There are many challenges that must be tackled for effective implementation of ICT in the education programme, believes K P Mishra, Vice Chancellor, Nehru Gram Bharati Vishwavidyalaya (NGBU). In an interview to ENN, he also talks about the issue of funds, infrastructure and the unintentional resistance of stakeholders to change
As a university with the objective to improve the access of higher education for rural areas, how relevant do you find the use of technological tools in education in today’s time and age?
Major population of India lives in rural areas and education has to reach remote and inaccessible places. Plans have to be worked out to engage youth from urban as well as rural areas in nation-building through proper education. The focus of our endeavours is to improve upon the quality and access of higher education to students from rural India. Without doubt, technological tools hold the key to achieve these objectives effectively. At this point in time of globalisation, new opportunities have been created but competition has also become tougher. This demands optimisation of talent promotion through innovation in education and training and requires reforming and strengthening of our education system – from primary to university level – to match global standards. We are faced with the challenge of providing opportunities to the youth to receive appropriate education and unfold their full potential for meeting their aspirations. We recognise that technological tools, particularly computer, digital tools, Internet etc. have immense potential to enable students acquire knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the competitive global market.
While setting up the university, late Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru had noted the importance of vocational, technical and professional education. What role does technology play in achieving these objectives and how well is your university geared up for tech- enabled learning?
Universities are regarded to be the temples of knowledge. India’s first Prime Minister Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru had recognised and placed due importance to vocational and professional education as it provides the confidence and capability for winning jobs and setting up enterprises. Education is meaningless if it cannot help earn a living to meet the necessities of life. In the present time, the advent of information and communication technology has facilitated the process of teaching and learning in more ways than one. Education has witnessed a revolution in the approach and methods of teaching. A greater opportunity of interactive teaching has become possible and teachers can design and deliver course material to students in an interesting and effective manner. We have made sincere efforts to employ ICT in teaching programmes for the benefit of students and teachers by providing computer labs, Internet facilities, digitisation of library and innovations in teaching. Many initiatives have been taken and upgradation of technological facilities is a continuous process in our future plans.
In recent years, there has been a concerted push from the HRD ministry at the Centre towards technology enabled learning. Are you aware of the initiatives and how well have they progressed at your institute?
We are fully aware of the HRD minis- try’s push for introducing technology enabled learning in higher education. I am a strong supporter of the government’s National Mission for Education through ICT (NMEICT). In fact, NGBU has actively followed the implementation of plans and programmes of the central government provided from time to time. We are particularly interested in increasing utilisation of information technology in admission, examination and evaluation processes. We have also started an orientation programme of training the new and existing faculty through computers and power point presentations to make them technol- ogy savvy and upgrade their professional knowledge and class room teaching meth- ods. The focus is to integrate technology in teaching and transform the traditional class room teaching into a technology- driven learning and practice centre.
What in your view is the impact of the use of technological resources on the quality and accessibility of education? How has it helped the students and faculty at your institute?
In my opinion, quality of teaching is the core strength of university educa- tion which, unfortunately, has shown a declining trend in past years in our country. It is hoped that MHRD would take note of this decline and take cor- rective measures. Use of technology has enormous scope to improve quality and accessibility of education, especially in rural areas. There has been a limited impact of ICT on quality improvement of education but the efforts are con- tinuing. In my experience, there are a few snags that need to be tackled for enhancing the impact. For example, in- frastructure and manpower in various universities differ markedly. Therefore, plans of implementation of the ICT pro- gramme have to be executed in groups of universities with similar background and encourage them to catch up with better placed institutions. Among other factors, unreliable availability of elec- tricity from commercial supply system and inadequate power through genera- tor system frequently disrupt the plans of technology teaching and practice, thereby disturbing the schedules and adversely affecting the teaching pro- gramme. Teaching standards and ac- cessibility would substantially improve after we make dependable delivery of teaching from centralised destinations assuring students quality lesson mate- rial designed by experts in the subjects.
“The major problem faced in implementation of technology-based teaching programmes is the unintentional resistance of stakeholders to change”
Are there any other initiatives that you have streamlined with regard to tech-enabled learning?
We have planned a few initiatives for technology based teaching and learning in our campus. For example, we are keen to implement our plans for transforming the classroom experience by replacing traditional passive lectures with active learning experiences based on informa- tion technology. In addition, it has been in our active plans to motivate students to conceive, initiate, and implement projects utilising information technol- ogy in their fields of study. We believe that by allowing students to employ and practice technology in a free atmosphere would prod them to thinking of creating new software and services for future.
What are the challenges that you have faced with regard to the introduction of ICT in education? Any plans to engage with private players to take it to the next level?
There are many challenges that must be tackled for effective implementation of ICT in the education programme. In this context, the merit of investment in creat- ing infrastructure for implementation of technology is obvious. But, often such in- vestments receive lukewarm response by the university fund allocation Committee. It may be advisable to plan for one- time special funding assistance to estab- lishing and improving infrastructure for technology-based teaching, training, learning and research for accelerated implementation of NMEICT. In my expe- rience, the major problem faced in imple- mentation of technology-based educa- tional programmes is the unintentional resistance of stakeholders to change. Passive approach and lack of receptiv- ity are major hurdles which, of course, stems due to traditional mindset. It can, however, be tackled with patience and tactful handling. I feel fortunate to have identified and involved willing faculties to implement new plans of technology based teaching, training and research activities. However, it was more than satisfying to witness enthusiastic partici- pation of young students in technology based courses and innovative research activities in Ph.D. programme. I strongly believe that participation of private play- ers in education supported by technol- ogy would push the ICT programme to- wards a faster pace, wider acceptability and better academic participation.