In an exclusive interaction with The Free Press Journal, Prof. Francesco Profumo, former Minister of Education in Italy and the current Rector of the OPIT - Open Institute of Technology, discusses the future of online education, challenges, the Indian market, studying in Italy, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
1. Do you think online education can be a viable model in post-Covid era?
The pandemic has significantly accelerated the acceptance and adoption of online education. Looking ahead to the post-Covid era, it's evident that online education will continue to thrive, albeit more evolved. The future of education lies in the digital realm, where online platforms and resources will play an even more substantial role. This shift signifies not just a continuation but a transformation as education embraces the digital landscape to offer more dynamic and effective learning experiences.
2. What are the challenges of online education in Europe?
In the dynamic landscape of online education in Europe, a multifaceted array of challenges beckons for thoughtful consideration and strategic intervention. These challenges are pivotal in shaping the trajectory of digital learning and must be navigated with precision to ensure a robust and inclusive educational experience for all. Amongst them, I would like to highlight the following:
a. Content Refinement: The digital domain presents an ever-evolving canvas for educational content. Educators must craft materials that are not only engaging and informative but also suited to diverse learning styles and backgrounds, ensuring that the digital curriculum remains an effective medium for knowledge transmission.
b. Delivery Methods: The realm of online education brings forth a panorama of delivery methods, each with its unique potential and challenges. Striking the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning, incorporating interactive elements, and fostering genuine engagement necessitates a nuanced understanding of digital pedagogical techniques. Crafting a seamless virtual classroom experience involves leveraging technology to its fullest while safeguarding against pitfalls such as digital fatigue and isolation.
c. Effective Organization of Faculty Resources: A cornerstone of successful online education is the strategic utilisation of faculty resources. Ensuring that educators are well-equipped to harness the capabilities of digital platforms, manage virtual classroom dynamics, and facilitate meaningful student interactions requires comprehensive training and support systems. Additionally, devising mechanisms for collaborative curriculum development, peer mentoring, and continuous improvement are crucial for sustaining the quality of online education.
Navigating these challenges requires a collaborative effort from educators, technological innovators, and different stakeholders across the educational spectrum. By addressing these complexities head-on and embracing a mindset of continuous improvement, the realm of online education in Europe can evolve into a vibrant and transformative force, shaping the future of learning across borders and cultures.
3. How important is India as an education market for Europe, according to you?
India's role as an education market of paramount significance for Europe extends beyond mere student enrolment figures.
First and foremost, the number of students from India seeking educational opportunities in Europe underscores the depth of the relationship.
However, it's not just quantity that defines India's importance. The quality of Indian students sets them apart as exceptional learners and contributors to academic environments. The strong emphasis on education within Indian society and the rigorous academic preparation they undergo prepare them to excel on an international stage.
4. Do you think academic collaboration is possible between India and Italy in the coming years?
Certainly, the increasing interest among Indian students in Italy is evident in the growing numbers each year. This attraction can be attributed to the allure of the Italian lifestyle and the commendable quality of the education system. Given this trend, it is plausible to anticipate the potential for a collaborative educational partnership between India and Italy in the upcoming years.
5. With the current Italian government being viewed as 'anti-immigrant', do you fear a drop in foreign students in the country?
In Italy, the population of international students has been consistently increasing, with a notable rise in online learners. The attractiveness of the educational offerings and their affordability stands as the pivotal factors driving this trend.
6. How many Indian students do you expect in Italy by 2030? (Any estimates)
As of present, Italy hosts approximately 10% of online university students and 4% of the total international university students. During the academic year 2021/2022, the count of Indian university students stood at 5260, constituting 6% of the international university students in Italy and ranking as the sixth-largest international community. Looking ahead to the year 2030, our projections indicate an increase in online students to around 15% and a potential rise in Indian students studying at Italian universities, possibly reaching up to 40%.