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NEP 2020: Game changer for India’s Higher education (Part-II)

On completion of 2 years of NEP2020, Ajay Singh 'Ekal', volunteer of Ekal Vidyalaya, reviews the progress and implementation initiatives required for better results (in 2 Parts)

New Delhi: The focus of this Two-Part article is to evaluate the technical education of India and how it can be made useful in the light of the NEP 2020 so that the youth be made driving force of the country.   India has the advantage of having more than 900 Universities and close to 4500 engineering colleges spread over the countries. Careful planning with a vision can helps in making better use of it to optimize the benefits. A few of these ideas are presented here, which can provide food for thought and develop better strategies.

  • Development of the Clusters for different specialized Courses

We need to create a cluster of colleges with leading engineering branches for each cluster serving nearby industries. For Example, Kanpur is a hub for the Leather, Chemical, and Textile industry. These colleges in the periphery of 100 KM can give education in these engineering branches will help industry find skilled technical professionals.  The quality of teaching at the college will improve with the active involvement of industry. The working professionals may take some of the classes to familiarize students with the latest trends of the industry; the teachers of the college will help industry improve production and resolve other problems of the industry. The industries may also create common labs and libraries in the cluster out of the CSR funds. These facilities will be used by all college students and will be a source of firsthand experience of working machinery used in industry. It will help industries too in getting the qualified manpower in their industry locally at a competitive price. The college and industry will collaborate to create mutual advantages and growth.

  • Mentorship by industry, key institutions and retired professionals.

All institutes must have an association with industry to provide guidance to colleges. It’s like having a hospital associated with every medical college. An association with an industry or industries with a turnover of Rs.100 Cr should be mandatory. It can be even more (UP is expected to be one trillion USD economy, namely USD One lakh Crore. For seven hundred colleges to associate with 100 Cr. Turn over industry means there could be scope for 1000 colleges to associate).  The management of industries will proactively participate in academics and practical with engineering institutes, in turn, college students and teachers will make sure to work closely with industry for mutual support and financial benefits. The generic principle here is to give benefit to others and get benefitted. The practice of being self-centered, over the past 50-60 years has not been good for the industry or institutes. Therefore, in this country, neither are not doing well. Industries are not globally competitive, using the ages-old technologies and product quality are average. Colleges are not getting industries who proactively offer jobs to their students. Therefore, rather than working in isolation, working in collaboration will give better results and industry and academia will both flourish.

There are 23 IITs and 31 NITs in the country. These institutions are par excellence in terms of facilities, faculties, and other infrastructure. Besides, there are around 25 Institutes of private sector like BITS, VIT etc. Which are equally good. Each of these colleges should have the responsibility of 60 Technical institutes around them for supporting quality of education, inviting them to the seminar and technical talks, and other means of sharing the knowledge. This kind of effort will motivate the students in other institutes and help to improve their quality. The teaching resources of the institutes should have the opportunities to interact and learn from the Professors of the IITs and NITs. Efforts made with a sense of unity will progressively create the echo system and improvise scenarios over the next five years.

Professional mentors who have been in employment with the government now get their pension should necessarily do the social service 800-1000 hours in a year. These people are experts who retired from the companies/ Government jobs having 30-40 years of experience now getting pension for their living, like Chief engineer of the Power generating unit may take responsibility for guiding the students in electrical engineering and person retired from PWD or other organization may do mentoring for the students of Civil engineering students by sharing their experience and taking them to the site where ever possible and so on. Institutes should take care of the experts like local travel, food and so on along with stay and other comforts. Interacting with experts will expose students to working conditions and real-life situations in industries. This will help them prepare for the job.  It will enable retirees to feel useful and actively contribute to society. The people who do not engage themselves in meaningful purposes get sick early and suffer from depression etc. It keeps them from living longer and avoids an additional burden on the government. exchequer in providing medical facilities etc.

  • Good teaching resources are National Resources.

