For ensuring that education is able to keep pace with global innovations, Education Innovation Conference 2019 (EIC2019) was organized by the EPG Consulting group. This conference held in New Delhi on 1st February, 2019, brought together stakeholders from the higher education sector (teachers, professors, Vice-Chancellors), EdTech startups, and regulatory bodies (AICTE, MHRD, UGC) to discuss current educational initiatives and futuristic actions.
Innovation and technology have led to prosperity in almost every sector of human life. The field of education too has witnessed this technological revolution. Whilst technology has provided access to education to millions across the globe, it has presented educators with new challenges – one being to ensure that skill development remains concurrent with developing technologies.
The discussions during the conference suggested the following to be the immediate needs of the education system:
a- adoption of new pedagogical tools
b- continuous training of teachers
c- introduction of courses that meet the need of the future job market
Nurturing young minds
Our primary education system has often been accused of stifling independent thought and producing wards that lack innovative zeal. The system of rote learning that might have worked well earlier (probably due to well-defined job roles) cannot cater to the changing needs of the day. Today, employers seek individuals who are adaptive and can keep up with latest in technology. In such a scenario, newer pedagogy that works to increase the understanding and imagination of students is the only way forward. Working towards the same goal, many schools, armed with technologies such as projectors and LCD’s, are adopting tools to teach topics such as physics and geometry. With a vision to foster curiosity and imagination in young brains, initiatives like Atal Tinkering labs have been developed. Atal tinkering lab is a school workspace comprising of STEM related tools and electronic equipment for students to fiddle with.
Although various educational videos are available online, their quality remains questionable. Pankaj Mittal, Additional Secretary, UGC highlighted efforts to provide access to quality education, “UGC has initiated platforms like SWAYAM and ePathshala that includes courses designed by educators from institutes of national importance. This initiative also ensures that a student can enroll for courses that are not offered in their own universities. Students can complete 20% of their credit requirement by completing these online courses - ensuring that these courses reflect on their degrees. In this way a student is not constrained by the norms and limitations of their university and can aspire to learn additional subjects”.
Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, AICTE opined on the need for adopting new pedagogical methods “With the plethora of knowledge now available on the world wide web, alternative pedagogy such as flipped learning can be employed. The classrooms can be more intensive in terms of idea-exchange, knowledge sharing, discussions, debates and problem solving”. Sharing their experiences with this type of learning, leaders concurred that the method helps impart communication skills and team work – two important employable skills.
Mentoring the teachers
In the era of readily available knowledge, the duties and responsibilities of teachers need to be redefined. Pankaj Gupta, President, Indian Institute of Health Management Research suggested, “Students today seek mentors - someone who is able to guide them recognise and unleash their unique talent”. Currently, the prerequisite of school teaching is a Bachelors in Education degree that introduces the basics of teaching. However, teachers in higher education do not undergo a training, and are mostly employed based on their research potential, that might not be the best indicator of their teaching skills.
Periodic teacher training is important to help college teachers remain abreast with the latest in their field. Dr. Vimal Rarh, Joint Director, Guru Angad Dev Teaching Learning Centre addressed the issue “MHRD has a one-month faculty induction program - mandatory for a new faculty that has joined after 2017. This program ensures that a faculty understands the university’s structure, in addition to curriculum development and pedagogical tools. For existing faculty, MHRD has launched ARPIT (Annual Refresher Program in Teaching – an online certification course) that can be taken up through SWAYAM and focuses on latest developments, emerging trends, pedagogical improvements, and methodologies for transacting revised curriculum. ARPIT aims to reach 13 lakh teachers from the government, state and private universities across the country. LEAP (Leadership for Academicians Program), another initiative of MHRD, aims to empower senior faculty who would want to take up leadership roles. The training constitutes of multiple modules such as - problem-solving, team building work, conflict management, communication skills and financial administration.
Narrowing the gap between education and jobs
One of the worrying trends is that most students acquire critical skills directly on the job. “As per the statistics of Confederation of Indian Industry, 78% of students who have attained professional degrees do not have the requisite skill set to be employed,” said Pankaj Mittal. The situation could worsen with time as we do not have courses on Artificial Intelligence, Visual Reality, Wearables, Genomics, Robotics and 3-D printing which are predicted to be essential in the future. Dr. Raj Singh, Vice Chancellor, Ansal University said, “Private universities, not limited by administrative approvals and delays, can play a bigger role in initiating innovative courses and curricula that meet the need of future jobs”. Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi, on the other hand stated, “Private Universities can run UG and PG courses efficiently, however, driven by monetary interests they cannot carry out research, as it requires huge amount of money for longer duration, therefore STEM research and skill development can be best carried out in public set-up”.
The conference emphasized that it is of utmost important that teachers and academic leaders are regularly trained. To discuss more on innovation in education, a similar conference would held on 15th November in Bengaluru.