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Academics Post Corona

Disruptions have ruled our lives and businesses for at least a decade now. Today’s millennial swears by the quote “Disrupt or be disrupted”. Innovative disruptions have indeed set up OLA, UBER, Amazon, Netflix and others. Several innovators across the globe have been trying different ideas in the hope that theirs will be the best. That COVID 19 is proving to be the master disruptor of them all, is a little hard to believe, for it has not spared any business, small or big. Education which has always been loath to changes hasn’t been spared either. Academicians and their administrators have been running in circles in search of credible ideas that can solve two important problems in days to come. One immediate, of salvaging the current academic terms and the other, the long term. We have almost 40 million students enrolled in Higher education, in more than 45000 colleges and almost 1000 universities spread across the length and breadth of the country. The GER of higher education is still only 26. There are However, tremendous challenges in scaling those numbers. Post Corona, what? will be a momentous and consequential time for everyone.

 

For a start, the academic work left uncompleted, at the end of February in our institutions and universities cannot be completed, unless out of box ideas emerge. Collaborations with various credible Online educators on Online learning platforms must be actively pursued, so that the remaining academics is completed. The end semester/year examinations must be abandoned except for those in their final semester/Year, assessment limited to continuous evaluation, that was anyway a part of a semester or yearlong appraisals. A majority of examinations were anyway, an exercise in futility and were actually ineffective in assessing the true potential and only added to the mental torment of the student accentuated as it is by the delayed and improperly assessed results. If one were to be a little more adventurous, the final year/semester students could even be evaluated on the basis of the average score of the earlier two semesters along with an online objective assessment of the current one, with due credit given to the scores earned in continuous evaluation. This will at least allow the new academic term to begin on time. The companies wanting to place these students in their midst will However, need to be on board. They will, for an assessment is always relative, whatever form it may take.

 

Now, for the long-term Post COVID 19 scenario. Can this period be seen as an opportunity to improvise and implement long term policies to completely overhaul the existing teaching learning paradigms? Eight out of 10 students in the country do not have access to ranked universities, which are probably the ones with the greatest resources in teaching and research besides our universities are not designed for an age of rapid technological change, global interconnectedness, and shifting labour market needs. Still, can we pair unranked universities with ranked universities to ramp up the quality of higher education? This too has a downside, for it could be counterproductive as well.

 

Can we radically realign our priorities in education and alter the quality of graduates we produce? Can we Assure Quality rather than just Accredit our universities? Quality Assurance must include all policies, measures, planned processes and actions through which the quality of higher education is maintained and developed. Our policies must consider competency-based skills that help employability. This will require serious re-aligning of the curriculum. Post Corona, one cannot possibly find a job for everyone. Entrepreneurship skills and substantive leadership skills to be taught in our institutions becomes imperative. Enabling one to be an entrepreneur will be the task for the government.

 

Within our Institutions and Universities, quality education must be made accessible to masses. Complete choice-based credits with utmost flexibility, Multipoint entry-exit, and lifelong learning must be the tenets. Skills must be seamlessly built into the curriculum. A student’s registration to an institution must be valid for, as long as the student chooses to complete the course.

 

The Universities must only be facilitators and enablers. Nothing else. They must enable technology platforms to provide Choice based education and Online training-evaluation processes. They must research the markets and create an almanac that facilitates students to choose the courses to pursue. Each course must project its outcomes with an industry component. They must enable boot camps. Programs currently are cast in stone and cannot innovate. A set of core courses across disciplines along with an exhaustive list of specializations can increase the employability multifold besides breaking down the many artificial barriers we have created between what we see as Science and Technology and Arts and Commerce. A multi-faceted individual, probably trained in life sciences and social sciences along with technical skills will only do better in a post Corona world. Knowledge of a foreign language will be the X factor.

 

The universities must now facilitate Online learning. Besides improving outcomes and allowing cross disciplinary studies, it comes at a fraction of the price. Until the content improves with the local providers, there must be a large-scale investment in sourcing effective content from wherever it is available. A conscious move to blended learning must be encouraged. A 50:50 assessment model of credits between skills and knowledge can be a starting point. Acquiring required competencies and minimum credits must be stressed upon rather than marking them on a scale of 1-100. That such curriculum can be periodically reviewed by industry experts is looking into the future. Mandatary completion of minimum credits can ensure continuous professional development.

 

With examinations and assessment being what they are, is it not adding salt to injury when results are declared when no one cares? Post Corona, can we not dispense with these end semester / end year examinations altogether? Credits can always be earned on continuous evaluation and bi monthly objective assessments, all of which can be online. We have technology that is fool proof to conduct online objective examinations.

 

A serious concern is that, we do not have a single university in the country today, that can bail us out of this Corona induced lockdown and consequent misery. Our future universities must be places, which coexist with the industry and become large multi-product, multi-process and multifunctional businesses. At a time when the government funding has not been generous, should they not collaborate on projects that solve real-world problems? Only then will they become precincts of innovation, that actively apply research for community impact besides being self-reliant.

 

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