I think this is a key challenge, not only in India, but across the world. It is every bit as important as the quality of educational technology and content in our classrooms.
I am, so far, largely untouched by what I see in India (and maybe I have limited experience). The first problem, and the most important one that I see, is the lack of open dialogue. Yes, we have conferences, retreats and closed door discussions where people sit together and make policy or strategy. But these are only that – closed and non-transparent.
We need a system that encourages dialogue. But not in the way handled traditionally viz. by stating platitudes like comments are always welcome and it is a big challenge and we need all the help we can get. We need a concerted effort to create academic and professional spaces for educators which brings down barriers and allows at least the new generation to explore the issues, deliberate on them, propose specific solutions and generate consensus.
The starting point will be to do a volte face and state that we do not understand the problems, far less the solutions. The mindset today is that everyone is an expert in educational matters in India (and some probably can hold this claim). But like in all crises, there will be key influencers who, through popular media, will shape the popular opinion.
Today’s news provides a lucid example of what I am trying to say.
The piece on the left talks about a group of 200 central and state university vice-chancellors pulling their weight on the implementation of a semester system and an assessment of teachers by students. The writer’s opinion, substantiated, h/she claims by the HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, is that these suggestions were lofty and the minister recognized the difficulty in implementation of these ideas.
The writer also expressed another shared (with Sibal) surprise. Sibal had to remind the VCs about their big miss on recommendations on the reform of the examination and admissions processes.
I think the first audit that must be immediately done is of the skills of our educators, their credentials and contributions – whether in government or outside. Apparently leadership is lacking. The VCs in the news report are making this statement in the midst of anti-semester system protests by a large number of teachers.
Pitroda, Chairman, Innovation Council, India, in the clip on the right, distils his experience and wisdom by saying “Only technology and innovation can save (obsolete) higher education in India” and thinks incubation centres and longer working hours are the key to success.
If we don’t have good leaders manning the institutions, we are cutting off our legs and trying to run. Just wondering if anyone has studied how many educational administrators India really has. Off the cuff, about 30,000 would be heading universities and colleges; at the district level, across the 600 districts, there should be 8-10 key people; add about 100 per state others in and across boards, councils etc. (say) 3000 and add in another 5000 in other key positions – that should make it close to 50,000 educational administrators. I think that would be an understatement, but like the number of crows in the city of Akbar and Birbal’s Agra, this is just a guess.
We must build an open and structured dialogue that acknowledges inputs globally and presents a cogent forum that represents both problems and possible solutions. It is immediately critical to evaluate between competing Educational Futures for India. Rhetoric will see us missing the boat once again, creating far higher unemployment and divides.
There is only the difference of an “i” between “running and ruining” our future. Let us subsume the “I”.