather than rote-learning. In this process, encourage & ignite inquisitiveness, enquiry, and creativity of every individual in the process of learning. The education & learning process should emphasize concepts, hands-on experience (experiential learning), practical skill development that prepares individuals for gainful employment, self- employment (entrepreneurship), and jobs for the future.

  • New paradigm & pedagogy for the 21st Century. Emphasize skill-sets.
  • Seriously consider establishing more schools based on novel schools such as Vigyan Ashram, Pabal model (vigyanashram.com).

a) Curriculum: Develop modern, dynamic curriculum of ‘adequate’ intensity/ extent – we teach too much in a subject and over-teach in a class that encourages memory rather than understanding concepts and applications. Emphasize depth in a few areas in each standard progressively from 1st to 12th standard, rather than shallow breadth in large number of areas in each standard. The Government – State & Centre should put in place through educational experts, a reasonably uniform curriculum with built-in flexibility, to be practiced nationally. CBSE curriculum is a good model to start with. Let there be an open debate on this issue.

  • It is time to initiate new Paradigm shift in education & learning. In every standard, include Ethics & Human Values.

b) Basic & Advanced courses: Define minimum level of understanding (Passing Grade C) in each subject that a student must possess – this will define basic courses such as basic Languages (Mother Tongue, Hindi, English,…), basic math, basic physics, etc. Offer also advanced level subjects such as higher Language, higher Math, etc. Competence in basic subjects in each standard should be the minimum requirement for promotion to higher standard instead of blanket promotion to higher standards as is done now up to 8th standard.

  • Emphasize minimum competence levels in each standard for the benefit of the students and their future.

c) Skill development: Every school should have mini machine shop, Tinkering lab for students to play with and develop skills depending upon each student’s ability and interest. Let the Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) & Polytechnics be managed by Private or Public Companies, Corporations, etc. with funding from the Government as is done successfully in some States.

  • Enhanced acquisition of job skills and training are essential elements for future work & employability. Emphasize working with hands in schools, right from standard 1.

4. Teachers: Develop innovative approaches to attract the best qualified individuals with passion, commitment & dedication for teaching that creates high quality teachers in very large numbers. Revamp the existing teacher training programs, BEd & MEd to create a new generation of teachers to play a more proactive role in the learning process.

  • Encourage Professional Associations, Rotary and such other Clubs, and other such Bodies to run Teacher Training Programs all over India, especially rural India to train 1,00,000 teachers per year. This is the most important issue that needs urgent attention and solution.
  • Provide attractive salary structure; avenues for career advancement; incentivize higher quality teachers; encourage development of learning material.

5. Autonomy & Governance: Establish innovative implementation and monitoring mechanisms/ processes for sustaining excellence in every school. One of the ways is to empower local bodies (Autonomy) to monitor implementation & sustenance of quality in teaching & learning with least interference by Government bodies in day-to-day management.

  • Encourage empowerment and distributed responsibility. Give responsibility to women of the community.

6. Quality Assurance: Establish norms in terms of (i) infrastructure; (ii) quality & quantity of teachers & learning resources; (iii) Delivery models for education that promote multiple learning styles & learning speeds; (iv) facilitate & promote good governance systems; (v) extracurricular programs for skill & personality development; (vi) Counseling & career guidance; (vii) Assessment systems that are student-friendly and tests not only students but also the system that trains her/ him; (viii) encourage involvement of all stakeholders in the nurturing of schools; (ix) provide an interactive forum for student opinions and suggestions with clear guidelines on the content and language.

  • Do all that is necessary to get the best out of an individual for a better and brighter future.

7. Education Partners: Industry & Corporations as Partner in the education process. Industries benefit through quality employees.

  • Business-education dynamic partnership is necessary for creating employable & skilled graduates (includes High School graduates).

Note: Each State has its own Board. The first unifying curriculum was the CBSE curriculum, which became operative at national level to meet the educational needs of children of transferable Central Govt. staff. Because of its national character, CBSE curriculum continued to evolve with curricular changes and NCERT books as texts used nationwide.  The political climate did not permit unification of the curriculum across the State Boards. With education becoming a lucrative business, several other Boards came up like ICSE, IGCSE, IB etc. This catered primarily to the needs of the economically endowed class. With the CBSE curriculum holding its position as the curriculum for entrance exams like JEE, and others, there are some moves by some schools to switch to CBSE from ICSE. For competitive advantage and ease of accreditation, many private schools have also opted for CBSE curriculum. Unfortunately, the State Boards continue to go their own independent ways with divergent academic standards and curriculum.

Another burning issue is the medium of instruction. English medium schools are rated superior to schools having vernacular medium as instruction. Students from the schools with vernacular medium of curriculum are often at a disadvantage. This has forced increasing number of parents from the economically disadvantaged group to seek admission to the English Medium Schools. This calls for a need to strengthen the educational system in the vernacular medium schools with a number of progressive reforms.  Can we sink political egos and come up with a uniform education system, which provides equal opportunity for all? Right to Education bill was presented as an augury for quality education. This has not achieved much in the short term. What is needed is an action plan for making RTE, a reality. There is a need to take a realistic assessment of education scene in terms of its reachability and effectiveness.

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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/.

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