We have been looking at various aspects of education with focus on engineering education. Let us look at learning. I want to use philosophical angle to deal with learning. We will see some aspects of learning from common person’s perspective and not from specialists’ views.
Your support and views and comments are important for us to forward.
Some, a very felt, that this discussion is not taking us anywhere. They became frustrated. They wanted to do something but not able to do it. So, I want to clarify in the beginning itself that it is a tough job to reform education. If we create awareness amongst many known to us about the broader aspects of learning, it will be a service. In addition, some of my academic friends may initiate some actions in autonomous institutions. Then we are happy. We do not have the bandwidth or influence or executive power to make changes. Remember education is highly regulated, rigid and not subject to change. We need to break this attitude. Sure enough, government of India has come up with a new education policy. So I hope that learning will improve.
There was another question why I chose WhatsApp and not blogs. The answer is evident to you. Blogs do not reach many, there are millions of blogs. Secondly these daily feeds improve assimilation. I read some are writing interactive fiction using this route. So, I experimented. You will agree we succeeded. I did not create a group. Because all my friends do not know others in the group and sometimes, we get flooded with good morning messages. So, I chose this route. My broadcast group is a mixed one. It has many academics, youngsters, bankers and industrialists. Most have a passion about education and look at it from different angles and views. So, it is an advantage.
Hope it is clear.
Let us new year with a good slate not a clean slate.
Received many comments. Some discussions are presented for your information and comments if needed.
Mr Bala Ajjampur says
“I am glad that I am part of the group who are invested in education. No matter what their background is, I am invested in hearing their views. I want them to say whatever they feel like saying, right or wrong, trifle or monumental. I have no shame in blowing my horn regarding QTiME learning whenever I hear something that is or close to what QTiME learning advocates. Learning does not differentiate, but learners may. Hope your insights in teaching, coupled with all the feedback will help us to gain new understanding of learning required for the 21st century.”
Prof Rangaraj ,Professor at SSIT Tumkur and editor of a research journal, says,
“Stranglehold of Tax Eaters on education should be loosened to make it conform to demand and supply and not be led by any “visions”.
NEP should have object of complete deregulation from Government, with respect to syllabus, evaluation, salaries, admission and certification.”
“Fully agree with you on deregulation. Multiple education units and departments with millions of obstructors should be abolished. Why do we need commissioner of public instruction, technical education and collegiate education and a department of education at state and central government level – enormous duplication? Their work is transfer of teachers. Teachers don’t have freedom. They use political influence for transfers. Close them and spend the money on teachers. These are destroyers of education, not builders. It is a tragedy they have a stranglehold on education and kept it backward. We need a group of thinkers for futuristic policies and corrective measures to be adopted. mistrust need to go.
Unfortunately, NEP and educationists are not looking at deregulation by multiple agencies. They should have created a task force with good thinkers and educationists to revitalize universities to become universities and not exam centers and spur education as a movement. More comments tomorrow.
Mr Jayashankar has some detailed comments on education.
Education is a complex area where in we have to address many aspects.
From my experience, there is course modifications required. Present system of education is common even in graduate level and then people chose their line of interest like working in industries, research, teaching and what not.
My suggestion is,
upto 12 the standard it is OK to have a common platform. But afterwards the real liking of a student should be assessed – whether for practical working or teaching or research.
For research, the coaching in graduate level should be in such a way that induces their passion for research. Perhaps after a period of time, some may find it difficult to continue in the research orientation. If they are in initial stage, they can be allowed to change over. In this method those people who are having an aptitude for research, will continue and the research-oriented course will help them to think differently, compared to those who are in employment orientation.
There is also another field of specialization. Entrepreneurship.
That is also a special field and people has to be trained to handle that. If you take Gujaratis, almost all families are in business giving employment to number of persons. Today even while studying, they got exposure to business cleverness because of their family background. There could be number common people with business mind who are deprived of this opportunity. Now a days people even after studying MBA, majority of people opt only for employment and they dare not to start of their own.
This s my humble view
I feel educationists should consider this. Class room teaching cannot address these and many other important aspects.
Raju Goleti, vice president, COIN networks, TCS has the following comment.
“I agree with you that education is a tough place to do reform. There is a lot of rigidity in its structure.
Now is the time for its full disruption. The fault line was always there! Taking an example of MIT, from the same rigid structure, edX platform came as a spin=off, 9 years back. Now this new structure allows masters programs even without a bachelors!
