There seems to be a huge gap between academia and the demands of the labour market since traditional pedagogy is no more favourable, says Jamshed Bharucha, vice chancellor and chief executive officer, SRM University Amravati AP. Fancy degrees, says Bharucha, may translate into jobs but only for the finest graduates. For the greater majority, the education they receive is too traditional which does not help them to communicate effectively and assume leadership positions in the workplace.
On the sidelines of a Higher Education Round table, Bharucha along with Anthony P Monaco, president, Tufts University, USA, highlighted India’s economic rise, and sentiments towards immigrants in the US becoming “more hostile in the last few years.” Universities and colleges in India should be allowed to structure their curriculum in new ways to leverage the benefits of brain gain, a trend fast catching up. “This makes it imperative for India to drive a culture of innovation and flexibility in institutions,” Bharucha says, drawing from his years at Ivy league institutions in the US.
He adds, “The central government requires 160 credit hours for students to graduate which forces them to be overloaded in technical courses and leaves them with very little time for a liberal arts education and extra-curricular activities that help build personality.” He feels that restrictions in Indian academia are not serving the country well and that colleges and universities should be given to experiment.
“The diversity in US education models, on the other hand, include 2-year community colleges, research universities both state and private, and the 4-year liberal arts colleges,” says Monaco, whose India visit was aimed at expanding Tufts University’s existing collaborations with Indian institutions. “Indian institutions traditionally follow a British system of education where students apply for a single subject, such as Medicine, Engineering, Law etc. There is opportunity for new universities to break that mould and provide more flexibility to students to explore multidisciplinary challenges,” Monaco adds.
He suggests the need to introduce the Liberal Arts model in India where students at the end of their second year (by the time they are 20), decide where their passions lie rather than at 17 when they have to make up their minds about their career and specialisations.
He also believes that students in the Indian system of education do not learn communication while most American universities have a writing course in the first semester itself. “Students are taught expository writing and how to organise their written argument. This helps them build cogent summaries, be it in research or business.”
Monaco also points to an ironic demand-supply equation: “In the US, which has a large ageing population, standalone liberal arts colleges are shutting down due to lesser enrolments. The country has a surplus of good colleges and universities but a lesser percentage of young population, unlike in India, which has a large percentage of young population hungry for educational opportunities. But there is an acute shortage of good colleges and universities to which they have access.”