Taking Education to the Masses

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“I would like to start with this quote ‘For life that I have to compromise at every step, I wish to live that is true but not this much and not at any cost’. I say this to illustrate the kind of regime, as far as Education is concerned that we were living in,” says Sushma Berlia, President, Apeejay Stya group

Sushma Berlia, President, Apeejay Stya groupTell us about the Apeejay Stya group’s endeavours in education?

The Apeejay Education Society, established by the leading Industrial House of Apeejay Stya Group in the year 1967, has built a rich heritage of nearly four and half decades in the field of quality education through a family of 30 institutions, i.e. 13 schools and 16 institutions of higher learning, in various states of the country, along with the Apeejay Stya University.All Apeejay institutions are guided by his vision of value-based holistic education, focusing on acquiring thinking skills and learning how to learn for life. Today, the Apeejay family comprises over 32,000 students, 60,000 alumni and 2,200 faculty, providing education from pre-nursery to doctoral level.

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In terms of regulation of the higher education sector, what are the key challenges and opportunities in India?

I would like to start with this quote “For life that I have to compromise at every step, I wish to live that is true but not this much and not at any cost”. I say this to illustrate the kind of regime, as far as Education is concerned that we were living in.

Any regulatory system should be transparent and ensure accountability, and we are really looking forward to discuss on some of these pertinent issues which are being considered and being taken up but more than that the framework within which we are trying to move ahead because everything else comes from that overall vision and flows from there.
The roles of the Regulatory bodies need to be reviewed in order to act as a true facilitator and an enabler. The focus should be on building a strong educational system that helps the country win a global edge. The need of the hour is to tailor education reforms in such a way that it fulfils the need and opportunities in the future for the students.

The Union Cabinet has cleared the establishment of National Commission for Higher Education and Research, a higher education regulatory body. What are your views on the process of subsuming various regulatory body for a common regulatory body?

Indian higher education is on a reform path. The creation of an all-encompassing national commission for higher education and research (NCHER) is to regulate quality standards in all branches of higher education. This should be a constitutional body free of political intrusions, replacing the current regime of multiple regulators saddled with their dysfunctional, inspection-based regulatory arrangements. Keeping in view the prevailing various Acts i.e. – UGC, AICTE, NCTE (leading to several windows)–certainly having a uniform body like NCHER, in itself will go a long way.  The new commission is the super-regulator. But it remains doubtful if such a superstructure can govern a complex and increasingly diverse system. However, careful design of structure and instruments of regulation could create the desired regulatory system. The country needs a regulatory environment that encourages diversity and quality comparisons between institutions—not one that centralizes authority or enforces dead uniformity.

With Foreign Collaborations being the key focus of educational institutes, what are the current and future plans for Apeejay in furthering these collaborations?

The increasing internationalisation of higher/tertiary education has give rise to mobility of academics, students and professionals, and the mobility of education itself, in the guise of transnational or cross border tertiary education, either in face-to-face programs or through e-learning mechanisms.

International collaboration and networking between institutions in different areas of teaching and research is the most significant factor in the organisation of Higher education in many countries including India.

I strongly believe that collaboration is the way forward and it will help a higher education institution rise to the standards of its foreign partner. At Apeejay we strongly believe that for such collaborations to become meaningful, teaching must go hand in hand with research and only then will quality education and foreign collaborations are meaningful.

Do you think Industry Academia Partnership is important to provide employable skills for students?

With rapid advancement of knowledge and rapidly changing technology base, it has become absolutely essential that the industry and academia work together as partners in progress. We have seen that students while equipped with graduate certificates lack in employable skills sets. This has, in turn opened up a yawning skills gap between academic output and industry expectations.

Our industries need not only qualified manpower having knowledge and skills of handling state-of-the-art technology and decision support tools in its design, manufacturing and managerial activity, they also require a regular and easy flow of technology and that can only be assured by a synergetic partnership between industries and academic institutions/ universities.

What are your views on the use of ICTs in Education? How does the Apeejay Group keep up with the rapidly changing technological changes?

Effectiveness, Affordability, Scalability, Equity, and Sustainability are broad intertwined issues which must be addressed when considering the overall impact of the use of ICTs in Education. In the last two decades, India has significantly contributed towards the creation of knowledge society through revolutionary developments in the field of ICT.

The range of media and tools that has become available to us for transmission, storage and retrieval of data is amazing.

What role do you think Private Universities play in the education sector in India?

Education sector is witnessing an exponential growth and we have to synchronise our processes to meet the growth.

But, like in any other growth industry, the biggest challenge is to execute growth plans and building information systems that can scale with business growth. The higher education sector needs to grow to accommodate a larger fraction of India’s population. The government’s objective to increase enrolment to 30 percent needs tremendous expansion.

There is a need to evolve an appropriate policy framework for facilitating greater flow of private investment in education sector including removal of entry barriers, simplified procedures for affiliations etc. Also, there should be sufficient flexibility for Centre-State and private sector participation under various PPP models.

The role of the private sector in Indian higher education has increased significantly over the last decade, with majority of students currently being enrolled in private institutions. This role will only increase considering the substantial investments required in the sector.

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