Higher Education – A tool for Social Transformation

The world education system underwent a huge reformation when the world experienced the industrial revolution; there was a huge change in the curriculum and methodology. India though caught up with these reformations a bit late, both central and state government constituted various commissions and committees to review and analyse the system of education. Among these, the Kothari Commission 1966, gained great importance as it highlighted the holistic education and brought considerable changes in Higher Education.

– A quick look at the recommendations:

1. Increase in Productivity.
2. Promoting social and National Integration
3. Education and Modernization
4. Developing social, moral and spiritual values.

The holistic education on one side, and the industrial revolution on the other side, created a huge demand with regards to the quality of the students. Hence, policies were framed considering these recommendations and the demand of the quality higher education.

The Indian Policy on Education 1986 rightly in unequivocal words expresses its grave concern over the decline of basic values in society in general and student – community in particular. In recent times, there has been perceptible universal decline of quality of output in higher education. Our educational institutions, which have not escaped the impact of this pervasive quality decline, have a special responsibility to respond to the situation with great concern and subtlety, playing a vital role in education. And therefore, what we need now is a new education, an education for life-a man-making education. This becomes a great responsibility for educationists and teachers to train the student community towards overall development of the individual.

The problem that we face today is, our education system does not provide opportunities for the students to apply their knowledge in practicum. The educational methodologies adopted do not provide platform for students to transfer the knowledge gained to real life situation.

Many industries and corporates are disappointed with the quality of the students who comes out as a result of these policies. Today, the industries brand our students as “well educated but unemployable”.

When implementing the educational policies, with our educational system and practice, we as institutions / universities focusing ourselves on helping students acquire knowledge but not its application. On the global context, the Indian students do not stand good. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was an attempt to measure the global standards of student, has been inviting every country to participate in this program since 2000. India went on to participate during 2009 and it is very sad to note that we stood second last amongst 73 countries that participated. Another statistics from PISA report is that, the 7th or 8th grade Indian kid is equal to a Korean 3rd grader in Maths. So, there is a serious concern over our educational system.

In the recent conference of Vice-chancellors held in Feb 2013, Hon’ble President Shri Pranab Mukerjee stated that higher education should fulfill the aspiration of youth, who are restless and looking for direction. He also stated that there is a huge challenge on quality of governance as he expressed that there is decline in the quality of higher education. He further stated that the focus now should be on policy formulation that promotes autonomy & good governance.

Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh regretted that none of the Indian Universities were listed as one of the top 200 universities in the world. He stated that there is a need for flexibility in universities to raise teaching standards, encourage research and nurture talent.

I believe we need to look at our system of education. As an academician and an administrator, I would like to take a stock on the system and process of education.

Over the last decade, the Universities have come up with a considerable revision in the curriculum, making it more relevant to the industry. There has been a great amount of emphasis to include and practice soft skills as a part of curriculum. The corporates have also joined to help the students present themselves well. They have designed programs like Corporate Social Responsibility, Campus to Corporate connect programs etc. Though many institutions have taken up this, the question still exists on the effectiveness of these programs.

As a Christian Higher Educator, I believe this is a wake up call. Let us pause for a moment and rethink on Nation building initiatives that you and I can adopt.

I would like to propose two initiatives that we can adopt as a tool to enhance social responsibility in Higher Education.

Initiative for global campus – Create global environment
Initiative to harness creativity, talent & skill.
These initiatives are tested and proven model.

1. Creating global campus

Our Indian system of education primarily aimed to help students acquire certain basic knowledge. Most of the students are happy with what he/she learns from the textbook. But, I believe, knowledge needs to be acquired on different perspectives. Students should be opened to receive different thinking and thus acquire global knowledge. The students should be provided with an access to increase his knowledge exponentially. Hence, we need to create knowledge explosion among the students. This would in fact, help the student to stand up in the global race of acquiring knowledge. This is the responsibility of every institution.

The question is how we can do this. Nazareth College has a tested model that enabled every student and faculty to interact on a forum concept. We have created an online knowledge forum called “Nazareth Online Community for Knowledge Sharing”, http://nocks.in

This is a unique forum that connects the faculty / student to share ideas. Every staff and student needs to register in the forum, in order to share their knowledge. They can start posting questions or reply to anyone’s question. This creates a healthy practice of sharing knowledge between the students / faculty. The greatest advantage is that, it is an online forum. Hence, we have 24X7 access.

2. Harnessing creativity, talent & skill

There is a huge cry from the industries that the students are “well educated but unemployable”. Many institutions, in order to meet this demand of making students employable, have initiated many programs like soft skill program, personality development programs, leadership programs, etc. My honest statistics show that only about 12% to maximum of 15% of students benefit from these programs. So having implemented these programs, in reality, the success of these programs is very low mainly for the reason that these programs are designed as a subject program and not as a skill program. My question is why should we meet the demand of industry, when our students can create their own demand. Today I want to take you all into a new perspective of programs that would lead every student to be innovative, creative, take appropriate decisions, learn to work as a team, apply the knowledge, test, succeed and eventually become entrepreneurs. Lets not worry about enhancing employability factor, but create entrepreneurs for the future.

What we need is something that encourages creativity & talent. Our educational system and methodology should help every student to identify his/her talent, harness their potentials and skills. Nazareth College has created an innovative model called “Nazareth Business Learning Center- NBLC” that works very well with the students (http://nblc.in). Nazareth Business Learning Center is an innovative student support system conceptualized to solve the problems of students’ community faced by large. Besides providing the training and personality growth, NBLC provides a platform for the students to experiment and learn in a practical method. The objective of this system to bring out the creative and entrepreneurial qualities of students and help their dreams of becoming self employed come true by having gained practical knowledge and skills in establishing and managing industry of small scale size. Every student will be provided with opportunities with hands on experience to conceptualize, design, and execute a project within the college campus itself. Today, NBLC is a tested and proven model that brings out the creativity, talent and potentials of students. NBLC is a model that helps every student to think as entrepreneurs.

