Opening Arms of Learning

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Dr Santanu Paul, CEO & MD, TalentSprint

Dr Santanu Paul, CEO & MD, TalentSprint

The advent of technology has reaped in lucrative options of digital learning in the higher education space, shares Dr Santanu Paul, CEO & MD, TalentSprint, with Elets News Network (ENN)

According to you, is reservation in higher education defeating the purpose of imparting the best possible education to meritorious candidates?

Reservation in higher education has always been there but the percentage of reserved seats was small and the selection bar for those seats was still fairly high. This scenario has been changed in recent times with increase in the number of reserved seats and decrease in the bar for selection. So, in a sense, we have drifted heavily towards a model where excellence and merit are no longer a prerequisite for higher education. Naturally, we are seeing a tremendous dilution in quality and skills at the end of the higher education. I am not making a case against reservation, I am simply making the case that we can still have reservation for socially deprived segments of society while still enforcing a threshold of merit.

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Use of technology has become an integral component of education. What do you think are the challenges the Indian higher education system is facing with regard to implementation of technology?

Even in the current scenario, where technology is touching every person’s life, several higher education institutions in India are only using technology to the extent that they have computer labs. That’s just like scratching the surface. Lecturers need to first upgrade their mindsets and then their skill sets with regard to technology. Most of them view e-assisted classrooms, live virtual classes, self-paced online courses, mobile learning and so forth with suspicion and perceive them to be a threat to their job security. Just like bank unions resisted the advent of banking technology in the 1980s, we are seeing, to some extent, the same thing happening now in higher education. Ultimately though, the economics of technology wins in every field. The same will happen over the next decade or two as the next generation of teachers show up.

‘Access’ to all & ‘Quality’ of education are the major fault lines in the education system in India. What role can technology play in bridging these fault lines?

Technology is by far the only credible and likely answer to the twin dimensions of quality and access. I would even add the third dimension called engagement. This is already evident from digital learning platforms like Khan Academy, where the content is rich, deep, diverse, globally accessible, and most importantly, highly engaging and entertaining. Technology can lead us to edutainment, which I believe is the true future of education. The days of drab classroom lectures are over. Higher education must deliver an enriching user experience or else it will not attract modern learners.

Being into the technology-enabled learning space, how can your organisation contribute/is contributing in bridging the education fault lines?

We, at TalentSprint, focus on skill and career education, which is a postscript to higher education and a precursor to employment. Data shows that more than 90 per cent of college graduates leave campus without the basic skills required to get a wellpaying job. This is not just a fault-line, it is a massive chasm. Deficiencies include hard skills and soft skills. We are addressing this space through a combination of digital and contact programmes. We currently address 50,000 trainees per year, which should rise to 100,000 soon, and then our target is 1 million by 2020. We are clear that tech-led learning is the answer to the questions of access, quality, and learner experience.

How technological transformations and innovative learning tools can change the education landscape in India in the coming decade?

Technological transformations can change the education landscape, if:

  • laptops, tablets and smartphones will play a major role in changing the nature of access to learning.
  • the decline in calibre of teachers and professors in physical classrooms will lead to much greater acceptance of digital programmes conducted by high quality master trainers.
  • the price of digital programmes will keep coming down, and the costs of safe travel and accommodation will keep going up, which means the costbenefit ratio will tilt towards digital programmes.
  • nano-courses will become popular because of their convenience and flexibility, and degree giving institutions may morph themselves into custom aggregations of heterogeneous nano-courses.

All this may appear pretty disruptive in the short and medium-term, but when the dust settles, we will have high-quality education and affordable edutainment that is both flexible and affordable.

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