Dornadula Chandrasekharam
Former Chair Professor I I T Bombay, India

Post Covid 19 education system

This pandemic has made all the educational schools across the world to adopt teaching online. Courses are conducted online, examinations are conducted online, assignments are submitted through email. For countries like India this is good opportunity to strengthen the internet connectivity across the rural India. Every village and towns in India should be digitally connected for better interaction between the students and teachers. Institutes like IITs have “a sort” of infrastructure to connect students but the experience shows that not all students had good interaction due to various reasons. Some of the students are quick to adopt to this system and some take little longer time to acquaint with this system. India should establish a good infrastructure for online education like some of the advanced countries.  The greatest advantage of such a system is education can become international. Advance institutes like IITs and NITs can globalize online education while Universities, initially, nationalize online education. Fundamental structural changes should be made in the curriculum/syllabi and programmes should be popularized to attract students across the countries. Skill development should be part of the curriculum in Engineering and science degree programmes. This will create future entrepreneurs. This is one way to beat unemployment and increase business skills amongst the youth. The business community should play a leading role in this new educational system. What is the opinion of the experts?

The strength lies in the faculty an institute nurture. Faculty need to change their mundane teaching methods and adopt to evolving technology centered teaching. The faculty should establish themselves as “competent” individuals who can deliver what the students expects. To establish faulty should be active in research and research publications and gain experience /skills in online teaching. In a way the learning institutes become virtual institutes. Every student’s home becomes his institute. This will reduce the demand for infrastructure of the institute. However, research labs should function as usual to support research. Research collaboration can go online and can be internationalized.

Higher education in India need to be more international, more flexible(curriculum), should be innovative and should be open for more collaboration.

According to Dr Francisco Marmolejo, advisor to Qatar Foundation in India, during his webinar, held by the Jio International Institute, India, higher education should be re-designed. It should be flexible, more innovative, more international but more locally connected and socially responsible, more collaborative and less risk averse. Innovative models should be introduced. Universities/institutes could be online- providing internet based flexible offerings (open universities); traditional learning with hand-on work; collaboration with other schools. Of course there are challenges one has to face at the initial stages: e.g. leveraging technology to deliver better and more inclusive education, contributing to digital economy and society and responding  to global demand but shifting demographics. Faculty play the most important role in such a system. According to Dr Francisco, true international engagement comes with curriculum integration and active participation by the faculty. Faculty need to be motivated and actively involved in curriculum integration.

Online education does not mean without laboratory experience to students. Skill development needs laboratories/workshops. There could be centers across the countries to support skill development activities.  These centers could be institutes, collages, universities. On the research front: it is all collaboration and not competition. Projects needs to be designed through collaboration so that laboratory/research facilities could be shared. This will lead to strong centers of research laboratories on a regions scale—-for example there could be a strong collaboration within SE Asia region. There is none till now.

Post Covid 19 is an opportunity to transform higher education system. Institutes/ universities should utilize this opportunity to transform itself. Curriculum design, collaborations, skill development and faculty involvement —all should focus on internationalizing higher education. Today it is Covid 19…we don’t know what lies in future  for the million youngsters.

About the Author
I am a Retired chair professor from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and currently teach at IIT Hyderabad. I have 200 publications in the above fields and have supervised 25 Ph D students.