NBLC has three divisions:

a. Nazareth Business Solutions

The NBLC Business solution division is aimed to offer strategic business solutions to the various industries in the neighborhood. It provides a platform for the students to think, analyze and bring in different answers to various problems, issues or challenges faced by the industry. The Nazareth Business Solution partners with and works with them in identifying the gap that exists and providing recommendations to close the gap. By doing these study, the students apply their knowledge that they had acquired within the classroom into a real life situation. Following are some of the activities of this division.

i) Datamark: The business solution team partners with them to meet their recruitment demand. The team recommended a suggestion to recruit college students as part time employees. About 35 students from 1st year & 2nd Year Nazareth College have been offered to work on a part time basis from 3 .30 pm to 9.30 pm. Students are paid a gross salary of about Rs.7000/- month.

ii) Telebuy: The business solution team has submitted a proposal to meet their Human Resource Recruitment needs. About 40 part time students are required, who will work from 3.30 pm to 9.30 pm. We are yet to get their acceptance of our proposal.

iii) Leggit & Platt: Nazareth College has submitted a proposal for a study to analyse their strategic business to improve their sales. Besides this study, they have offered us to be their recruitment consultants for their new project likely to be commissioned by June 2013.

iv) Mehanthi Training: College has identified Mehanthi (who is working in college office as Assistant) and 26 students are being trained at present. The trainer shares 50% of the profit with the NBLC. This training is conducted for the students of college.

v) Embroidery Training : College identified an embroidery trainer who can train students and 15 students are currently being trained. The trainer shares 50% of the profit with NBLC.

b. Nazareth Business Centre

The NBLC Business Centre has got two divisions, namely manufacturing and trading. The manufacturing division would identify different products like paper bags, Jute bags, poly-ethylene bags, other eco-friendly products and respective project team will be formed with staff & students. The trading division would set up trading companies. The lecturer who would be the Project Manager for the respective project would identify the project team. The total responsibility is given to the students under the guidance of lecturer to set up an industry of small-scale size. This would enable the students to apply their theoretical knowledge learnt during their study. The students will be held responsible for setting up of a line of production and marketing. It is the duty of the project leader to make this project a profit-making unit. The students start their production after the college hours, ie., 3.30 pm, and they work as per the schedule drawn by the project / production head. The college has initiated various projects.

i) Manufacture of Paper bag: A team of students is identified to produce these paper bags. These paper bags are made from old newspapers. The students conduct a recycle mela, and collect old newspapers and use them to manufacture paper bags. These paper bags are exported to Australia.

ii) Manufacture of candles: A team of students is identified to manufacture candles. The marketing team brings in the order and the production team schedules the work as per the demand brought in by the marketing team.

iii) Manufacture of Chalk Pieces: A team of students is identified to manufacture chalk pieces. The marketing team has brought a huge order and the production team has scheduled the work from May 2013 onwards.

iv) Nazareth Co-operative Store: A team of students formed a co-operative store at the college campus and all stationeries necessary for the students / staff / office are sold in the store. The co-operative store functions at various timings to meet the demands of the college campus.

c. Nazareth Business Finance

The aim of this division is to lend micro-finance to SHG (Student Help Group) either for individual or for group of students to set up a small business. The college has created a corpus fund and a micro-loan to the tune of Rs.500/- to Rs.5000/- to be paid as per the project report submitted by the student. The college can either get the loan with interest and the SHG may share the profit with the college.

i) Ms. Vaishanvi, III B.Com: She obtained a loan of Rs.2000/- in the month of Jan 2013 and returned the loan and 50% profit share in the month of Feb 2013. So the NBLC earned Rs.250 as profit share from the student. Ms. Vaishanvi has submitted a proposal for micro finance of Rs. 5000/-

ii) Ms.Rohini & Mr. Rajive : They obtained a loan for Rs.1000/- in the month of Feb 2013 for making concentrated grape juice and they had agreed to return the Principal with 50% profit share by March 31st , 2013.

iii) Ms. Rani : She submitted a proposal for a loan for Rs.500/- for making embroidery handkerchief with a profit share of 50% to NBLC. This project is yet to begin.

iv) Ms. Uma, I B.B.A : She obtained a loan of Rs.400/- towards setting up eyebrow counter. She is a qualified beautician. Everyday, she earns about Rs.150/- She shares about 40% of profit with NBLC.

This model helps the students to be more creative, bring out their talent and make them confident to start their own business, to become entrepreneurs. We have practically seen a great transformation of students happening within the campus. I believe, you and I as Christian educators are responsible for a better social transformation.

Today, having proved this model and having moved from concept to success story, I am confident that this model can work in any higher education institution. All that we need is passion to be the change that we want to see in this world.

Reference:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2804134.ece

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-real-truth/entry/pisa-results-shame-india-but-is-anyone-surprised-really

http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.in/2012/01/first-pisa-results-for-india-end-of.html

http://prayatna.typepad.com/education/2011/12/india-in-pisa-2009-process.html

http://updates.highereducationinindia.com/2013/president-calls-for-changes-in-the-12066.php

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/varsities-should-give-overriding-emphasis-on-quality-pm/article4382306.ece

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