In a fast changing World

We need to reimagine the work we do and the way we do it

Globalization brought competition and competition brought quality. Yesterday I was bargaining for price and today I bargain for quality products and services. Things are changing fast and so do our priorities. We have become complex as customers. Even it has become difficult for top brand products to convince us. The turnaround is completely customer driven. We are no more price takers. Remember the phrase. Customer is the king.

And when it comes to the academic world, the students are no more interested in 'What’ but they show curiosity about ‘Why’ and 'How'. Not only the students have posed challenges to teachers for creative teaching but the professor Google has turned out to be a virtual teacher much difficult for the real teachers to outsmart.

We have two types of academic institutions. Some work hard for their survival and others work smart to make themselves relevant to the market requirements. The former attracts students through the infrastructure, name, and fame but the latter attracts them through quality teachers, research, innovations, and collaborations.

Very recently I had a privilege to talk to the technician who deals with the installation of ultrasound machines. He said, some diagnostic labs install high configuration machines to attract patients, but they fail to make money due to the unavailability of the quality radiologists who otherwise are able to make money even with low configuration machines. This is the finest example of how the quality of human resources can make things down-up.

Procurement of technology is good, but the procurement of the brain should be the top priority of each academic institution. What is the greatest irony is that we try to justify ourselves with PhDs and Postdocs when our degrees are not able to justify our position as teachers and researchers? We try to justify ourselves with decades of teaching experience when such experience is not able to recognise us as teachers. The 35-year-old CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has shown the world that the leaders are created out of brain not experience and CV Raman has also shown that nobel prizes can be won without PhDs.

World is changing faster than fast. What is relevant to the market today becomes irrelevant for tomorrow. Nokia succumbed to Samsung because it failed to improve its products to meet the needs of the diverse customers. We often change curriculum to keep pace with the market but remember no institution can move when its teachers remain unmoved. The fact is that the teachers are responsible for teaching the new-fangled content that they may have not learnt. Hence the mismatch of demand and supply. With National Education Policy 2020, such discrepancies between demand and supply can further grow radically. Thanks to globalisation, accreditation, and academic audit for creating problems of survival to weaker institutions.

There was a time when we had limited Colleges across the valley capable enough to capture the needs of the Higher Education Department. I pursued my under-graduation in Commerce at Degree College Bemina, and I remember there were thousands of students who would come from different parts of the valley. Our class also comprised a good number of students who would travel from distant places to attend classes with greater enthusiasm and excitement.

The Department of Commerce had a huge building with massive lecture halls and a large computer lab. The faculty members were impressive. I was fortunate enough to be taught by eminent and affectionate teachers who were vibrant and dynamic to incite the inquisitiveness in the class not only to enhance our knowledge but to develop our wisdom and understanding. They were dedicated professionals with intellectual qualities. During free time, the students would sit together to share their ethos, culture and experiences besides academic debates and discussions. The College made a striking impression on me and helped me to dream big. To bring back those good olden days we need to debate education like we debate roads and electricity.

This is because education is one of the most important components a nation should be worried about. How many College/University teachers have received the best teacher award today on the eve of teacher’s day? We need to create incentives for the good to do well. Unless the efforts of the quality teachers who have been useful to student’s community are being recognised, we will not be able to help them to build a strong sense of belonging in the workplace. And there is no reason to shield non-performing players in the age of knowledge society and artificial intelligence. Higher Education is not only about increasing the gross enrolment ratio, but it must prepare youth for the unprecedented challenges ahead. What distinguishes our institutions from IITs, and western universities is that they are able to maintain the highest academic standards and their faculty is committed to research and knowledge creation. They fight for patents not for increments and salary increases. We have not looked at the research closely and that is one of the reasons why our brightest minds are serving universities like Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and the like.

Higher Education is facing a radical wave of technology. In large companies and restaurants roberts have already shown doors to the inefficient people. Educational institutions have a key role to either embrace change to move into a better way or perish. We need to reimagine the work we do and the way we do it. Market has turned out to be very tight. Even the lowest paying jobs are looking for highly intelligent people. This is what we have witnessed in the latest class fourth recruitment. Our students do not stand fit to the expectations of the market and at the same time they are unable to handle the rejections. This is one of the reasons they kill themselves as if they are not important to society. We have to rescue them from disasters. If we can’t add value to them, they will remain uncured for the rest of their lives.

Having said this, we need to make sure that we are confident, competent, and effective to support the academic, professional, social, and emotional needs of the students. The policy makers need to revisit the recruitment mechanism to ensure that quality teachers are being supplied to uphold the integrity of our higher education that has produced eminent scholars, educationists, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs to name a few.

Happy teachers’ day to all my teachers who inspired me beyond the four walls of the classroom.

Dr. Aasif Shah is working as Assistant Professor in Commerce at Cluster University Srinagar (Bemina College).

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