Availability of Good resource for teaching in education Institutes has been always in short supply. Even 20-40% of seats are vacant in NITs and IITs. Therefore, the professors of IITs NIITs and competent teachers from other institutes may take live lectures on different subjects which may be attended by students of any college in the country. Students can be charged a small fee for the same, say Rs.100-200 for a lecture and a lecturer can attract 100-200 students for his class. The students will get an opportunity to study with the best teachers and teachers will have extra earning for which the government may give tax exemption treating this money part of the social service in encouraging the cooperation in the society and meet the challenge of shortage of good teachers. The employer’s institutes will make sure that the Professor is pursuing only his spare time for these activities. We should treat the teaching resources as a national resource and make optimum use of them.

  • Laboratories and libraries are the property of the nation.

Laboratories and libraries in IITs or NIITs or other institutes should be open at least 20 hours a day and engineering students of any college be allowed to use it if so desired, some notional charges may be imposed for using the facilities for maintenance and to meet out extra expenses being incurred for operations beyond normal working hours. Every day 12 hours say 8 AM to 8 PM may be reserved exclusively for the students of the college, thereafter students of other colleges be allowed. This will make it possible to increase facilities without increasing investment. Facilities developed in government institutions should be treated as national resources created out of tax payers’ money and every effort should be made to maximize their use. Thus, we shall be able to create modern facilities for use by more students and they will get wider exposer by optimizing the use of the resources already created by public money.

  • Inter-Ministerial council to look for future employment opportunities

An intermenstrual council must be established by the central government. And State Govts. This council will coordinate among all ministries like the PM Gati Shakti Yojna is doing for infrastructure. This group will be responsible to find out the technological changes taking place in the respective Ministries locally and globally and will plan for development of these skills in advance for by preparing the College faculties and industries simultaneously. When the industry is ready to adopt new technologies and the workforce not readily available, then the industry will have a shortage of manpower and if manpower ready with skill and industry not ready then they will not get meaningful employment and respected remuneration for the same. Therefore, this is important that both get ready simultaneously.

For example, the industry 4.0 concept of the digital revolution in industry has been around since 2011 in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and other developed countries. But India is still struggling to get it adopted by Industries in India, it has not yet reached the Institutes with the exception of some institutes like IITs. As a result, the workforce is not ready to work in industry. This is chicken-and-egg situation. The industry is slow in adopting the industry 4.0 revolution because manpower to execute is not available at competitive prices. The institutes have not introduced it in the curriculum because there is no demand by industry for this skill set. The delay in adopting newer technologies has caused problems in producing export quality goods at competitive prices for competition in the Global market by the industries, therefore, benefit arisen due to higher demand, which could have created enormous opportunities due to the unacceptability of Chinese products after the COVID 19. On the one hand, this has led to lower demand for Indian products in the global market, as a result fewer job opportunities are being created by the industry.  A similar situation prevails in other areas too. The world has started using IOT applications for Agriculture, Health, Manufacturing, tourism, etc. India still is not able to explore the full potential to optimize the benefits in these areas and make use of it.

This kind of situation may be avoided by forming a council who will keep an eye on the changes taking place in the international market and quickly prepare the plan to adopt it and help it reach all stakeholders in a reasonable time avoiding the delay. The council should have a representative from all government departments so that no sector is left behind in adopting the latest global market trends and competitiveness. When the demand for products grows, it will result in a better economy in the country and of course more jobs for Indian engineers and non-engineers at the same time.

Education in regional languages.

The medium of teaching has been debated for ages. There is a school of thought that the medium of instruction should be English only to retain the status of elites. But many students who come from engineering studies from a village background, having earlier studies in local languages feel very shy and find it difficult to understand the subject and the fear of inferior feeling does not allow them to ask questions and participate in debate etc. This results in poor understanding of the subject, resulting in bad quality of the pass-out students. Thanks GOD the NEP 2020 now allows and encourages to do the teaching in local languages. Books and literature are being prepared for the same. This can be adopted at a faster pace if teachers and authors of books are incentives to use the regional language.

