The modern Indian society tends to look at education as a means to finding the perfect job. However, blindly connecting education to employment could cause unforeseen problems. Higher education should be meant for self-discovery and reconstructing the society which in itself takes a lot of courage in achieving. This can be determined by finding out what the society stands for and how education can be linked to the country's progress. Education can be pursued in a wide variety of fields such as Engineering, Arts and Psychology. But, the basic purpose of education lies in liberating oneself. The first step in achieving this intellectual freedom lies in exploring ourselves in which the students are exposed to exploring the theory of life comprising values, beliefs and mental schematics. Becoming an entrepreneur, sports trainer or software professional can be the goal. But, one should always look to work towards redefining the world.
In this aspect, there are plenty of ideas that can be learnt from foreign educational institutions. Similarly, there are several beliefs that must not be learnt from them. The concept of openness can be imbibed from the overseas educational institutions wherein the professors do not need to know everything. They are also a part of the learning process and students can interact with them frequently. The major difference in India is the increasing focus on hierarchy, thereby curtailing innovation. The distance between the professors and the students is huge which results in a massive difference with relevance for developing ground-breaking ideas. There is an increasingly serious allegation that the modern day students in India are not becoming corporate ready as they do not respond to innovative thinking. But, the focus should rather be on making them citizen ready.
The major part of this puzzle is the unavailability of qualified and experienced faculty members. Over the years, the number of students seeking engineering and other science degrees have increased manifold. But, the number of PhD holders is getting less. So, getting qualified faculty is becoming increasingly difficult. In an ideal world, the faculty to student ratio will be 1:50. But, we are insisting upon having 1 professor for every 20 students. Hence, this becomes a problem. In the western countries, the government allocates most of the funds given to research projects from the tax payer's money. Thus, pursuing PhD and conducting research projects becomes convenient with proper financial backing. The number of PhD holders will improve only if the government decides to spend money on the research projects. The government should hold joint sessions with the universities in the country to improve this situation. Various steps have already started in this regard through several governmental policies. But, it will not happen instantaneously. An off-shoot of this dilemma is the exponential increase of online educational courses. Just like Wikipedia has effectively replaced Encyclopaedia Britannia, online education might cause a stir among the weaker universities. The students take these online courses for a wide variety of reasons. When the actual purpose of these online courses is understood, this threat can be negated.
Role of industry in the development of students
A major advantage that the conventional mode of education has over distance learning is a possibility of focused and intensive collaborations between the institutions and industry. The primitive need for interaction is because it can be beneficial and interesting for everyone involved in the process. But, the educational institutions and industrial companies are struggling to find an exciting common ground. As soon as the industry realizes the mutual benefit, these interactions with the educational institutions will improve drastically. Ensuring that they train the students regularly in relevance with the modern trends, the industries can offer support to the research projects done by the students. The average quality of the research in the fields of science, engineering and psychology in India is comparable to those in other developed countries. But, there is still a long way to go in the field of management research. It can be achieved by following the mantra of Science, Practice and Philosophy. This will result in the management faculty and graduates of the MBA programme becoming scholarly practitioners because theory without practice does not serve any use. A famous management psychologist Kurt Lewin once said, "There is nothing as practical as a good theory". Practice and theory must be intertwined together. Practicing these theories does not entail working in multi-national companies alone. Generally, it has happened to be the case because there is not much emphasis on the graduates to become social entrepreneurs and designed thinkers. Everyone should have a deeper understanding of sustainability. The key to realising this sustainability exists in know about one self and freeing our thoughts. Then, articulating and creating new developments such as a new type of airplane or futuristic software can be accomplished to serve the society. (As told to Ramn Kumar)
Dr Padmakumar Nair
He is a reputed researcher and management consultant, has presented more than fifty research papers in international journals. Having an extensive experience from companies such as Shell Corporations, he holds an internationally recognised patent in the subject of converting natural gas into useful petrochemicals. A PhD holder from the Twente University in Netherlands, Nair is also a visiting faculty at the University of Cambridge.