The Game Changer

NIIT Chair­man Ra­jen­dra Pawar talks about In­dia’s po­si­tion in the knowl­edge econ­omy and cre­at­ing a new model of learn­ing

India Today - - INTERVIEW WITH AN ICON - Editor (Spe­cial Projects) KAVEREE BAMZAI:

When he spoke at the in­au­gu­ral An­nual Lec­ture of NIIT Univer­sity (NU) in 2009, Chan­cel­lor

Dr Karan Singh said “it gives a glimpse of what fu­ture ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions can be”. At NU, the Univer­sity of the Fu­ture is not just a tagline, it is also a way of life. Founded by Chair­man of NIIT Group, Ra­jen­dra Pawar, the univer­sity based in Neem­rana, Ra­jasthan, of­fers un­der­grad­u­ate, post­grad­u­ate, doc­toral and MBA pro­grammes. But more than that it seeks to cre­ate stu­dents who will lead in what Pawar calls the “Cen­tury of the Mind”. These stu­dents are trained to de­velop skills the new mil­len­nium needs—cre­ativ­ity, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, crit­i­cal think­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion. In a free-wheel­ing con­ver­sa­tion at his Wes­tend Greens home, Pawar spoke about ed­u­ca­tion for a new kind of world where even as na­tions har­den bound­aries, cit­i­zens will be more deeply con­nected to each other. Ex­cerpts from a con­ver­sa­tion with

How do we pre­pare chil­dren for the Cen­tury of the Mind?

We’ve had two cen­turies of the ma­chine, in which sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy (which is the prag­matic im­ple­men­ta­tion of sci­ence), has taught hu­mans to man­age, ex­ploit and cope with ma­chines. In this era, the cur­ricu­lum has seen so­cial sci­ences and hu­man­i­ties give way to sub­jects that taught how to build and man­age ma­chines. In the 21st cen­tury, the mind is at the cen­tre.

Where is In­dia in this new world?

We have to marry our tra­di­tional knowl­edge with the ben­e­fits of tech­nol­ogy. The In­dian mind has been colonised and sup­pressed as many in­clud­ing Pa­van Varma and Shashi Tha­roor have writ­ten be­fore. We were a pri­mar­ily an oral so­ci­ety so we have lost some­thing but it’s still just un­der our skin. The self-con­fi­dence of the In­dian mind has to be raised to the cor­rect level, we have to take risks. Ed­u­ca­tion is about look­ing for new prob­lems rather than just work­ing on so­lu­tions to known prob­lems. With 36 years of NIIT Ltd in over 36 coun­tries hav­ing im­pacted about 36 mil­lion learn­ers, we have both skill and scale un­der our belt. Now we have to cater to a new gen­er­a­tion which needs life­long learn­ing.

How does NIIT Univer­sity ful­fil that?

We have the con­fi­dence now to build the role model univer­sity and set an ex­am­ple through four Core Prin­ci­ples to be­come the global bench­mark. One, we are in­dus­try-linked. Higher ed­u­ca­tion is con­sid­ered dis­con­nected from the job mar­ket. In the seven batches who have grad­u­ated from NU so far, 97.3 per cent have place­ments. Two, we are tech­nol­ogy-based, which means that there is ex­ten­sive use of tech­nol­ogy in ev­ery­thing at NU. Three, we are re­search-based. We have evolved the idea of re­search into re­search, dis­cov­ery and en­trepreneur­ship. Till the 1990’s, In­dian higher ed­u­ca­tion was not chal­lenged be­cause of the com­pla­cency


that came due to the li­cence raj. In a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket econ­omy, higher ed­u­ca­tion has to de­liver ex­cep­tional re­search out­put. Four, from be­ing a highly frac­tured and siloed so­ci­ety, we need to be­come seam­less. The con­cept of Va­sud­haiva Ku­tum­bakam—the world is a fam­ily. While the in­dus­trial era de­manded spe­cial­i­sa­tion and siloed learn­ing, ed­u­ca­tion now de­mands the di­ver­gence of knowl­edge and a broader un­der­stand­ing. That’s why NU is a 24X7 cam­pus where stu­dents teach in vil­lage schools, plant trees, en­sur­ing seam­less less with na­ture and so­ci­ety. In most pro­grammes we have in­dus­try co-cre­at­ing cur­ricu­lum, whether it is in cy­ber­se­cu­rity or data sci­ence or fi­nance and bank­ing.

What about the whole ques­tion of 80 per cent of our en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates be­ing unemployable?

That com­ment is un­fair, de­mean­ing and value laden. It is one thing to say that in­sti­tu­tions need to im­prove but an­other to say en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates are not em­ploy­able. I will give you a statis­tic. In 1999, there were 90,000 seats in en­gi­neer­ing ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia. In 2017, that num­ber is 1.5 mil­lion, and 30 per cent of the ca­pac­ity is empty. Clearly, there is a de­mand and sup­ply im­bal­ance be­cause there is grave dearth of jobs for these young­sters. The prob­lem is one of em­ploy­ment and not em­ploy­a­bil­ity. In the ab­sence of jobs even bright stu­dents are per­ceived as unemployable. There is an­other as­pect to this: two thirds of stu­dents are in pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tutes and three fourths of in­sti­tu­tions are in the pri­vate sec­tor, and a large num­ber of poor qual­ity in­sti­tu­tions are clos­ing down. The poor qual­ity govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions how­ever, never close down, per­pet­u­at­ing a steady degra­da­tion.

Il­lus­tra­tion ANUP RAY

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.