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Education should teach Life-Skills

Higher education needs revamp. Benjamin Franklin said “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” That’s what the NEP too suggests. Can we use the opportunity to improvise and implement long term policies that not just teach work, but teach life? 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. Further, our universities are not even designed for digital transformation, global interconnectedness, and shifting labour market needs. As an innovative exercise, can we pair unranked universities with the ranked ones in a bid to ramp up the quality of higher education, the downside of such a move notwithstanding? Is not discovery of our own ignorance also education?

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. With layoffs being the norm today, it is imperative to teach entrepreneurship skills in addition to substantive leadership skills. An additional pressure is, making quality education accessible to all.

Complete choice-based credits with complete flexibility, Multipoint entry-exit, and lifelong learning as NEP suggests must be adopted early. Skills must be seamlessly built into the curriculum and must not be imparted in silos.

Disruptions have ruled our lives and businesses for at least a decade now. Today’s children swear by the quote “Disrupt or be disrupted”. However, without a guiding spirit, that thought can be counterproductive. Innovative disruptions have indeed set up OLA, UBER, Amazon, Netflix and others. For each one that is successful, there have been hundreds that failed.

National pride dictates that everything is produced inhouse. However, a completely globalised world doesn’t work like that anymore. Success is built into what and how much is outsourced. Collaborations with various credible Online educators on Online learning platforms and third party content must be actively pursued. Assessment methodologies must transform too. Year-end or semester-end examinations must be abandoned for continuous evaluation. The current examination system is an exercise in futility and is ineffective in assessing the true potential of a student. Add to it the delayed and improperly assessed results, the circle of misery is complete.

Current programs are cast in stone and difficult to change. A set of core courses across disciplines along with an exhaustive list of specializations, designed intelligently to fit available job roles, can increase employability many times. This can even break the artificial barriers we have created between basic, applied, social and life sciences. Only a student trained in life and social sciences along with technical skills will become a better citizen. The X factor will be the knowledge of a foreign language.

The future universities must only be facilitators and enablers. Nothing else. They must use technology tools and must digitally transform. They must research the markets and create an almanac that facilitates students to choose the courses to pursue. Each course must project its outcomes and should be based on industry needs. They must also enable boot camps.

The universities must facilitate blended and Online learning on digital platforms. It comes at a fraction of face-to-face price. Instead of trying to source all content from within, there must be a large-scale investment in sourcing effective content from wherever it is available. A 50:50 assessment model of credits between skills and knowledge can be a starting point. Acquiring required competencies and a certain minimum credit must be the key rather than marking on a scale of 1-100. Involving competent industry professionals in all academic processes can only raise the bar on quality.

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. The government must understand that the philosophy it adopts in class rooms today, will be the philosophy it might want to follow when it returns to power.

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