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Transforming Curriculum of Higher Education
COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted Higher education at all levels. Lockdowns and restrictions on movement has resulted in closure of schools, colleges and universities. To adapt to this disruption, solutions are being analyzed to deliver inclusive and affordable home-based learning. Online classes (broadcast-based learning), WhatsApp based notes etc are some tools being adopted.
This disruption also presents an opportunity to initiate reforms for quality higher education in India.
Learning outcomes of higher education and failure in India:
Higher education serves as a bridge between formal education and employment. Broadly speaking it has 3 main learning outcomes:
- Imparting knowledge of relevant discipline to students
- Imparting skills needed for employment or research after higher education
- Imparting skills and values needed for students to play a constructive role in society
Following trends in India show poor learning outcomes in Indian higher education:
- India skills report (by People Strong, CII, UNDP, AICTE and AIU) says only 47% of Indian graduates are employable. Employability is declining in BTech, Engineering, MCA graduates, Technical & Computer-related courses.
- No Indian university in top 100 ranks of QS college and university rankings of 2020.
- Decreasing importance of liberal arts and life skills in curriculum.
Higher education has largely become a tool of acquiring a degree rather than learning. This is the case of the majority of institutes except few top institutes like IISc etc.
Gap between employable skills and higher education curricula is in particular important. It is well known that on the job training is more useful than years of higher education in learning job skills. Considering this, excessive focus on completing rigid syllabus in college wastes precious time during college. It also imposes additional economic costs as students need to be trained again during employment.
Hence there is a need to reimagine curriculum in higher education. COVID 19 pandemic presents such opportunity.
Bridging the employability skills gap in curriculum:
Following steps can bridge the gap:
- Re-evaluating curriculum periodically. This enables the syllabus to adapt to changing technologies and employment opportunities. Industry, teaching professionals and research institutions can partner to create a syllabus which is relevant and up-to-date.
- Industrial internships and vocational trainingshould be increased as a proportion of curriculum. Classroom teaching must be confined to basic essential concepts.
- Current practice of overemphasis on exit exams must be transformed into continuous evaluation. Performance evaluation must be based on regular assignments and industrial internships, rated by both college and industry. To evaluate basic concepts, a light home-based proctored exam can be conducted.
- Development of life skills, values and social attitudesmust be focused upon for a fulfilling life. Time saved due to reduced classroom-based pedagogy can be used for this purpose.
High proportion of the working age population (more than 60%) presents India an opportunity for ‘Demographic dividend’ based growth. But to realize this higher education must be transformed effectively to provide jobs to youth entering the workforce. Else India will face ‘demographic disaster’ with large unemployable youth burdening the economy. Hence opportunity presented by the present crisis must not be missed in heralding bold reforms in higher education. Only then can we achieve the Sustainable Development Goal – 4 of ‘Quality education’.
- Higher education in India has failed to achieve learning outcomes. Critically comment? What steps can be taken to improve learning outcomes in higher education? [15 marks, 250 words]