As a researcher in ‘education’, I look forward to understanding more in this subject and will be happy to share my views.”
I think we should seriously consider a new model like online schools and non-formal institutions giving quality, flexible, relevant education. The institutions can even affiliate with edX for a degree. We can take EdX model further. Many ambitious private universities and institutions are there in the country. There are also many autonomous institutions which can take this approach. We need to go through a non-degree mode initially and create success. Then one can hope for a degree program. Hope some will come forward.
Comments by Mr Indrajit Arora, GM, PNB retired:
I think, for today’s and coming generations, by class 12, thinking process of a child becomes less adaptable.
The reform should focus on ways to discover a child’s potential and passion, in its formative years, itself”
“I agree, but can we change some aspects in higher education level or give up?”
Very detailed critique on our education is given by Raju Goleti , Vice President, COIN, TCS. It deserves our attention.
“Thanks for sharing. I have some supportive points for your argument on ‘de-regulation’ as below. Also refer to the last point (Jayadeva) about widening socio-economic status due to de-regulation. This is certainly a complex subject and, in my opinion, policy interventions will need to be carefully managed through distributed governance without the political interference.
To start with, implementation of India’s education policy failed. This is well explained by Ben Ansell.
(Ben W. Ansell FBA is Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
His book From the Ballot to the Blackboard: The Redistributive Politics of Education won the William H. Riker prize for best book in political economy)
I share below a brief summary of my learning from reading his paper, ‘the re-distributive political economy of education’.
I refer to his two puzzles in the article (1) why post-independence, India failed to provide education for its masses? (2) reversal of typical government spending patterns and two insights
And two insights: (1) how education is re-distributive and a great tool for political manipulation (2) education policy being connected to the trends in the labor market of the nation as well as its integration with the global economy.
India’s first 5-year plan had 6% spending of national income on public education spending. Good funding was re-iterated in Kothari commission (1966) and National Education Policy (1986). By 1990s India was in depression and unable to provide for human development!
Around the same time (1969) Malaysia spent 8% of GDP on education, at par with Denmark, Sweden and Norway. India: even though education was recognized as a catalyst of economic growth, yet 50%+ of the population is not educated!
From the unified theory of education policy: Education is re-distributive + a powerful tool for political manipulation
Universal education= undermines the position of the rich, weakens the ‘returns on education’ for the skilled elite, therefore it is in their interests to ‘block’ it
Progressivity of education = depends on who actually receive it! This can flip when it is limited to a sub-group of population. (Wealthy are dis-proportionately represented in higher education). Public spending on higher education is fiscally regressive.
India’ failure to educate its citizens = because it was sheltered from global economy and not the result of caste system (Rudra 2003, Wibbels, 2006).
Both Nation’s and global economy are important and Hanushek’s economic value of education illustrates this well.
Also, Chmielewski’s research (2019) on socio-economic-status (SES) achievement gap.
Key take-away: public education policy is heavily affected by the nature of the global market for educated labor.”
This is a complex area and I think that de-regulation is a great idea yet it has its own risks. Also referring to Jayadeva’s paper on how low-cost English-medium schools has created social mobility in Bangalore during a period of rapid IT industrialization. Yet, the SES gap has only widened!
Comments from Mr Jitendar, a good innovator who built small affordable tablets in 1990 s which were used in engineering colleges for content sharing:
“Morning Sir. during the last one month you have shared about many things and one of the concerning issues you brought was the CLASS/CASTE/RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS. in my opinion the root cause for all this is the process of delivering our education and not the EDUCATION SYLLABUS/SYSTEM. We have municipal schools, corporation schools and private schools of a wide range. this plants the class/caste/religion/communal thought in child’s mind at age 3 of all classes of society.”
This needs a detailed response from me.
Let me explain my involvement in school education.
