Students need to study humanities in a STEM world as human touch has become indispensable in the workplace

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By Education Today

Posted on January 14, 2020


8 min read

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Students need to study humanities in a STEM world as human touch has become indispensable in the workplace

As a renowned institute in the field of higher education, what are VELS thoughts about the current higher education system in India? What are the shortcomings you see and how could we counteract them?

India’s higher education system is the world’s third-largest in terms of student numbers, next to China and the US. India’s Higher Education sector has witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of Universities/University level Institutions & Colleges since independence yet, only three Indian Universities- IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and IISc (Bangalore)- have been included in the top 200 institutes in QS World University Rankings 2020. 

There are many concerns such as low gross enrolment ratio. Huge variations in college density (number of colleges per lakh eligible population) varies from 59 in Telangana to 7 in Bihar as compared to All India average of 28. Regional disparity in access to education as premier institutions are centered in urban cities, while real development is required at the rural regions of our nation. 

When it comes to result, the lack of skills to be employed in any sector after graduation due to rot learning, outdated curriculum, lack of infra to impart practical skills has left our human capita ineffective for good nation building. 

In my view we have a good quantity of institutions to grow talents but sadly we do not seem to have the quality when compared to the UK and USA. The only way to counteract is by believing in the new education policy announced by our central government. It seems to take care of many concerns. Time will tell. 

Please tell us about Vels Group of Institutions. What are your core strengths? How Vels is unique in terms of courses and curriculum?

Found in 1992, The Vels Group of Institutions began its journey as a humble college of pharmacy with 36 students and 10 staff in Chennai. With Honesty, Hard Work and Dedication as the core values, Dr. Ishari K Ganesh, the founder of Vels Group started to establish one new institution every year with 2 goals. 

1. To offer job oriented courses for students from all sections of the society.  

2. To make India a Knowledge Power and realise the vision of Dr. APJ Kalam. 

In 2020, The Vels Group of Institutions has marched successfully beyond 28 years, 36 institutions, 30,000 students and 6000 staff in India, Singapore & United Kingdom and offers programmes from Pre-Kg to Ph.D. Catering to all segments of students, offering a plethora of curriculum options at preschool and high school level and offering more than 100+ course options at higher education level are some of the biggest strengths of Vels Group of Institutions. 

Vels is also the first private player to offer Nautical and Maritime studies in India. Catering education to students in all age groups, provided the advantage of studying the various factors that strongly influence in producing all-rounders. As it was evident that a strong preschool education was the base for it, Vels underwent a 15-year R&D to launch its internationally acclaimed indigenously developed preschool curriculum, THE KINDLE KIDS INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM, which is now open for schools around the world to adapt and benefit from. Vels continues to grow bigger, to offer its expertise in new markets around the world to instill the importance of lifelong learning.

What will be the Impact of COVID-19 on Indian higher education system?

The spread of Covid-19 has disrupted every aspect of mankind including education. It has created an unprecedented test on education. In many educational institutions around the world, campuses are closed and teaching-learning has moved online. Internationalization has slowed down considerably. In India, about 32 crore learners stopped to move schools/colleges and all educational activities brought to an end. Despite all these challenges, the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have reacted positively and managed to ensure the continuity of teaching-learning, research and service to the society. 

Due to Covid-19 pandemic, many new modes of learning, perspectives and trends have emerged.  A greater global collaboration between students, academia & industry is likely to happen. Faculty will have to redesign course content to meet the current and future needs, they will have to move away from traditional pedagogies. The demand for quality educators will shape the way higher education moves forward from this crisis.

Albeit central as well as the state government’s initiatives to attract students for basic subjects like arts and literature, demand is still more for applied subjects. What’s your take on this?

Indian mindset is still predominantly old-fashioned. Subjects and degrees that springboard directly into high paying careers are preferred. Return on Investment is widely prioritised. 

Now, more than ever, we need students to study humanities in a STEM world as human touch has become indispensable in the workplace. With increasing automation, the more important it becomes to bring human judgment into all junctions of our digital lives.

The 4 Cs — creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking are skills that are nurtured by humanity subjects such as art and literature. These are significant to the development of an interdisciplinary approach, an approach highly recommended by the NEP too. With changing times and the amalgamation of various streams, new prospects are opening up in these fields too, so this trend is likely to change.

India’s new policy allows foreign universities to establish campuses in India and Indian universities to do the same overseas. Your comment?

Lakhs of Indian students have increasingly chosen to pursue higher education abroad. As per reports, India is the second-largest source of international students in the world. Covid-19 has already caused this usual exodus to transform and led to an influx into Indian institutions, given travel restrictions and health risks.

Quality foreign universities in India means that crores of rupees and resources spent by Indian student pursuing foreign education- the forex outgo could potentially be retained in the country. Allowing the top 100 foreign universities to operate in India, will certainly raise the standards of our Indian counterparts – in terms of teaching, learning and research. This is a remarkable opportunity for India to enhance its capacities and offer quality education at par with global standards. Not only will this expedite the process of transforming our  archaic education system, but will also help us retain the best faculty in India. 

 What are your suggestions to integrate quality at all levels of education?

Quality is essential to meet the aspirational needs of the new generation.

Training, Assessment and Review. There has to be an ongoing audit process to ensure that students graduate with skills and knowledge rather than a piece of paper as a degree certificate. 

Quality education requires well-educated and trained teachers too. There has to be continuous improvement in the way academics is delivered. The standard of teachers and professors have to be raised with every audit. They must become proficient in integrating technology in the teaching and learning process. Resources have to be on par with the evolving teaching methods to ensure that the students are able to assimilate portions taught and learn them with involvement. 

Please share your thoughts on empowering education for girls.

Straight out of mind, my thoughts on empowering education for girls is simple. The day when women empowerment stops to become a topic of discussion, the day when gender equality prevails in real and inequality ends. That is India’s true independence day and republic day. 

To me, Women are better leaders than Men. Sorry if I sound inqual, but check the facts of successful leaders who led their nations and its problems during this pandemic. Germany’ Angela Merkel, New Zealand’ Jacinda Ardern, Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen and Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina all of them have flattened the curve long before while the US and India are still struggling. 

Men or Women. Knowledge is an individual’s birth right and they cannot be deprived of good education. Education leads to opportunities, opportunities leads to effort and efforts culminate into progress. Progress paves the way for a nation’s success.  

What would be your ideal vision for Vels in coming decades?

With our footprints already firm in India, Singapore and the United Kingdom,  our vision is to continue expansion all over the world. At the same time, we aim to bring the best practices from all over the world, especially in the areas of institutional management, education empowerment and student quality. We want to instill in the mind of young people, that “lifelong learning is a responsibility that they need to continue with passion at all walks of life”.