To study with body and mind

As an electronics engineer in the 80s, Santosh Kumar Choubey’s calling was bridging urban-rural, digital and developmental divide through science and technology education. For fulfilling this mission, he set up the All India Society for Electronics and Computer Technology (AISECT) in 1985. As the founder-chancellor of five universities currently, including AISECT, C.V. Raman University and Rabindranath Tagore University (RNTU) and a pioneer in rural skill development, Choubey discusses the relevance of skill-based education in India. Excerpts:

To study with body and mind

RNTU claims to be a skill-based university. What is the rationale behind having ‘skill’ at the heart of your curriculum?

AISECT has been conducting skill development training since the last 35 years. And what I believe is that skills must be developed while the student is in college. It must not be dealt separately from education.

What kind of skills are being imparted?

Both soft and hard skills. Each student at RNTU must acquire at least one skill per semester so that by the time they graduate, theywould have imbibed five-six of them. A commerce student, for instance, can learn tele-accounting simultaneously while she/he studies theory.

We have Pradhan Mantri Koushal Kendra (PMKK) for vocational training and Atal Incubation Centre (ATC) for entrepreneurial skill enhancement on campus. Currently, ATC has about 175 projects in the areas of agriculture, information technology and material science.

We have language labs as well -- in English, French, German and Japanese. English lab facilitates students and faculty from rural areas in sharpening their spoken English.

To study with body and mind

What are the other labs and workshops on campus?

Apart from these, Tata Motors, Voltas and companies working on solar energy, cloud computing, welding etc. have their workshops on campus.

You have programmes in agriculture and nursing apart from those in the popular fields such as management and engineering.

We need to recognise that there is a disconnection between the kinds of jobs required on the field and the areas and skill-sets with which students are graduating every year. For this, we first conducted a survey of the kind of jobs relevant to rural areas, particularly to central India before designing our schools and programmes. It helped in identifying sectors that lacked skilled workers. For instance, textiles, gems and jewellery. We also observed the cold storage facilities along River Narmada needed competent managers. So it was ‘local demand’ that prompted us to come up with such programmes and skill-sets which are usually neglected by urban private universities.

Do you then provide domicile quota for Madhya Pradesh or Central Indian students?

No. We only have SC/ST quota right now. Engineering candidates come through JEE. For meritorious students we do provide various types of scholarships.

To study with body and mind

What kind of support systems have you built for students to network and find suitable jobs?

In our entrepreneurial network there are about 20,000 successful entrepreneurs who support interested students. We have also set up a Rojgar Mantra Placement Portal where students regularly update their resumes and this helps companies find suitable employees regularly.

What is the percentage of students studying at RNTU from South India?

There are about 150 students from the southern four states out of the total 6000. Many students from Andhra and Telangana have joined our agriculture programmes and students from Karnataka mostly opt for engineering.

There are around 300 full time faculty members and 70 percent of them are Ph.D. holders.

Has the employability enhanced because of skill-based education?

Indeed. Employability at RNTU has increased from 25 percent to 65 in the last seven years. For campus placements we concentrate on unorganised sectors and grassrootindustries such as insurance, agri-marketing, banking etc. Last year, about 15 graduates of RNTU were selected as district level judges. Many have taken up teaching, managing cold storage units, food processing and other grassroots jobs.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 9:26:40 AM |

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