I was involved in school learning for four decades and visited and talked to students in several taluks of Karnataka. We also had a teacher improvement program for thirty years at IISc and I participated in it. I initiated a student’s scientists interaction program through KSCST when I was the secretary. The next secretary promptly closed it. But the enthusiasm of students needs to be seen. It is phenomenal. Students are from rural schools, very curious and eager. I coordinated the Mahithisindu program of computer-based education in 1000 high schools in early nineties. The attendance in schools was 100 % and enrollments went up. We at FAER are running a technology barrier reduction program for the past seven years where rural government school students are taken to an engineering college for 21 days and they learnt several things including communications and collaboration, no subject studies, but read books and discuss. Twelve engineering colleges participated in this. Students learnt very fast; they were shy in the beginning but started interacting. Went to library, labs, read books and wrote abstracts. They learnt to speak English fast and they conducted the programs. Their involvement is great. The effects should be seen to be believed. We interacted with them through skype. Volunteers visited and interacted with them. The students who went to PESCE, Mandya spoke very well in the valedictory session. They are from government schools. So, what is needed is good confidence levels and “I can do “attitude. We should be able to nurture students. They don’t have opportunities.
So my observation is a lot of students are motivated, curious and interested but lack the know-how.
Can we do an experiment?
I have a request. We have many principals, faculty from several colleges. Is it possible to get five students who can join us in WhatsApp, pose questions and we try to answer? Let us do this in a small way and move forward. FAER can support this.
My request is please talk to students. We can get interested students into our discussions and answer their questions.
Later we will go to high school students with more support from teachers and involvement of DSERT.
For more details on our high school students’ program, please visit our website
Padmapriya, a student,has the following question.
“Grateful to be a beneficiary of these insights you send. You mention entrepreneurship in part 2.3. Since engineers are fundamentally problem solvers, it would be beneficial if they could simultaneously be good entrepreneurs. What practical steps can be taken for this? Is it a good idea for students to take up a project every year of their 4-year degree instead of just towards the end?”
You gave answers in your comment. We need to encourage students to think and also do something useful. So more projects is a must. The first-year project may focus on social engineering. Second year to focus on design. If possible, an internship at an industry or Rand D labs in second year end; it will be good to do a large problem-solving project like building a robot or writing a major program for a non-trivial application or designing a smart water or power grid or a transportation network, etc. in the third year. The main dissemination project be done in final year.
If college does not permit, a group of students can do it.
Get some motivated students. Start a discussion forum, online as a Google group. Discuss about startups, why they succeeded and why some failed; use crowd sourcing amongst students for ideas. Get some entrepreneurs to talk to you online. Take initiative for this.
Today plenty of reading materials and resources are available with us. We can benefit intensely from them. Google regularly to find answers to questions.
More importantly, we need to develop concentration. This can be done first through yoga and meditation regularly daily. Then a few more habits are needed.
Spend minimum one hour of reading a good book general technical, philosophy or biography ones. Spend 10 minutes to write an abstract of what you read.
There are articles books and blogs about successful entrepreneurs. Read and write it down.
Maintain a diary. Carry a note book when you meet someone or attend lectures anywhere. I carry and write even when traveling and sitting and waiting.
Spend about half an hour visiting websites of famous universities. You know what is happening and what will happen.
After each lecture, spend five minutes thinking what happened, did I understand or not, steps to clear doubts, etc and spend five minutes to write down the takeaways.
For each chapter or topic, write about four or five questions. Why, how, what, when, impacts, etc. The questions should not be explained, write short notes on or numerical problems. We need meaningful questions like is this topic necessary, what is the purpose – for example why a programming language, what is the view taken in the topic, how it will affect other views, is it explained well – people don’t explain second law of thermodynamics or Maxwell’s equations or even Newton’s third law.- ,what can be developed based on the concepts, what are the impacts, are there gaps, what are the applications, is it user friendly, comparisons what are latest developments, who are working etc. You can put these questions. This will lead to problem generation and curiosity.
Create checklists. They help a lot. Read Atul Gawande’s book on checklists.
Take one topic every semester, look for what is happening and write a critique.it can be a survey and critique and can lead to a publication.
Think about what to do and plan for every week.
Have goals, short term, medium term and long term – technical, social and spiritual goals.
Hope you got quite to get started.
Tough, right? Life is tough. Structure it, plan it. It becomes easier.
Any comments or questions?
There are some comments. Let us see some.
Mr G P Shekhar, an industrialist and also involved in education, comments on our education.
“Great views, professor, i endorse heartily.
Engg. students should think of solutions for real life problems. At bachelor’s level, there may not be original, path breaking projects/ideas, still, it greatly helps students to grapple with real life situations, analyze and come up with optimal solutions.
Last year, i was invited as an external reviewer for B. Tech student projects for an IIIT center. While a few had come up with good project ideas, even could demo, many couldn’t even define what their projects were, and how they were approaching them. Some took extremely ambitious problems to solve, that i knew could not be completed in the time frame they had. I expressed my views frankly, even addressed to the guides.
