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September 01, 2017 Friday 11:02:38 AM IST

A Paradigm Shift in Education is Imminent

Cover Story

If the universe took aeons to evolve into its present form, progress, a fallout of that slow paced event, is on a spin today. Everything is on the fast track. Education is no exception. Two professionals, Dr. Garry Jacobs and Dr. MSR Dev, stalwarts in futuristic education, enjoy a chat with Dr.-Ing Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor, Rajagiri School of Engineering and Managing Editor of Pallikkutam, along with Mr Thomas George, Soft Skills Trainer, Motivational Speaker and Simplification Consultant.


As a member of World University Consortium offering creative solutions for global higher education, especially by appreciating and making use of the possibilities of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, (which you often describe as important as the Fall of the Berlin Wall), what are your thoughts on the paradigm shift that awaits global higher education?


Dr. Garry Jacobs: “There’s a perceptible paradigm shift currently in teaching methodology which has not changed much from the time the first university was started in Bologna, Italy, in the 11th century AD, before the printing press was invented. Advances in technology and the wide reach of digital devices is enabling people to

learn and re-skill themselves on demand, at their own pace from anywhere on the globe. Pedagogy is changing from the current, passive memorization process of imbibing force-fed knowledge delivered by an expert, to that of an active, involved, collaborative process of learning suited to the requirements of individual learners. Retention and recall rate based on the current, subject-centric, education methodology is dismally low when compared to student centric, hands on, co-operative learning processes. This has been measurably and conclusively proved by several global studies. In today’s world where information and knowledge are increasing

dramatically, what was imbibed just a short time ago, changes and keeps getting outdated. What the student should actually be learning is how to keep learning at each step to be able to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex world of specialization.


This is where MOOCs offered by various platforms backed by the world’s top universities comes in. These organizations are enabling a democratization of knowledge, by being accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time, virtually free of cost. They offer their platform of acquired knowledge, based on which the learner can update their current skills and use the wisdom gained to build new possibilities. With the spread of these open

knowledge platforms, everybody can have access to the best teachers available, at a venue and time of

everyone’s choice and pace. It is a tectonic shift in the way education will be imparted, a total upheaval of the way we learn and our digital age upheaval demands it. This is why I have compared it to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Such a change is inevitable, but this is not to say that schools and colleges will be replaced, rather the personal inspiration and motivation of the teacher in person cannot be replaced with a totally online system of education. It will only complement what the teachers’ personal attention and encouragement will instil in their students. It’s not that we need less schools or less teachers, but rather teachers who can be facilitators of a new way of thinking in budding young minds.


Dr Dev, after taking voluntary retirement from ISRO, you have been dedicated to developing entrepreneurship in developing companies and educational institutions for the last 16 years. What

are your perspectives on the imminent paradigm shift in education?


Dr. MSR Dev: “A total paradigm shift is happening globally and in India today. We need not only skilled workers, but to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in modern India, there is an urgent need to develop innovative thinking and entrepreneurial abilities to benefit from it. The government has started various initiatives to this effect and in my capacity, I am passionately involved with several educational institutes and other organizations to further this movement to foster critical thinking and encourage collaborative capabilities to thrive in an uncertain, ever changing world.”


“In this aspect, the Finnish education system rated as the most innovative form of pedagogy is worth mentioning. They have abolished subjects in schools and instead learn through topics. It is a totally collaborative learning environment where the desks don’t face the teachers anymore, but are clustered in circles where the teacher initiates a discussion and everyone contributes and presents what they learned to the whole class. A topic like United Nations would eventually enable not only an understanding of the organization

itself, but also about history, geography, language, culture, religions, climatic conditions, flora and fauna, financial and monetary systems etc, of each country. This unique, participative learning process will kindle curiosity and foster an eagerness to learn through discovery and is worth emulating.”


Dr. Dev, educated Indian youth are grappling with high levels of unemployment. Do you think the current initiative of the national Government in Skill Development will change the scenario for the

better? Is it too little, too late? What keeps educated Indian youth without employment? In your view what can be done by the government and society to solve theissue of unemployment?


Dr. MSR Dev: “The Skill in India initiative of the Government of India is a very important step in the right direction. Despite its current hiccups, it will develop and expand along the path to impart specific skill sets to a growing young population, in sectors facing acute shortage of labour. Formerly, vocational training was being imparted in a very minimal way through Industrial Training Institutes and this new initiative will give a big push to improve the lot of the masses by equipping them to earn a living and gain confidence in their abilities.”


Dr. Garry Jacobs: “India definitely needs many more vocational training institutes benchmarked with global best practices, like the Apprenticeship system in Germany, the Community College system in the United States and the successful trade training efforts of South Korea. This is a big missing link in the developmental efforts of India to enable gainful employment opportunities for its unemployed youth. India also needs more agricultural universities to lift and develop the capabilities of millions of its farmers. The setting up of the National Skill Development Corporation and the very ambitious targets it has set for itself for imparting technical skills to tens of millions of people are all very encouraging steps. The number one determinant of India’s success in the future will depend on the quantity and quality of education imparted at all levels. This would help this great country to reap the fruits of its bountiful demographic dividend.”


Dr. MSR Dev: “We must bear in mind that education should work towards an all round, holistic development of the individual to be able to lead a harmonious and productive life. Narrow domain specialization should change to a more inclusive, integrated way of thinking and learning. It should harmoniously integrate the personal, professional, social and spiritual dimensions of the individual, be it the learner or the teacher. That will lead to a better world.”