Quo Vadis Higher Education?

Quo Vadis literally means “Where are you going?”. But where the current Indian higher education system is heading to, is something that concerns Pankaj Chandra – Vice Chancellor and Chairman at Ahmedabad University and Ex-director at IIMB.

On the second and final day of Bangalore Literature Festival, Pankaj Chandra along with S Raghunath – professor of Corporate Strategy and Policy at IIMB – explained the issues, and challenges in Indian higher education system and also threw some light on what could be the possible solutions or ways to obtain a system that can help students rise up to their potential.

Some might argue that it is the grass root level where we have work to do and that we have to improve the primary education system which actually shapes a child into the student that he or she becomes. Reflecting on this argument, Pankaj had a little story to tell.

A good 5 years ago, he and few of his students, went to a college to audit a vocational course in commerce. When they reached the college and went to the classroom, they saw that the teacher was teaching ‘fractions’ to 17-year-old students; students who have already done their 12th. The students said that they simply had forgotten how to. This incident worked as a catalyst for Pankaj, and he decided to put his efforts into redesigning and reshaping the Indian higher education system into a better one.

Pankaj is a believer of hands-on education. “Why can we not teach theory in a laboratory? Why can we not teach sociology in a more real-life situation where we get to understand several nuances of social relationships much better. Everything should be a nose in and hands out. Building something has to become fun because doing something is actual learning.” – says Pankaj.

In order to learn, students have to experiment more and to experiment more, students need to have more freedom, and this brings down the topic of – giving higher education institutes more freedom and autonomy.

We have to choose content and pedagogy over the volume of content, argues Pankaj. Studying more simply doesn’t translate into higher knowledge. Institutes need more autonomy to give students more practical exposure or engage students more with the subject. Until the regulatory framework is overhauled in a huge way or is completely abolished, the institutes cannot reform the process of teaching. Pankaj is convinced that deregulation of the institutes and handing them more freedom is the way forward.

A believer of the multi-disciplinary education system, Pankaj wants the higher education system to churn out citizens who can solve real-world problems. A student should be given the right to choose multiple disciplines which are related and the student has the potential to do well. Education is a continuous process and even when a student is out of a physical institute, he should embark on a path of lifelong learning.

Speaking of which, the author candidly finished his session saying that compared to online learning setups, real brick and mortar institutes can create the competitive environment in which a student can engage and learn from others. Away from the internet, there is a real world out there and to prepare ourselves for those real-world challenges, we need the best possible real institutes in our country.

About the Author: Soumik Seth is an avid follower of music, current affairs, stock market, economy, and filmography. He currently writes for Bookstalkist.

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