“Educational structure needs to be re-aligned”

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Learning has to be more application oriented. Even at the risk of sounding cliched, I would say that academia and industry have to come closer; argues Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research Group Director Dr. Uday Salunkhe in conversation with Nikita Apraj

Education system is the backbone of a nation. It needs to be strong yet flexible so that the nation can sustain. It needs to evolve in order to accommodate current trends to create a society that would shape its future in better way.

As the world has turned into a global village, definition and scope of education can no longer remain confined to four walls of the classrooms. Nor can it limit itself to a single stream, if it wants its pupils to survive the era of globalisation. Education of new times has its own needs.

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Going Step by Step

We are far from the pinnacle of the evolution in this context, yet a lot many impactful changes are definitely setting in. As a nation, we are already aware of the various gaps in our educational set up and are making genuine efforts to plug-in these. Right from inclusivity to diversity and affordability, everything that matters seems to have drawn the attention of the policy makers.

Talking of gross enrollment ratio (GER), it is sad but true that our GER still remains as low as 16 percent, as compared to the world average of 27 percent. We have already started working on these drawbacks.The 12th Five-Year Plan has addressed issues of expansion, equity, excellence, governance, funding and implementation, and monitoring.

Education is no more exclusively synonymous to classroom learning; relevant exposure and application have become integral to it.  Right from rural management to the global adaptability, every aspect is looked into, debated and cared for.  Policy makers are giving the much needed thrust on rural management, design thinking, innovation, and corporate social responsibility.

Also the education system suffers inequitable access to higher education and abysmally low levels of research. These need to be worked upon to take them to the desired levels of excellence and effectiveness Also when we talk of expansion plans we need to have a greater diversity to it to cater to the markets and boost employability. It will definitely take time before we start getting the desired impact but we are trying our best and will achieve good results in times to come.

Grooming the Future

In the face of current dynamic environment marked with liberalisation, fading geographical boundaries and technological advance skill development has gained unprecedented significance.

The changing policies are drawing foreign investment to the country and we need an educated, skilled and tech-savvy workforce to make the most of these opportunities. We have to rewire a vast sea of workforce to align them to the digital era as technology is the matrix of the new learning ecosystem and the work culture.

Undoubtedly we are at the forefront of the technology but at the same time we have a huge rural population. We need diversity when it comes to skill development along with excellence. Diversity that takes care of all the sections of the society  and at the same time skills those who are left behind in want of relevant skills to fit into the markets.

We need to groom an army of talent that includes globally deployable managers /leaders who not only master their trade but also are masters in human psyche. They should be able to connect to all the stake holders in the society they operate in. Equally important is the global connect but with appreciation of the local relevance.

Changing Times Call for Restructuring

The basic tenets on which we have based our educational structure need to be re-aligned in congruence to the changed times. Learning has to be more application oriented. Even at the risk of sounding clichéd I would say that academia and industry have to come closer.

We are more dynamic, global and fiercely competitive now than ever before. But we still follow the curriculum framed when most of the ventures ran in limited geographies. Now the scene has changed.

As our canvass has become larger and our references global, we have to have a global perspective. It comes with global interactions, faculty on board, participation in global forums and events. Technology, globalization and fierce competition have turned around the face of learning and work place ecosystem. We have to give a basic level of digital literacy to the current work force.

Our universities should integrate design thinking, innovation, experiential thinking into the soul of the curriculum. Out of box thinking, projects and assignments in the real world conditions have to be integrated into the educational set up.

Research not only creates knowledge but gives us newer versions of product and service which are more affordable, improved and have more local relevance.

As of now we are running short of quantity, quality and diversity when it comes to skill development. A vast majority of India lives in rural set up. Our educational set up has to cater to their needs, setting them on path of progress and thus also addressing the rural -urban imbalance.

Breaking Isolation

A cross-disciplinary approach among the students along with the faculty paves way for creative thinking and innovative solutions. Not only it whets their appetite for intellectual pursuits they are passionate about but also gives them broader perspectives of the global corporate and social scenario. Also it is a simple fact that no stream of knowledge exist in isolation.

If one specialises in Finance it is always advisable to learn about other streams such as HR, or marketing that will make you a professional who understands the complex picture better.

Eventually one may shoulder the responsibility of a HR manager working for a multinational bank, handling career paths of its employees in various departments like marketing, finance, treasury, securities, mutual funds, IT, operations, legal compliances etc.

Management is at the core of any discipline or space.  We can take the example of law, most of the well-known corporate houses have their in-house lawyers. These in-house lawyers play a full-time role in defining the company’s strategy. They are full-time advisors to the policy-makers and top leadership of the companies.

As of the Healthcare sector, a rough estimate shows that our wellness sector needs around 1,000 hospitals to meet the health needs of the country. Here we need a work force to look into the various medical as well as management aspects involved in the field and at the same time they should be aware of the overall scenario of the wellness sector.

This brings the two disciplines together in a meaningful manner. Interdisciplinary ‘niche’ programs are call of the day.

(Dr. Uday Salunkhe is Group Director of the Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research, Mumbai and Bangalore. He is the chairman of Ad-hoc Board of Studies in Management Courses of Mumbai University and Chairman of the Local Management Committee of Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia (AMDISA) – a SAARC initiative.)

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