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December 07, 2020 Monday 11:30:50 AM IST

Calibrate your Assessment tools

Cover Story

As per a World Economic Forum (WEF), Jobs of the Future Report published in 2018, the average shelf life of a technical skill in the working world today is 2 years, 42% of jobs are expected to require an entirely different skill set by 2022. They headlined the related infographic as, ‘The world is undergoing a massive change’ and continues on to say that “there will be difficult transitions for millions of workers and the need for proactive investment in developing a new surge of agile learners and skilled talent globally”. Against this alarming backdrop, where does our system of education in India stand to cater to the skills needed in the coming new age, which the youth of today need to thrive, if not survive? That is the million- rupee question which has finally brought us the New Education Policy, which as per official reckoning, will show results by 2035. That’s way too far away in the future, considering the sobering facts thrown up by the WEF Report and by other experts and business leaders who have a major challenge ahead of them in sourcing the required talent at any given point in time.

With the background of these alarming facts highlighted by the report, before we go into the debate on assessment, we have to look first into what do we teach and more importantly, what form of different pedagogy do we apply to teach the skills needed to bridge the widening gap between an ever changing demand scenario and a rather static supply scenario relative to the capabilities expected of the future job seeker. Other than the much treaded, rote learning path, are there other pathways which can shorten the distance between hope and success for the youth of today?  What are the basic skills required going forward in addition to domain knowledge? Of the multi-faceted  abilities needed, three key factors stand out and that is Creativity, Collaboration and Communication. Without creativity, there is no forward momentum, without collaboration, let us face it, nothing substantial can happen and without clear and concise communication, no message can hope and help in solving issues, be it for business or social contribution, can happen.

Ofcourse you can teach all this in theory as we see happen all too often, but how do we get the learning outcome across practically, is the pertinent question and that too within the confines and the constraints of the current educational system framework? For example, how do we teach important abilities like negotiation skills which links in with collaboration and communication?  How can we build creativity into the art of negotiation, which is a skill needed life long, as we tread through work family life and society? In addition, how do we trigger critical thinking abilities in this world of information and disinformation overload? How to get them to see the big picture while focusing on learning the nitty gritty of the details? There are many ways of activating trigger points to arrive at the desired outcome of friction less negotiation.

 One method which I, as a Soft Skills Trainer applied with a batch of Supply Chain Management students was giving an exercise where the class was divide into batches of buyers and sellers. They buyers were given the task of bringing a set of products purchased by them from a specified global location via various types of transportation with its attendant higher and lower cargo rates, within a given time frame and a price range. The sellers had to try and get a higher rate per kilo and the buyers, bargain for lower rates, better terms etc. Each team had a set time frame to finish negotiations with penalties for overshooting that. This half a day activity when reassessed, they came to realise that they had learned to be creative, collaborative, communicative and be critical in evaluating their desired outcomes. In addition, they realised that they had learned selling skills, service orientation, time management and presentation skills which would stand them in good stead in the extremely competitive world awaiting then out there.
In an Architecture College they exercise was tailored to several teams of architects bargaining for building products and infrastructure providers, to give the best per square foot price and the best design for the owner of a plot in a prime locality. In a B School, groups of entrepreneurs had to come up with innovative new businesses and bargain for better rates to bring their ideas to fruition and then pitch the idea to investors and a bankers for finances and finally present it to the whole class, encompassing ethical values into the business via corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.

Customised Learning in School
These are the building blocks of an uncertain future that awaits them and these kind of learning activities can be incorporated into all the different curricula that we have in India, as highlighted by the Ananthamurthy Academy in Trivandrum, which makes use of cutting -edge customised learning practices under the CBSE syllabus, which itself is a mean task to accomplish. Their student assessment practices are also equally progressive with no advance notice of impending tests given to students and constant feedback to keep parents in the loop about the student’s progress is worth emulation.

Psychometric testing should be made an integral part of the schooling system. In the final sense constant assessment of student abilities of the Core ‘Cs’ is sorely needed to be implemented via new age learning techniques mentioned above, to have a visible positive effect on the youth. There is a lot of critical, creative, collaborative, communication needed in academia to incorporate character into our moribund education system. The question, are we ready for such a change in assessment is irrelevant. The time for change is now, as all the pointers are pointing to a future which is unlike any, we went through or for that matter is in the grasp of reasonable prediction. Long may live the cliché, ‘Change is the only constant’.

Thomas George

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