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Education and Best Practices

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In the connected world where we live, it is imperative that education is treated as the only glue that can ensure that the world flourishes. Education itself is a best practice that can happen in ones life. It should teach us humility and benevolence and a clarity of mind and purpose. I am reminded of Bhirthrihari the celebrated author of Shatakatrayi who wrote in Sanskrit

Translated in English this means “With fruits, trees bend, i.e. be humble, with water, clouds hang low, i.e. wealthy good men maintain humble posture, and hence are seen to be benevolent.”

In my view it is not unfair to suggest that institutions of higher education have always been created and shaped by the interests of the ruling classes and elites in the societies in which they existed. This means they serve to reinforce the economic, political, ideological, and cultural interests of those who create them, fund them, and populate them. We need to take a hard look at this proposition and make education available to everyone who needs it. A truly inclusive system is in everyone’s interest.

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Private, public and governmental participation has been steadily increasing in the education sector. Forecasts suggest that, if current patterns of participation continue, more than 30 percent of today’s school leavers will experience higher education in 10 years from now. A GER of about 15 percent would certainly need to be revisited and the Governments endeavour to push it as high as 30percent is indeed noble. I wish, we attain a figure of 50 percent in the next 20 odd years. Higher education will shape individual lives, the economy and society. Such an activity must be the subject of broad and informed consideration and debate. We need to create a knowledge society. Knowledge is all pervasive and it is said about Knowledge, again a couplet by Bhirthrihari:

Translated “Knowledge removes lethargy of the intellect, invests truth in the speech, enhances the greatness and casts off sin; cleanses the mind and spreads the fame all around”

We need to empower the youth with education that promotes knowledge and promotes meaningful employment based on this knowledge as applicable to a certain environment. Any activity that promotes this is a best practice and such a pursuit will always benefit the society we live in.

“The Government’s move to exempt Xth grade examinations is truly out of box, critics apart, and worth a million in the bullion market. We need more of that”

It is a challenge to be able to pen down best practices in education. The times we live in are full of flux and recounting any number of best practices of today can at best be a mere perspective. I would like to treat that subject in two stages:

1. How to identify what is best.

2. How to ensure that the produce from the colleges hits the ground running to meet employment and opportunity.

The purpose of education is to ensure progress. I would like to choose to lay the foundations of understanding how to record the best practices. How to identify what is best.

The foremost three aspects of education are:
1. The student
2. The faculty and
3. The institution

If there were a way to plot these three properties individually and then have a map that plots all the institutes on a single page; it shall enable us to develop a credible system of rating. drawing up a median and then identifying need-gaps in colleges that remain below the median will help us improve the performance of the colleges and reduce the base area of the education pyramid.

Indeed there are underlying layers that form the crux of each of the above aspects.

1. the student: financial, regional and aspirational mapping
2. the faculty: financial, regional, innovational and aspirational mapping
3. the institution: Its ability to create impact in its local vicinity, national and global realms, promote research, retain faculty and consistently out-perform its out turn each year.

While there are no quick fixes to what ails, we need to recognise that access to higher education is much better today, though the systems have become more complex and hence more challenging.

There can not be a “one size fits all” formula and understanding of need gaps when analysed against a backdrop of the best performing teams of faculty, institution and student will help us deliver a system that is optimised for results. From here shall emerge the best practices.

How to ensure that the produce from the colleges hits the ground running to meet employment and opportunity. The other challenge is the lack of right metrics and planning that do not tie in the produce from the colleges to the available opportunities for the students outside in the commercial world. This leads to lopsided education imparted, there is unemployment leading to restive youth.

Just as there is a method of forecasting GDP and growth and use available data around FDI, industrial, farm outputs and service industry, similarly, the output of students and skills can be planned to meet such development midway. For that truly would be the exacting of the demographic dividend.

A Country blesssed with great numbers of youth in productive age can also be severly undercut if they are not in the mainstream. An example would suffice the seriousness of this statement. Over 50 percent of youth fail between 10th, 11th and 12th grade and probably out of the education scene for ever after that. They surely must be contributing to the growth of the Country in some way as much as contributing to the muck. An out of box approach and a possible best practice could be to allow them to pass the grade with minimal intervention. The Government’s move to exempt Xth grade examinations is truly out of box, critics apart, and worth a million in the bullion market. We need more of that.

Assuming an incremental value addition happens to the entropy of the Universe; it is still worth it apart from the collateral advanatage of higher GER’s and overall growth in economies brought about by an exalted youth. Best practices in Education is notional at best though specifics can always be defined. Anything that adds to overall well being and acts as a force multiplier for economy is a best practice be it in education, medicine economics or any other.

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