Interests should be kindled early , so they have time to do some homework. Lots of online info is available, students should be able to do something slightly unique, not just copy.
As you had stressed earlier, integrated solution would be great – when I visited VIT, i found that one of the projects was ” turning off gas stove upon 5 whistles from the cooker”
At graduate level, “turning off the gas” part could be challenging, but finding solution for the rest is fun.
How and what do we count, would there be a time limit, etc. Students should evaluate possible scenarios, so a ‘robust system’ is developed, in the time frame and budget.
A project guide’s input here is crucial. Mentoring them, posing some challenges and seeing now they find solution would help. “
Mr N Ramanathan has been commenting regularly. He says,
“Our system of education tend to kill than kindle entrepreneurship. Vast section of our populace that is formally less educated lives on its own enterprise by starting a small trade or business in the neighborhood. In contrast, most from the top tech or management institutions look for a lucrative and safe job in an MNC or Blue-chip company displaying little appetite for entrepreneurship. While lack of education pushes the former into business, this factor singularly keeps them in the same level without being able to grow. There is hence the imperative to break the mental barrier that no doubt is happening, albeit slowly. Oppressive regulations have also played a major role in dampening enterprise, more so in manufacturing. With increasing realization, times would be better for local enterprise.”
Very perceptive comments. Our academics know the problem. But could not experiment. If they have “I can do” attitude, changes are possible. Our scholar program which Shekhar is familiar with involves mentoring by us, meaning experts from IISc and industry, as faculty commitment was not effective. The quality and excitement improved. The students consider projects important and the system is not interested in it. It considers projects as a nuisance. Do you believe that Bangalore University in seventies wanted to abolish project work? We at KSCST fought against it and started the student’s projects program which is running successfully for four decades. IISc faculty played a great role in mentoring and evaluation. It is a great service and it was questioned and ridiculed by many academics. But it stayed because of student’s enthusiasm.
Mr Dhingra, GM retired from syndicate bank and is ombudsman for SBI now talks about the initiatives of syndicate bank. T M A Pai was concerned about poor people, education and agriculture. He developed barren Manipal into an educational and medical power house.
“Great idea, worth experimenting.
I may add here that Syndicate Bank’s arm Syndicate Agriculture Foundation had a concept FUTURE FARMERS’ CLUB wherein all rural branches were required to establish such clubs in High Schools to encourage students to experience new varieties of seeds, methods of cultivation, animal health care, etc. on demonstration plots under guidance of Agriculture Experts which we used to invite from Agricultural Universities, Krishi Gyan Kendras of State Government. Entire cost was borne by Syndicate Bank. Another concept qas FARM CLINICS for providing inputs, soil testing, etc. runs by people trained & assisted by Syndicate Bank. Similarly, there was another institution called RUDSETI, where training programs on Agriculture related activities were conducted ay Bank’s cost for rural youth for starting their own ventures, followed by loans. This concept was later adopted by GOI.”
We should join hands with that group in our TBRP activities at Nitte.
Mr K V Ramaprasad of HAL shares his experience.
“I agree that BE students do not come out with the idea of what project they want to do for completing the curriculum. In my experience when students (known) approached me while I was working since their other avenues had closed for doing the mandatory project, I had enrolled them in our factory to do their project. All these projects are tailor made by me and the students were to collect some known available data to complete the project. Even the script of the project used to be dictated.
I also remember when I did the project at TCE, the title was given by the lecturer. Most of the practical electrical work was done by the Electrical Supervisor of the Electrical Lab. Only hysteresis loss curve was plotted by me. Of course, the script was written by me.
I do not know whether the present generation of students are able to pick up a project of their own idea and are able to complete it in time.”
We get a lot of good ideas and proposals for project from students. Last year we got more than 400 proposals and this year despite disruptions due to covid we got around 300 proposals. Many are on latest technologies. As I said they have implementation issues. That is why we have mentors. I have been looking at projects at PESCE, Mandya. They are very good. Can you believe about 24 students teamed up to do a project on motorized go carts, which went for exhibition and contests?
There are a large number of students participating in robotics and drone contests. Students need to be directed and motivated. Innovation will happen. Society and parents have abdicated their responsibilities expecting colleges to do everything. It is our job to build confidence in children. Universities and education departments have failed in this.