Dr Rajeev Shorey, President, NIIT University, talks to Yukti Pahwa about the better conceptualisation of knowledge and concepts amongst students with use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
What is your opinion on digitisation of education?
We are living in an age where technology has touched every aspect of our lives including how we access information, the way we communicate with each other, and how we carry out research and development. Hence, it is hardly surprising that digitisation of education is increasingly gaining importance in India. Ready availability of multimedia, computers and Internet has opened up several interesting teaching-learning possibilities hitherto considered very difficult. As a result the importance of IT-enabled education has increased many folds.
“we aim to shape talents to fulfil the need of tomorrow’s knowledge economy. The university has been established as a ‘centre for excellence’ with a mission to develop a new breed of professionals who have deeper industry linkages”
Use of IT in education has enabled students to understand the concepts better and apply them in practical life. Driven by globalisation and pressures to teach and train knowledgeable, skilled and competitive professionals, universities today face a huge challenge to increase access to higher education and improve the quality of higher education. I strongly feel that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will play a key role in making higher education accessible, effective and efficient.
What should be done for capacity building in higher education? Are there any measures that NIIT University has taken to support the same?
The problem in education is both of quality and quantity. In higher education, our gross enrolment ratio is only 11% as compared to 40% in developed countries. We also need to rapidly improve on the quality front as well. Studies show that not even one out of four graduates is employable.
Some initiatives have been taken by the government in this regard. In its XIth Five Year Plan, the government has increased its spend five times compared to the Xth plan. Reforms should be done keeping ‘inclusivity’ in mind. Liberalising the education field in terms of ease of entry, exit and operations for new players is important. Privatising the badly run, underfinanced universities is another way.
NIIT University, a new model in higher education, is an example of how industry and academia can work together.
How does technology help in imparting quality education?
Since inception, NIIT has innovatively used technology to offer quality education. Amongst its various other initiatives, NIIT offers synchronous lear-ning based Executive Management progra-mmes from India’s top B schools through NIIT Imperia. It is an effective tool to bring together the faculty and students, otherwise separated by significant distances, using cutting-edge technology. Through the new high-tech environment, students can experience learning almost in the same way as they would if they were in a normal classroom, querying their instructor and answering questions, thus making quality management education accessible to students across India.
Do you think the assessment systems in universities today need to be revised?
India needs to build an educational ecosystem starting in schools to encourage understanding rather than memorising. Critical and analytical thinking abilities of students need to be developed to enable them to take strategic decisions later in life.
Unfortunately, in India not too much emphasis is laid on what is understood; there is always a pressure to remember things. Hence there is a tendency to learn by rote that, I feel, destroys true learning.
Please highlight the opportunities and challenges that NIIT University faces in making Indian education in synchrony with global standards.
Internationally, there is a lot of emphasis on practical training in higher education. Most colleges and universities have established affiliations with employers and researchers in different fields of study, thereby creating an avenue for students to obtain hands-on and invaluable experience even while they are studying. International universities of repute also focus on the global aspects of each subject, thereby preparing students with a worldwide view of their field.
At NIIT university, we aim to shape talents to fulfil the need of tomorrow’s knowledge economy. The university has been established as a ‘centre for excellence’ with a mission to develop a new breed of professionals who have deeper industry linkages, a research mindset, whose education is seamlessly multi-faceted and enabled by the latest technology.
With an emphasis on building careers, deep connect with industry is the hallmark of NIIT University. The curriculum is directly aligned to the needs of industry. Six months, or a full semester, is devoted to industry practice for undergraduates or an internship for post graduates to ensure rich hands-on experience in the workplace. The connect is also reflected through industry sponsored research and offering senior leadership in industry a visiting or adjunct faculty position at the University.
What, according to you, were the highlights in the higher education in 2010 and what is your expectation for the coming year?
Passage of Innovation University Bill was a significant development in higher education last year. The legislations seeks to set up 14 innovation universities across the country under public funding, besides allowing promoters to establish such universities. There was also emphasis on the need to make the existing institutions attain world class standards in teaching, research and innovation.
For the immediate future, the country needs to focus on quality rather than quantity. This is exactly the path that we are following at NIIT university. There is a dire need in the country to attract good and dedicated research scholars to institutions of higher learning. There is a severe shortage of strong faculty members and this can only be resolved by ensuring that our bright and innovative young minds pursue a career in research.