Need for skills: Why India’s education needs to embrace some changes

Evolving times demand different kinds of skill sets and the adoption of new methods for better productivity and overall, a better living. This applies to all sectors, no exceptions. As education is the basic element for forging a rewarding life, this knowledge sector should be the first in adopting new skills and methodologies. The pandemic, from which we are just emerging, highlights the changes we need in education. When the pandemic struck, education was forced to quickly adopt new pedagogical methods and students had to master new digital and interpersonal skills with a never before agility.

Improved pedagogical methods upgrade the quality of learning. Similarly, upskilling is beneficial for students’ future and by natural corollary the entire economy as today’s students’ make-up tomorrow’s workforce. There are two current game-changers in Indian higher education – one, adoption of digital and remote learning and, two, the flexibility set to be offered with the implementation of the NEP 2020.

The year 2020 taught us to adopt digital and remote performance routes in all aspects of our life notwithstanding our readiness, willingness or understanding of technology. While remote learning via the digital route has many advantages, some disadvantages have also been flagged. Students have experienced some difficulty in understanding, unclear concepts, boredom setting in, sleepiness, changes in the work-rest-recreation cycle, and lack of physical connect with faculty and classmates. They have also lost crucial hours in unproductive activities like binge watching web series, excessive use of social media, and over-involvement in video games leading to attention and discipline deficits.

However, the advantages of digital, online, and remote learning far outweigh the disadvantages. It saves the time spent in commuting which can be utilised for productive activities like reading more books or pursuing a hobby. Digital learning also gives unlimited access to recordings and possibility to explore further web-based resources for enhanced clarity or collecting in-depth knowledge. Students can also use this time for doing online internships, part-time online jobs or teaching other students which helps them prepare for real life.

In the pandemic times, not only students, even executives and homemakers utilised their time to upskill by judiciously joining several online courses, webinars and conferences which were otherwise inaccessible to them. It also granted them an opportunity to interact with the best of professors, industry experts and thinkers. Interacting with people from different geographies widened their horizons as well. For students in higher education courses, digital resources like virtual labs gave them 24x7x365 access to essential software and programs for skill and knowledge enhancements. Learners also utilised the time to gain expertise in various arts and crafts which were available through digital modes.

As we once again move towards complete physical learning, it is imperative that we balance the best of both worlds – physical and virtual, for best of learning outcomes. We can continue to record the lectures and make it accessible to everyone so that the slow learners can get multiple opportunities to learn and review their preparations. We should also continue to encourage online internships and part-time/ temporary jobs which help students receive hands-on experience and gain necessary confidence of performing from day-1 in their permanent jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Furthermore, the universities should promote incubation labs for generating various start-up ideas and play a role of mentor/ catalyst for nurturing these ideas into flourishing businesses. These efforts bear just fruits when they produce multiple job opportunities, create wealth, find alternatives to imports, and contribute to the nation’s progress.

Under the New Education Policy, the freedom and flexibility available with the universities and institutions to make their programs flexible, modular, and completely relevant to Industry 4.0 and Education 4.0 should be utilised fully to bring in more and more learners in the folds of higher education. Opportunities of “Earning while Learning” should be created for the learners from disadvantaged sections of the society. The university-industry integration should be such that top educationists should be able to contribute to the industry by sharing their research and innovation ideas to convert them into innovative products and services. At the same time, top industry experts should be able to share their professional experiences with young minds about to embark on their professional journeys. This industry-education institutions collaboration can create a pathway for sustainable and meaningful development through industry-led institutions.

India can well be on the path towards becoming a world leader and guide, if its people, government, and industry adopt new ways of learning and shed the baggage of age-old practices and processes. New practices can give eager learners enough confidence to stay within the country instead of moving out and working for other countries. Adapting new methods and skills can be the first step towards revolutionising the learning and performance ecosystem in the country.

(The writer is Associate Dean & Director, RICS School of Built Environment)


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