Technical education in India has emerged as an integral part of the country’s higher education system and has wide reach in terms of providing employment. There is a constant need of upgradation in this field of education. Prof. Saikat Maitra, Vice Chancellor, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology, West Bengal (formerly West Bengal University of Technology) spoke to BE’s Saptarshi Deb.
Q) Being updated with the latest skill sets as per industry requirements is essential for employability after completion of technical education. How far is the technical education sector in India up to this challenge?
A) The whole gamut of technical education in India is undergoing massive transformation in terms of curriculum. Last year, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has revised its course curriculum and accordingly many universities including MAKAUT have revised their curriculum.
There are two aspects related to this revision. One is integration of information science and cutting edge technology with the engineering courses. The second aspect is embracing of digital pedagogy through online courses. Efforts are on to relate these online courses to our existing course curriculum. Online courses are making top class lectures and materials easily available for all students.
Education today should be student centric. The curriculum should be designed based on the needs of the students. Every educational stake-holder is trying this. To keep updated with latest technological development and industry requirements, education must be a continuously updating process. In our university, we are trying to constantly update our digital education content basket. I would also like to emphasise that there is an immediate requirement to promote entrepreneurship. Technical education should offer encouragement to start-up entrepreneurs and provide them with the necessary knowledge resources. For our students who are trying to develop their own start-ups and find it difficult to attend classes, we are allowing them the use of credit transfer facilities. Coming back to the main question, I feel there is need for institutes to collaborate with industries and industry chambers to develop an updated and reflective educational ecosystem that will ensure employability.
Q) How can the technical education sector in India ensure job readiness for students?
A) In the current context, the nature of jobs has changed significantly. Automation, robotics, change in production technology and other factors has ensured this change. We now need to train our students to be a knowledge worker as traditional and conventional jobs are fast receding. At the same time, new opportunities are emerging. However, for fitting into those roles, students need to look into knowledge based options. Students also need to be open to multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary training. Today, technical education does not exist in isolation. It is getting blended with management and humanities. Having an understanding of multiple disciplines can make technical education students job ready in the present context. Continuous training, re-training, collaborative learning and workshop based learning can aid this process. Additionally, courses designed for emerging industry needs are also important. Cyber-security, data analytics and data science can be some of the examples. Our university has started courses in these areas. We have also taken the media and animation boom seriously.
Q) How do you assess the role of private players in disseminating quality technical education in India?
A) In higher education there is always a need for massive involvement from private players. That is how the higher education sector or the tertiary and professional education sector operates in most of the developed countries. Tertiary and professional education must be linked to the market and therefore it is essential to involve private players in this sector. We need more skill generation in India. We need more innovation. The private sector’s involvement in tertiary and professional education is essential. The state can take responsibility of primary education and secondary education to a certain extent. However, for professional education, involvement of the private sector is absolutely necessary.
Q) What policy level interventions can enhance the technical education sector?
A) The government has taken up enough policies. The need now is to implement them effectively. Implementation is a problem in India. It entails change of certain mindsets – which is difficult. Educators must come forward to take the responsibility of implementing these polices. Many times, educators do not want to venture out from their comfort zones. That needs to change. Additionally, educators must be open to updating themselves. I am sure it will change but it will take time.
Q) How is your organisation providing technical education to your students?
A) We have launched various initiatives to embrace digital education in the best possible way. We have brought the best practices of digital education in our organisation and allowed our students to benefit from them. We are continuously updating our curriculum as well. We are encouraging our students to take up digital courses. We are also emphasising on start-ups. We have our own start-up incubation centres and are trying to develop an integral system linking our organisation to various industry chambers. Most importantly, we are encouraging the young intelligent minds to be what they want to be. We have also initiated various new courses. Last year, we introduced 46 new courses. This year we have introduced courses on risk management, virtual reality and augmented reality and we are also planning to introduce a course on digital health.