Experts at the CII summit discuss the challenges before the education system

All talk and no action will lead us nowhere: this was the verdict, loud and clear, as the experts put down their views and suggestions during the various sessions organised as part of the 15th edition of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) ‘National summit on quality in education’ held in Bangalore on September 14, 15.

The theme of the summit was ‘Innovate, lead, share: redefining delivery of quality education’. The Hindu was the media partner for the event which was inaugurated by the Higher Education Minister C.T. Ravi.

S. Vaitheeswaran, Managing Director and CEO, Manipal Global Education Services, who delivered the keynote address, stressed on the urgency of the situation, as 60 per cent of India’s population belongs to the age group of 18 to 30. By 2020, the average age of Indians will be 27 years, compared to 37 of the U.S., 45 of Japan and 38 of China, he said. By then, there will be an additional 30 million youth who will enter the higher education space, posing both as a challenge as well as an opportunity, he explained.

Technology

The role of the use of technology in education was debated upon. Mr. Vaitheeswaran advocated using technology to leverage education. Citing the example of his own company, he said, “In Manipal, the percentage of student enrolment from online student acquisition network used to be three per cent. In the last two years, this has reached close to 40 per cent. Had it not been for technology, it would be difficult to reach anywhere near the present figure (of total strength of students).”

About the digitisation of examinations, he quoted the system of National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), which has gone digital recently. Technology should be leveraged not just for scale but also for quality, he said. He also hailed distance learning programmes for making giant strides across the world.

However, A.M. Kaveriappa, executive director, Karnataka State Higher Education Council (KSHEC), said online education poses the risk of making the teacher-student relationship obsolete. “Nothing like the chalk doing the talk,” he said.

Mr. Kaveriappa also made a case for enhancing the thinking capacity and called for a system of testing students on aptitude and not just merit.

Curriculum revision

He also stressed on the need for regular revision of curriculum as well as the selection of teachers not just based on qualification but also on their skills.

The session also debated on the present schooling system, as well as the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE).

Amit Kaushik, managing director, Educomp Infrastructure and School Management Ltd., spoke about the lack of changes made to the education system. “The education system established by the British (Raj) was to produce subordinates. That has not changed at all. Time has come to change the education system, not discuss about it. The last national policy on education was issued 26 years ago,” he said.

Mr. Kaushik said only 15 per cent of schools in India were under private managements, but all regulations and policies were formulated for them alone.

The substitutes for the Act, such as letting private schools “adopt” local government schools instead of the 25 per cent quota for disadvantaged children in the private schools, were discussed.

However, Mr. Kaushik said the RTE Act comes with good intentions as “the accident of birth should not determine what school a child should go to.” But the ‘one size fits all’ formula needs to be relooked into, he added.

Key words

S. Chandrashekhar, chairman of the summit, said the present education system focuses on facts and figures, thus killing creativity. “Quality and innovation are the key words,” he added.

K.N. Shenoy, past chairman, CII Institute of Quality, said innovation was required in four verticals – industry, service, education and governance. “While there is progress in the first three, not much progress has been made in the last one,” he pointed out.

Minister C.T. Ravi said quality education in India was still a distant dream. “Educational degrees have utter irrelevance to a student’s professional and personal life. Education should be a highly individualised process.” He assured the participants that the suggestions that come out of the summit will be considered by the government.

This was in response to the appeal made by the speakers for “courage to weed out the systems that don’t work and a greater role for the private sector in education.”

Mr. Ravi also spoke about bringing back those golden days when the world looked at India for avenues of education during the times of Nalanda and Takshashila. The inferiority complex that has set into the Indian mindset needs to change, he said.

Quality enhancement

During a session on ‘Setting the stage for innovation in quality, education: building a culture of innovation’, Thomas C. Mathew, Vice-Chancellor, Christ University, threw light on ‘quality enhancement’ rather than just ‘quality assurance.’ “Attendance and good grades stand for quality assurance. We need quality enhancement through pedagogy, methodology and curriculum. Lots of importance is given to curriculum, but it is really not a big deal,” he said.

The role of the teacher was discussed. Ryan Pinto, CEO of the Ryan Group of Institutions, said no one can replace a teacher, but the role of a teacher had changed to being that of a facilitator, as students these days have access to the answers through technology.

A report ‘CII Institute of Quality Education excellence initiative: a decade in review’, prepared with the help of students from the Centre for Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB), was released on the occasion.

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