In most cases, practical knowledge of English is more than enough for a regular job in India. Except, when it comes to employability in a multinational company or going abroad good reading, writing and speaking English is a prerequisite for the same. Even less than 10 per cent of students are interested in such opportunities. Therefore, a provision for an English language lab can be made in the institute and a good English teacher for guidance to those students who are willing to opt for the carrier in such companies may certainly be made so that willing students may learn and practice it.

  • Include aptitude and language proficiency in the curriculum

The employability survey done, time to time by NASSCOM, FICCI, CII etc. On the basis of which issues of unemployability have been raised have important conclusions, which should be taken into consideration so that things can be better in the future. The survey makes it very clear that three qualities which an employer seeks in a candidate for employability are soft skills, core engineering skills, and high-level thinking.  Therefore, soft skills training and practice to do problem-solving exercises to develop abilities in, students should be included in the course curriculum and be part of the overall results. If this remains limited to passing the examination, then students will not take it seriously and perform below or just at an acceptable level. Therefore, it should be part of the formal program of study, and the marks obtained should be mentioned on the grade sheet so that students take it seriously and become competent.

  • Teachers should be tested every 5 years

This is a common observation that most of the teachers once in the job do not update their knowledge and keep on delivering obsolete knowledge. Now time has changed students keep their information updated through the Internet. Therefore, the students are not ready to accept whatever is being delivered in the classroom. Now students are looking for the latest useful knowledge being used by the industry. Therefore, the provision of updating of the knowledge of the teachers should be strictly followed by introducing the process of exam every 5 years like NET exam is held for entering the profession based on which the teachers ranking be done to motivate them. This can also be included to set a basis for promotion of rank and salary.

  • Remuneration for Teachers and Passed out students be fixed

This is important for improving the level of teachers and passed out students to fix the minimum remuneration. Similar to the minimum wages act of labor and skilled workers are there to stop the exploitation. This is an irony that qualified fresh engineers are available for the rate of driver or Masson. Similarly, the teachers also are paid low for their job. This demotivates the teachers and is a hindrance for the people with good academic records to opt for this profession.  Both employers, college owners and business owners have an argument of the demand and supply for not paying adequately and lack of skills expected for the post, but an important question that needs to be answered here is can a person who is not competent for the post be appointed to a position for which he is not suitable? Therefore, if the candidate is found suitable for the position, why should they not be properly compensated? How can the candidate be left to the employer’s sweet will to exploit to maximize their profits just by making nexus crook to pay down? Here we are talking only of the minimum wage, higher wages are obviously subject to performance and negotiation between employees and employers. If this is not taken care, then in the future there shall be fewer students pursuing engineering courses and this will result in less availability of qualified people. Then higher compensation shall be paid out of compulsions. Low payment is also one reason for leaving the job early. When a candidate is not paid suitable, he will also look for the opportunity and will leave as and when get the opportunity without thinking twice that he should follow the professional ethics.

Our country is now passing through a critical time. The economic conditions are going from bad to worse due to war going on in Europe in which all big economies are directly or indirectly participating. New world orders are being created. Fortunately, India has strong political leadership and so far, have been able to make balance which is likely to continue. This year we are celebrating the 75th year of independence. Where ever required Government has taken revolutionary steps to get things right, NEP 2020 is also a step towards it. The framework is ready to put education on a growth path, but implementation will decide the results. Therefore, carefully carved path be followed to take India to new heights and reach the ancient glory that our nation deserves.

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Author’s Introduction

Ajay Singh “Ekal” is a Volunteer of Ekal Vidyalaya founded by Shri Bhaurao Deoras and Shyamji Gupt of RSS. 

He’s also a promotor of start-up Rail Edutech Private Limited (Railedutech.com) offering skill training to the Graduate and Diploma engineers. He is very actively contributing to the Mission Employment through social activities.

 

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