FLAME in the news | July 21, 2021

Even as the pandemic has been causing large-scale damage and disruption in every aspect of our lives, India has aspirations to leverage this challenging situation to become a self-reliant and vibrant economy — an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. In this context, I envisage the Indian higher education system playing a significant role in supporting this aspiration, by preparing our students into the next generation of resilient and self-reliant inpiduals who will contribute to the nation’s vision and growth. 

The higher education system has witnessed a severe impact due to the ongoing pandemic. The lack of equitable access to education has never been so glaringly visible. Hence, it is crucial that we step back and re-imagine the possibilities of innovating and invigorating the higher education institutions and simultaneously endeavour to become self-reliant. We must build a long-term focus and resilience within the education system. In addition to making education inclusive and accessible to all, we also need to equip our students with skills to face and manage any challenges in the future. Let’s now look at some ways and means to make this happen. 

The most important resource that needs our priority is our student community. COVID has disrupted their accessibility to education over the past year. Online education has been limited to a very small percentage of students who can afford computers and internet facilities. Despite the best efforts of the government, a huge percentage of students from remote areas of the country still do not have access to education, this is a matter of national priority as it involves the future of the young people of our country. If we wish to ensure equitable growth for our current generation of students, it is important that both governments and institutions set up frameworks for an expanded reach through technology that will include remote areas of the country into the online network of accessing education. 

These structures must be designed to help students in receiving access to education in real-time and at an affordable cost. Such initiatives will go a long way in preparing our young graduates to be knowledgeable, future-ready, resilient, and prepared to take on any kind of challenge. With this dynamically changing business landscape and the disruption caused by advancements in technology and pandemic, it is important for graduates to be equipped with the right skills that prepare them to be future-ready. 

In keeping with this situation, higher education institutions are encouraging students to enhance their knowledge through outside the classroom learning, through activities and skills designed to hone their professional, social and personal growth. Peer learning is also an important component where students learn from their classmates who come from perse backgrounds. This complements classroom teaching and enhances the all-round development of students. As companies grow and evolve into knowledge- led organizations, they look for professionals who demonstrate qualities that fit their organizational work culture. 

In this age of borderless and multicultural workplaces, companies also look for talented inpiduals who are go-getters and have the potential to think out of the box and at the same time, are great team players. Professionals who demonstrate skills such as agility, quick decision-making, ability to analyze, digitallyliterate and have a multi-dimensional approach to problemsolving are highly sought after. We also need to encourage students to be creative and innovative in every aspect of their student and professional life. This allows them to explore options, be open to making mistakes and take much-needed risks along with the acceptance of possible failures. 

The more engaged students are in learning and discovering their inpidual capabilities, the next generation will be better equipped to take on responsibilities and become self-reliant and entrepreneurial in their chosen careers. Yet another game-changer in developing a holistic development of our students is the Education Ministry’s decision to implement the National Education Policy 2020, which introduces multidisciplinary education right from school. By bringing back the focus on Humanities and social sciences, it will allow opportunities for our youth to learn life-skills from a very young age. As the Head of a University which has pioneered liberal education in the country more than a decade ago, I view the NEP 2020 as a catalyst and transformative in nature. 

In our role as educationists and institutions, we must strive to give our students equal opportunities for education and growth and allow each one of them to leverage their inpidual strengths. By giving wings to their dreams and aspirations, the resultant outcome will be a generation of confident, resilient, entrepreneurial and ambitious change-makers, who play a significant role in positively influencing the nation’s growth in the near future. The author is vice-chancellor, FLAME University 

- Prof. Dishan Kamdar, vice-chancellor, FLAME University