Elaborate on the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education institutions.
Diversity is an extremely important aspect especially in the higher education institution because the learning in higher education is not just limited to the classrooms; it is also a personality development phase for the students where numerous softs kills such as professional thinking are developed during this stage of their education. Thus, it is paramount for students in higher education to have diversified ideas so that they can learn about concepts/subjects from different perspectives. As for inclusion is concerned, women dominate in the teaching profession in the primary education space. This is because women by nature are gifted with exceptional qualities such as patience and perseverance, which are very important to impart effective education to students in primary level.
However, when it comes to higher education, the percentage of women teachers is relatively low compared to their male counterparts, especially in the technical education segment. Hence, in order to promote inclusion in higher education teaching, it is important to imbibe inclusion from all fronts into the hiring process of the faculty members it self. Also, certain engineering disciplines like mechanical do not have much enrolment of female students due to the labor-intensive nature of work involved in the field. Thus, awareness needs to be created among all about the change in this mindset, wherein most of the mechanical functions in the manufacturing process are now automatized and require minimal/zero human effort. This will go a long way in promoting inclusion among the student enrolment especially in technical education courses.
"Any higher education institute that wants to offer online education, it is paramount for the college/university to digitize all its course content, reference books and all other readable material"
Throw some light on the key challenges that higher education institutions in India are currently facing.
Currently, there is a lack of quality teachers among the higher education institutions in India. Also, every technical education institution across the country is facing a severe dearth of faculty members and many faculty positions remain vacant for a long time. As a result, the student-faculty ratio is very high that results into too many students in the classroom making it difficult for the students as well as the teacher. This according to me is one of the major concerns that the higher education institutions in the country are currently facing. Secondly, due to easy availability of information online, students today have the wrong mindset that they can learn from elsewhere and do not pay attention in the class. This is making the higher education teachers' lives extremely difficult. Thus, it is essential for every teacher to adapt to changing dynamics and accordingly make changes in their teaching methodologies to catch the attention of the students.
How can educators stay aligned with the constantly changing educational dynamics and enhance the effectiveness of their teaching methods?
With an increasing number of higher education faculty taking-up research programs lately, maintaining a proper balance between their research works & teaching and ensuring that both of them complement each other is extremely important because one needs to be a good researcher if he/she has to be a good teacher. However, this balance is very scarce to find among majority of the higher education institutions in India today, which is one of the major reasons why most of our education institutions lag behind in terms of adopting latest techniques and content in teaching. Thus, higher education institutions across the country must wholeheartedly encourage their faculty members to carry-out research and ensure that the research outcomes are integrated into their teaching. This would make the teaching interesting for the teacher as well as the students. This will go a long way in enhancing the teaching quality and the interest of students in the classroom.
Secondly, traditional teaching methodologies are slowing fading away and new techniques such as digital classrooms, audio/visual course content and many others are making strong headway into the higher education system today. This holds especially for technical education courses, wherein cutting-edge technologies are now being extensively used within the classroom setup to explain each concept in the most detailed way possible and thus ensure that students are able to easily grasp all the topics. However, teachers must proactively engage with using these modern day techniques and get familiarized with them in order to use them in an effective way. Educational institutions can also have exclusive training programs for their faculty members to familiarize them with these new practices. The faculty in HEIs would also need a crash course on "teaching and evaluation methodologies" as they are never trained in these concepts but essential in their professional lives.
Share your thoughts on the pros & cons on higher education through online learning.
Education, as we all know, is an interactive process and not a monologue. In any online learning setup, the teacher will only be teaching by seeing an empty space in front of him and will not be able to see or interact face-to-face with the students. Thus, I personally am favorable towards offline teaching. From a general perspective, online education is indeed gaining widespread adoption in recent times due to various factors such as increased accessibility of education content, reduces education costs and offers students the flexibility to access course content from any device at any time of their choice. However, due the vast geographical area that our country there are still many regions across India which lack access to high speed internet, which is seen a major bottleneck for online education in India. Also, for any higher education institute that wants to offer online education, it is paramount for the college/university to digitize all its course content, reference books and all other readable material and make sure all that content is made easily accessible to students on their preferred medium, channel or device.
Professor Sudhakar Yedla, Director, NIT Srinagar
Prof. Sudhakar has graduated from IIT Kharagpur with Masters and PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Prior to joining NIT Srinagar, he has also served as the Vice- Chancellor of Dravidian University, Government of Andhra Pradesh and Chairman, National Focus Group on Environmental Education for NCF, NCERT.