The year 2004-5 was when the McKinsey report came, saying that only 25 per cent of Indian graduates are employable. That was the first shock to the Indian education system. The main problem at that time was lack of job skills. We were good in programming, coding etc but were found lacking in team work, management jobs and skills. Immediately, the institutions and industry took corrective steps by strengthening and reinforcing curriculum. Industries started campus connect programmes.
The immediate concern, of course, is jobs being lost or jobs not being created. But the bigger worry is the kind of skills expected in the next generation jobs. And, we are not ready. The jobs that are now being talked about are data analytics, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning etc. A lot of universities don’t have these courses. We anticipated this and started these courses. We have electives for our undergraduate students and have even started masters in some of these courses. We have masters in big data science, in cloud computing. We have identified technology jobs and given the right kind of mix to students. So, to an extent, we have insulated the gap between learning and careers.
We need to have the right training leading to jobs, design and creativity in product designs in engineering. That’s what we need to do. We work with Srishti School of Design, Bangalore. We need to look at how we can involve more such schools for starting design programmes.
What is the biggest challenge in education as far as private universities are concerned?
For an institute like Manipal, we have no problem. But I can’t say it is the same for every institute. You got to have professional development, find means of sending teachers back to industries every summer, just like students.
Why does India have such a small pool of teachers?
One is entry level, someone who is just out of college. Our own students join the faculty and sometimes teach for one or two years before they make up their minds about their future. To me, this is a tragedy. Our best students are satisfied with one university degree and at age 21 go and join a company they are lost to education forever. They are not pursuing their masters, not doing research and ceasing to be students. All they want is a good job. A good job means a well-paid job. Now, the ones who don’t get a job turn to teaching as a profession.
In the medical post-graduation, for example, a part of the assessment is how well you teach. Pedagogy is an assessment in medical school and not anywhere else. So, by inclination, medical students come back into teaching. In engineering, it is different. There is no mechanism of introducing them to the pleasure of teaching.
Retaining a good faculty is a challenge. Is it all about money?
Money is one aspect. If you look at a typical teacher’s mindset, what does he want? It is not always money. He wants a good place to work, he wants a caring employer, he wants a quality of life which is near-ideal, he wants certain protection against the fear of loss of job, he wants assurances about healthcare and his children’s education. Some of our best teachers are the ones who have stayed for 30 and 40 years.
Why do universities restrict themselves to teaching and producing graduates?
That is one of the least important for a university. For me, one of the most important things is research and the impact it can have on society. But, everybody can’t be a great research scholar nor can everybody be a great teacher. We have created a directorate of research, with a director for health sciences and a director for technical education. These take care of the research by creating awareness across the university on how to make use of researchers.
We have invested in research equipment, laboratories, people, data-based work and tools for analysis. We have incentivized research, depending on the impact factor and publication.
First Published on Sooper Article and Latter here.