HRD Minister, Dr. Nishank said in G 20, Saudi Arabia, "India takes this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the efforts being taken by G-20 Group of Nations to continue with its focus on the development and advancement of flexible learning strategies."
COVID '19 coupled with larger patterns of climate change, trouble from China, and emerging world order will impact Indian higher education in fundamental ways. And it should do so. We cannot afford to remain mute spectators of world crisis and keep teaching what we were teaching a century back.
The methodology must evolve. The content must be upgraded. In the coming days, Indian higher education is likely to see following patterns.
All the functions related to research are likely to go online and rightly so. The important meeting of Research Degree Committee can be held online. Experts from across the country and beyond can join and suggest improvements in the synopsis prepared by the prospective researcher. The researcher can present her/his view and convince the experts. Similarly, submission of PhD thesis has already gone totally digital in many universities. It can be read and evaluated online easily. It will save paper and trees and will boost environment in a big way.
Webinars are blessings for the students of the small places. They can learn from national and international experts easily. It is obligatory now for all institutions to give access to stellar scholars. There is no excuse now. The expert can mould and influence hundreds of minds sitting in the comfort of her/his own study.
As the HRD minister has stated, we are moving towards flexible teaching techniques. A combination of virtual and physical classes will give a holistic learning experience to the students.
Virtual reality centres and theatres are very much part of the concept of a state of art university infrastructure.
At the practical level, adjustment of financial advances of the faculty and disposal of files takes years and years in the university system. Online filing will fix responsibility in a transparent manner. We will immediately know where the file is held up.
The university should move towards online examination system to cope up with cheating as also spread of carious viruses. There are fool proof methods to ensure testing of the students online. The institutions must move towards that goal voluntarily. After some years, they will have to move to it compulsorily.
A university is not just brick and mortar. The soul of a university lies in its expertise, teaching and research. Our primary job is imparting and generating knowledge. Keeping this in view, we as educators must remember that what we teach must be useful also. Climate change, virus invasions, changed locust patterns, soil erosion and floods demand that we make basic disaster management techniques integral part of our syllabus for all classes. Each student must know the basics. For example, each educated person ought to know what steps to take in case of an earthquake or fire. This will strengthen our students practically.
The university records must be digitalized so that they are not lost. Libraries and especially our rare books and documents have to be on the digital platform and also well connected to the world.
This pandemic COVID'19 has shown us the value and importance of mental toughness in the times of a crisis. Depression cases and other mental ailments have skyrocketed during this period. Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation techniques must be taught to students so that they are better equipped to face tough situations. This must be part of our future curriculum.
The bottom line is change of the mindset of the teaching community. The moment a Professor is told about necessary changes in pedagogy and medium of teaching, often the reaction is regressive as to what used to happen in good old days and sound the system was in good old days. The teaching community in India must come out of the dead mindset. Realities have changed drastically and dramatically. Who would have thought that humans would be caged one day? Mother Nature is teaching lessons ruthlessly. Sea levels are rising. For the survival of humans and India as a nation, higher education techniques have to change.
Teachers must be brought onboard and a planned change must take place in a phased manner.