As Covid 19 is making us traverse a journey from Synchronous to Asynchronous learning, several symptoms like loss of taste, smell and even a sense of proportion are in attendance now. When the entire world is short circuited, can the universities of the day be blamed for turning nose deaf too! Apocalypse is here and a new arc needs to be built.
The relationship between the industry and technology that is evolving at the speed of light and the universities adapting themselves to set syllabi at the speed of sound, in the indian context, where these are changed only after a period of three to five years, this is the time to recognise the new reality.
While the industry is moonwalking the education is leapfrogging. The variance lies in the form of six million graduates that pass out each year in India of which 60% are not job ready. This redundancy makes them easy recruits for terror and India has almost 200 districts mapped out 739 districts of India. That reduces the surface area to conduct business in India to only 73%.
Indias challenge is the lack of research in its universities and the burden of her history that has continued to produce her new czars only as new exponents of the Zamindari System. According to Nature Index Rising Stars, 51 of the top 100 Universities with improved research are from China. India has none. While the bigger Indian boys have produced mere cyber coolies that have helped create world class products in USA, they have not invested in either research nor encouraged IPRs.
The lack of new indigenous products and dismal IPR development has been the main reason for the lack of industry. The farmer is feted for his growth by the political parties but Re 0.40 worth of potatoes continue to be pacakged and sold at Rs 40/-. The red carpets are reserved for the visiting industrialists from Uncle Sam, that make Uncle chips out of potatoes. Can the reality be starker? Potato chips come from potatoes but these are different. Unless the industry inseminates the education system and not leave it at the mercy of the boards constituted to dwell and develop new syllabus after 3 long years, the gap will only widen. Can we introspect, then?
While most businesses focus on their growth and conducive environments merely, with scant attention paid to the cookie cutter at education that produces the graduates. It is time that we provoke a debate on the role of industry to create curriculum rather than leave it to the political pundits. That alone will ensure mainstreaming of the redundant element.
While apocalypse in the form of covid is here, it is now, more than ever, that makes it the most opportune and imperative time to create education supported by Industry. Ford said, If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse carriage. The world is idea led and market driven. Ideas come from constant research and refining and filing of patents. Ideas dont come from dead habit of outdated and redundant courseware or ideal research topics with no relevance to how these impact the world. It does not allow students to evolve with the industry expectations. The time is now and how!
Mahabharat though happened thousands of years ago, was also important for changing the course of learning mode among many other leading changes. Ekalavya, prince of Nishadha, when rejected as a student by his Master Dronacharya, for societal compulsions that existed then, still learnt Archery, a purely competency-based skill, in a la Distance / Online mode.
Can this be the watershed moment in delivery of modern education? Covid 19 will hasten the setting up of Universities of Future. What could they be? A University is a community of teachers and scholars. It must nurture academic freedom.
Its time that even Harvard invoked its basal spirit that it wears as its coat of arms proclaiming. VERITAS or truth. The time has come to free and unleash the truth using digital licensing and channels, rather than hold it captive behind mahogany and gilded doors.
It is time that Industry leaders adopted class rooms and students for skilling them on machine learning, IOT, AI tools all of which will make human discretion or even experience irrelevant rather than lament and be critical of our universities for not producing work-ready graduates.
An industry setting up a tool room or a workshop inside the threshold of a campus or online alone will create relevant versions of Swayam, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, LinkedIn, EdX and FutureLearn that are only crowding and spoiling the students and faculty for choices. Each one like a Pied piper selling dreams.
Moving forward, in the quest for universities of future, blended learning involving online on one hand and brick and mortar on the other hand is an imperative today. IIT-Bombay has adapted itself to the online dissemination already and it is time that we reinvent education rather than allow some private players to arbitrage on hefty premiums only to contribute to the 46% Job not ready graduates. It is ironical that there is no standardisation of fees even though the syllabus comes from the same mint prescribed by the governemnt.
Industry 4.0 and massive automation requires labour 4.0 to drive its engines. Cyber-physical system (CPS) is all pervasive, where collaborating computational elements control the physical entities. An era of alignment between man and machine that will enable new possibilities on levels that were only depicted in sci-fi films is dawning on us. People will start communicating with machines instead of just operating them, creating a beautiful hybrid of the Internet of People (IoP) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Our Industry must be game enough to assimilate and not just handhold such necessities in future rather get hand in glove with the education. That if it wants to save the productive surface of area for doing business from shrinking further than the 75% available to them today
So, what must Universities of future look like? Blended learning for sure, will form a part of the new paradigm. Several iterations later, we may comfortably be using a 30:70 or 40:60 model of online to offline ratios. A future University must explore different organisational structures that will have different business models, will have cooperative structures enhancing interdisciplinary learning and have new concepts for faculties and departments.
We rest our case on two planks: First, the industry cannot expect the child it wants without having to go into labor and second, the education today must become dynamic and learn to shed the bureaucracy around the syllabus revision that currently happens every once in four years or so.
The future universities will be places where university and industry will be co-located and collaborate on projects that solve real-world problems. They must drive innovation within their precincts actively applying research and filing relevant IPRs that can impact the community rather than creating coolies. One hopes that the powers be, in both education and Industry meet to ensure that they waltz together rather than ignore the 60% unemployable or the 200 districts which may not be conducive for industry or business.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.