Millennium Post

Blending teaching with technology

The National Knowledge Commission’s (NKC) recommendations for creating 1,500 innovative universities within the 12th Plan seem to go unattended at present due to inadequate outreach of new technologies in higher education. By the new technology it is meant, imparting education and skills through application of new methods and novel teaching aids. Blending the latest teaching methods and the new techno-centric aids would alone draw the younger generation to learn, explore and gather knowledge and thus contribute to the societal growth, it is believed in the NKC.

Quality indeed was the targeted norms for such new education, as envisaged by the NKC. Much water has flown down under the rivers of this country thereafter, yet the gap between the annual target gross enrolment ratio (GER) and the actual GER widens every year. According to the UGC it is only 13 per cent of the national formative agegroup of 17 to 23. In 2009, Prof VNR Pillai-led IGNOU had posted 14 per cent of the national GER, which was at 14 per cent, according some UGC sources.

W N Gade, vice chancellor of Pune University, who delivered a wish-list on the occasion of the university’s 106th convocation ceremony earlier last month, reported to have said, ‘We will bring in skill development component in curriculum in association with the state government and the National Skills Development Corporation. To ensure undoubted research quality, we have adopted anti-plagiarism practices by introducing software-based verification.’

Of course, he touched upon the need to bring reforms in all areas and revise higher education curricula to make them need-based and a practical credit system. Students have to be provided with facilities needed for a holistic learning .

However, all the good talks are about the higher education. Not enough was said about the vocational or skill-based and need-based training, teaching and learning methods and processes to achieve that.

The budget for education and skills development for the new fiscal allocated to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) has been upped by 17 per cent at Rs 65,867 crore and for Sarv Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) by over 25 per cent at Rs 27,258 crore. This apart, a separate fund of Rs 3,983 crore was allocated for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), which also is more than the current year’s allocation. Money is not the constraint therefore. Why then does the GER falter? Why again Research and Development is a continual cry in the country? Why the burgeoning population (now at 140 crore) has to make do with mere 600 universities? Why the 1,500 innovative universities are still impossibility, buried under Plan papers? Scholars across the country on condition of anonymity have raised doubts about the success claims at SSA. Some even go to say that is a den of making unaccounted money for some.

Scholars, who work in the grassroots in SSA and MNREGA schemes every other day, feel that selection of people for various training or learning schemes in rural areas have not brought desired results. Probably the selection process was at fault.

The corporate quality coach Amit Chatterjee, managing director of American Society for Quality (ASQ) India, responded, ‘You cannot expect underemployed intellectual class to be affective and give results as the graduates and post graduates, demotivated due to the mismatch of skills, if you depute them to do vocational jobs in which the matriculates of the under graduates would be more effective.’

‘Vocational training centres to should abound in the country, and create skills matching needs of the industry.’ ASQ is a global community with reputation and outreach to bring together diverse quality champions who are transforming the world’s corporations, organisations, and communities to meet tomorrow’s critical challenges. It is engaged in the country in building up skills at workplaces. Its experiences, therefore, matter. This is an avoidable pit in a grand roadmap for development. Says Professor D Gopal, president of All India University Teachers’ Organisation (AIUTO), who is also the head of the department of Political Science at Indira Gandhi National Open University: ‘The country needs to build up new innovative universities as envisaged by the National Knowledge Commission as the skills development centres. Youngsters from rural interiors have to be drawn to train on skills acquiring, and for that, you need to rope in experts to impart training which are among the best practices of the world.

Unfortunately what happens in the country is that the most brilliant engineers, doctors from affluent families go abroad for more money and enrich economy of other countries. When you cannot stop this trend, you at least need to develop skills among the talents who are not from affluent families. Another way is, raise the attraction level of the jobs, to stop the brain drain. Sadly, we are not doing either.’ An essential aspect of this failure is absence of pro-active roles of the universities to support research. Less GER means lessening the numbers of researchers. ‘The universities should take lead in promoting research for development. In foreign countries, it is universities which promote research and not the governments.

Hence, the brain drain is a natural result in India’, said Prof Gopal. ‘Barring a few, our universities do not have funds to promote research. Specially those which earn as good as about Rs 200 crore a year, must be able to invest half that money for original primary research. That alone can stop plagiarism found in research papers these days.’

Prof Gopal is vindicated as the Pune University Vice Chancellor Gade stressed that plagiarism in research is the only ghost the universities are fighting. The reason is absence of scope to do primary research, or to be precise, absence of funds for that purpose. (IPA)
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