Global practices needed in HIGHER EDUCATION

The world is at the threshold of a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) which will be characterised by the interaction of renewable sources of energy and the internet as the means of communication. It will have fve pillars which are: (1) shifting to renewable energy (2) transforming the building stock of every continent into micro power plants (3) deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies (4) using information technology to create energy sharing internet and, (5) converting the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles.

Professional higher education in the country has witnessed a maelstrom of change over the last two to three decades wherein the number of universities, institutions and programme offerings have in general altered signifcantly. However, in recent years many institutions have faced closure due to drop in enrollments particularly in programmes like Management and Engineering. These developments point towards general deterioration in quality of education. Fortunately, there are some new-age universities that have taken the lead in implementing systems and processes which were till now practised in some of the advanced countries.

The success of these universities has highlighted the need for some of the practices that need to be adopted by other Indian Universities and Institutions to remain relevant and serve the purpose of their existence.

The fve most important practices are: One, the institutions should offer education that is interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary. Our real life is not single-disciplinary so why should education be? The inter-disciplinary approach ensures that the learners are able to see the relevance and application of one discipline into the other. In a trans-disciplinary approach to learning, the students learn to integrate knowledge of more than one discipline together to address a real-life issue.

Two, there should be research orientation at undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels. For this, the pedagogy will have to shift the learning to take place outside the classrooms and be more project-based and be based on scholarly reviews.

Three, the industry and academia should forge alliances to enable students to work on live projects involving real problems faced by the industry. A good way to do this can be that faculty members undertake consultancy assignments and sponsored projects and the students be involved in them.

Four, the education should have global orientation. Students and faculty members will have to move across national boundaries more often for short term international exchange programmes, summer schools and winter schools in foreign universities, study abroad programmes, joint research initiatives, etc.

Five, to successfully adopt and implement these four practices, the pedagogy will have to improve and become student centric. Lesser time in classrooms, independent as well as group studies, environmental awareness and keeping in touch with developments in relevant disciplines will have to be encouraged.

The systems and processes developed to ensure this will need design thinking becoming all pervasive and academicians thinking in terms of Costs and Benefts. Creating something tangible will take education in an entirely new direction. Needless to say, we will also need to relook the evaluation methods used and the time devoted by teachers on the same will increase.