75 EDUCATION THOUGHT LEADERS DELIBERATED OVER THREE DAYS
The APAC Higher Edtech Innovation Conclave that witnessed a confluence of academia and industry ended on Friday which happens to be March 19 which coincidentally was the day when the coronavirus pandemic hit India and the world forcing all educational institutions to close their gates.
Even as pandemic the world is coming to grips thanks to the fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology, education did not come to a standstill and online learning and teaching became a reality. The last day of the virtual conclave witnessed three sessions namely; ‘Digital Resilience in Higher Education’, ‘Disruptions in Higher Education: India’s Opportunities in 2021 and Beyond’ and ‘Funding and Financing of Education Institutions & Role of Government.
Dr Mohit Gambhir, Innovation Director, MoE’s Innovation Cell was of the opinion that India has been over the years making progress in the Innovation Index but it has the potential to be among the top 10 countries.” While there is no refuting the fact that online education became the order for universities and institutions that scaled up, Nikhil Agarwal, CEO FIRST & C3i Hub, IIT Kanpur drew the attention of panelists to the issue of access to the online content that was developed. He added, “32 crore students do not have laptops and among those many were from IITs who could not take advantage of the online content.”
Blended learning would be the way forward
There was no dispute on the hybrid way of learning which would in all probability be the future of education. The pandemic wrought a lot of challenges but it has also brought opportunities. According to B S Murty, Director, IIT Hyderabad digital learning has opened up new vistas as one can now think of teaching in local languages and could also reach out to rural students who otherwise are at a disadvantage. He questions, “”Can we start teaching in local languages and go to rural areas? Digital learning can do that.”
The Northeastern region of India has been neglected and the government is looking to the region. Col B Venkat, Director, AICTE shared, “Guwahati has been identified as nodal centre to roll out schemes and funding to the North East region of the country. Education cannot be stopped, pandemic notwithstanding.”
Labs for all
In what can be termed as the new normal, laboratories in universities are now developing labs in which students from different streams could go to, for instance, Prof. P. B. Sunil Kumar, Director, IIT Palakkad during the session informed that they were coming up with an electronics lab which would throw its doors open to students from all streams. Likewise, Sharda University too is developing labs on the basis of experiential learning. Dr Sibaram Khara, Vice Chancellor, Sharda University said, “We have designed a new curriculum with multi-disciplinary system and our labs would be places to solve problems.”
Dr Shasi Anand Sridharan, Vice President, Kalasalingam University said, “Govt of India has come out with a suite of virtual labs and we too are developing virtual labs but we need more.”
Funding has been a major issue for all universities be it central or private universities. The panelists were unanimous that the government has a major role to play and bridge the gap in funding and come to the aid of private universities as well. Prof. K. Rama Mohana Rao, Vice-Chairman, AP State Council of Higher Education said, “Private universities need to scale up and not just confine themselves to be teaching universities but also places for research.”
Prof Prem Vrat, Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT (ISM) Dhanbad and IIT said, “Form of ownership should not be the only criteria and private universities should be transparent. There is a disparity in allocation of funds.” He added, “Once funding happens, freedom, flexibility and autonomy would follow.”
“In a post crisis world also there would be a hybrid form. Students are eager to get back to campuses. Foreign students too can look at India.” Hersh Shah, CEO, India Affiliate of the Institute of Risk Management.