Group Interview Conducted by Pagalguy with Prof. Suku Bhaskaran & Prof. Kim Anne Menezes

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Q1. As a true global citizen, what are the fundamental differences in the way education in imparted domestically and internationally?

Suku Bhaskaran: My response would sound opinioned. I think I am justified as what I am offering is my perspective and there can, naturally, be other perspectives to your question. As Socrates said, “True wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing”. So I would not want to take the position of a “know all” but offer some candid insights with recognition that there would be other perspectives to the question that you pose.

As a generalization, I am of the opinion that the system of higher education in our country is substantially different to that abroad, maybe the curriculum is somewhat similar but not so contemporary but the core emphasis is on teaching and not on learning outcomes. In my opinion, this is a very substantive and, maybe, not so evident difference.

I feel that much of this focus on teaching has to do with the school feeder system in regard to the quality of students being made available to higher education institutions. Why? Most developed countries are highly urbanized. For example, in the UK 88% of the people live in urban areas; in Australia about 90% of the people live in urban areas. Income distribution is far more equitable and access to good quality primary and secondary education is very high. The quality of teacher training, and research into teaching and learning and teaching and learning practices is high priority. Consequently, there is a pool of well-trained school leavers who selectively apply for higher education. In my opinion, the situation in India is very different. Only 33% of the population lives in urban agglomerations. There is wide disparity in income distribution. Therefore, in my opinion, the higher education opportunities in our country is ‘elitist’ and does not provide sufficient opportunities to very able students from socially and economically disadvantaged groups because they do not have access to good schools and cannot afford outside the class room coaching that the more privileged students have access to.

Prof Kim: Based on my previous observation, I believe, note this is my opinion, a system of coaching centres and systematic rote learning based on a pre-eminent focus on attaining the assessment thresholds in exams rather than holistic learning has evolved. The consequence is that, we have attracted many students into elite institutions whose perspective to learning is very narrow. As the President of India, the Honorable Pranab Mukherjee, recently pointed, out students in the best science and technology institutions go on and do postgraduate studies in management and take-up management positions (he in fact said go on to sell detergents) rather than pursing advanced study in their discipline, getting into research and advancing knowledge in their discipline.

I also observe that class attendance tends to be low even in the higher ranked non-residential institutions and therefore peer-to-peer learning, an important foundation of learning in the developed countries, tends to be almost non-existent here.

Parental influence in course choices and choice of where to study also appears to be far higher in India than in developed countries. In my opinion, this curtails young schools leavers from independent decision-making and motivation required to excel in what they want to do. I think this impacts on personal development and therefore their growth as individuals. Maybe, to some extent, this explains why students shift from science and technology in their undergraduate studies to management courses when pursuing advanced study.

Yet another difference is the pre-eminent focus on pursuing master’s level education and then look for employment rather than to seek employment after undergraduate studies. Consequently, the type of students coming into Master’s programs or the Postgraduate diploma programs cannot readily relate theory to practice. Thus, in the MBA and even postgraduate science and technology courses, there is too much focus on theoretical knowledge rather than on the practice of management or practice of science and technology.

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