Dr. Vijay V. Bedekar, Chairman, Vidya Prasarak Mandali, Thane, which runs several education institutions offers his thoughts on academics, student development and progress
How do you encourage students towards academics when the syllabus sometimes is archaic and outdated?
Today students are smart and it is important for any institute to ensure that both, students and teachers are motivated. I personally speak to the students and teachers quite often so that proper communication links are established and larger purpose of education is achieved. It is important for the student to understand and appreciate that knowledge is power and we at Maharshi Parshuram College of Engineering (MPCOE) try to make the students curious about a topic. Our approach is that students should strive for quality and try to be original in this thought process. At Vidya Prasarak Mandali (VPM) I talk to all the faculty members personally to ensure that culture and quality flows to the grass roots level. It is important to engage the students constructively motivate them. I also encourage our principals to keep conducting faculty development programs so that teachers acquire news skills to connect with the students better. We at VPM are using technology to engage the students through videos etc as a participative tool for discussion.
There can be a perception amongst the stake holder that our syllabus is outdated which many not be true however there is scope of improving the same.
Should students in a college, institute or university be empowered to a certain extent that they can participate in policy decisions regarding their education?
The needs of the student can be understood but their direct participation in all policy decision making is questionable because at decision making, a lot of vision and maturity is required. At student level, most of the time, they lack the larger vision and the information acquired by them is very limited which will be a barrier to good policy. Students have very limited experience and hardly any exposure to real life scenarios. Students have their share of expression in our system. This question is like asking “Should a doctor diagnose and give the medicine or should doctor ask the patients what should be prescribed.” Doctors are highly specialized professionals and patients come with full faith. Similarly good colleges should be given freedom to shape the students and students are given enough opportunities to express themselves.
How can educators motivate students to work towards the goal of ‘knowledge’ (and not just marks) in their particular subject, on a daily basis?
Schools and colleges are helping students to acquire right set of information and then convert this information into meaningful knowledge. Currently it is our society which is driven by marks and our system which is emphasizing on marks. Focus on marks has given marks and not knowledge and therefore we do not see many noble prices coming to India. It is need of the day that we shift our focus to knowledge acquisition and application which can help our students and the country. We at VPM have been trying to help the students get various kinds of exposure so that they not only knowledge from the books but much beyond the books. Since 2005, students and teachers of VPM have been going to various countries like UK, China, Brazil, Singapore and Japan for learning and also for participating in competitions. They have brought laurels to VPM for winning in various competitions outside the country. It is also important that our entire education eco-system which includes students, parents, institutes and society should create motivating environment for betterment of the society. It should not be left to schools and institutes alone to motivate the students. However students who are self motivated have been doing good.
I understand that students need to consider marks, especially until class 12, since the admissions to undergraduate courses depend on marks. But do they really get out of the marks mode once they are admitted to an undergraduate or even a postgraduate course?
Though I do not fully agree that marks make people, but it is important for the students to get good marks for admission in good institutions. It is difficult to come out of the habit of focusing on marks but as the students grow and once they start observing that when it comes to placement it is skill of doing something is more important, and then they start acquiring those skills. For example students have learned that IT skills in management are required as most of the recruiting organizations and asking about these skills. Therefore students along with the functional skill are also picking up the skills which will help him in getting a good job. At VPM we have been encouraging entrepreneurship to seep into the culture so that students should be creating their own organizations rather than looking for jobs. At VPM we have been experiencing good results and we hope to nurture this cultural in our system.
Do educators and students work towards getting out of the university mode and into the ‘real world’ mode, especially during the final semester of postgraduate course? If there are some measures taken in classes for this, can you give us a few examples?
We have many post graduate courses offered at science college, commerce and arts college and management institute. Our PGDM management students were taken to Singapore for industrial visits, for attending the lectures on leadership and were exposed to business world where they have to finally perform. Students during their two years in the institute get exposed to financial markets with National Exchange Programme. They also get an opportunity to visit many industries in and around Mumbai. All our VPM colleges conduct seminars and conferences on the latest inputs which are required for the students and we our students benefit a lot. Professors and experts from the various fields are invited to give lateral inputs to the students so that holistic development of the students is taken care of.
How do colleges counsel students about starting small? For instance, when students are looking at placements from college, in any field, they are always looking at the large companies which have some glamour attached with their names. Most students don’t look at smaller, lesser known companies. Is there a way to counsel them that they should start small and climb the ladder?
When you have a big pool of students to cater to, it is not possible to place all the students in big brands, though most of the times it is seen that students insist for a brand name. At our management institute, while taking the summer projects the placement coordinators are ensuring that students get exposure to real work, which is normally in a small organisation. Many students while working for their summers start understanding the opportunity they have in working for a medium size organization. They are also counselled about growth in a SME and MSME. This is one of the ways of making students realize that in a small or medium organisation it is possible to get exposure to all the business function which may not be the case in a very large structure. However our society and parents should realise what is good for the future of the student and the youth of the country.
There are a few students who perhaps don’t have the means or resources themselves or within their colleges to gather the knowledge and experience that others have through different means. What can these proactive students do to improve themselves?
Students in all the VPM group of institutes have access to internet as the campus is WiFi-enabled and all the computer labs are supported by lease lines. We have recently created a portal called ‘gyan prawaha’ and access to this portal is free to all the students of VPM. They have now access to all the data bases and resources. In the campus we run various value-added programmes to cater to different needs of the industry. Students who cannot opt of high-end programmes can pursue value added-programmes and start their career.
Any message for our readers?
I would like to add that by and large there is a perception that many things are not very good in education including quality of teachers and institutions, which may be partially true, however taking into consideration large base of population which we have to educate. Considering the resources we have at our disposal, we are certainly not doing bad. What is needed to improve the situation is autonomy not in word but in actions. Also we should understand that both the society at large and the policy makers should facilitate to create a mindset that education cannot be free at all level.