Changing Traditional Academic Mindset

Many academics have different ideas on world ranking of Universities, the use of Technology in education and fake research.
Changing Traditional Academic Mindset
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Many academics have different ideas on world ranking of Universities, the use of Technology in education and fake research.

They believe that we cannot compare our 70-year-old institutions with that of west and people discussing University rankings are simply degrading our higher education institutions. They also ask questions why people are obsessed and fascinated by the use of technology in education.

They maintain that due to fraudulent research, UGC's academic performance indicator (API), a scoring device to quantify the credentials of a candidate for promotions, is proving to be a big failure. While these people have twisted ideas on these issues, serious academics and researchers have different perspective.

In my article titled "Building a Better Education System for Tomorrow" (GK, April 13), I tried to make it clear how important University rankings are. The fact that Indian Universities do not find their place among the top Universities in the world ranking has become a cause of intense public debate for many years now. The issue has grappled Indian intellectuals, Union Ministers and the academic fraternity.

Even the President and the Prime Minister expressed serious concern over the issue. What is actually more important for us is the fact that ranking provides us a way of benchmarking our Universities. It helps to evaluate how our education is performing and to diagnose the ailments in the system. Unless we compare things, how can we move forward? It is high time that not only the higher education institutions in India but also at the state level, we should devise methods of ranking of our Schools and Colleges. Such an exercise will generate a healthy competition among our academic institutions.

Pre-independent India has a glorious past in academic research. The concept of zero emerged here. Indian numerals were used by Arab world at that time when west was groping in the Dark Age. Then, there is a long history of organized education in Gurukul system. Nalanda University, the world's oldest centre of higher learning existed 800 years back. From Srinivasa Ramanujan, Aryabhata to Meghnad Saha, one can study the history of contribution of various Indian scientists. Latter in the period, many scientists contributed immensely.

C V Raman discovered Raman Effect in 1928 by using equipment worth merely Rs 200 to make a discovery which won him noble prize in 1931. He didn't have enough money to buy a spectrograph for conducting experiment. S N Bose published a famous research paper with Albert Einstein. All these modern scientists were working in collaboration with the greatest world scientists like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Ernest Rutherford etc., at one stage.

India has produced more quality knowledge and research literature before 1947. How it was possible when there was no such environment like in the west. It clearly points out that Indian education system is not driven by the Macaulay's modern education – you will have people coming out of shabby Colleges but they excel at international levels purely because of hard work. Today, we have well established institutions but no quality research. Now, how long will it take us to evolve out of this culture? If there is a gap of 400 years between the established institutions in the west and that of ours, will this gap continue or widen further? Then, what good is access to education if it does not provide the skills and knowledge necessary for employment? To move forward, we have to set standards for us.

New developments in Science and Technology today are revolutionizing higher education scenario. The quality in higher education can be improved by using well accepted learning resources and encouraging teachers to learn tools and methodologies. In today's world of knowledge-driven society, the technology has become an integral part of learning and teaching throughout the world. The information and communication technology (ICT) is emerging as a creative tool to make our ailing education system more efficient and innovative. It offers great potential for knowledge dissemination, open-ended learning and search for new knowledge that lies outside the purview of textbooks.

The use of ICT will improve the quality of teaching, learning and management in Schools, Colleges and Universities. The teacher-centered, lecture-based instructions will change to student-centered interactive learning environments. The role of teachers and educators will change as newer technologies become available, but the central role of the teacher – to facilitate education—will be enhanced.

The use of simulations, models, graphic calculators, animations, 3D images, DVDs and video clips on the smart board forms a perfect virtual-real classroom which brings alive and animates certain phenomenon or concepts that are difficult to explain on a traditional black board. The smart boards or the digital interactive whiteboards have all the facilities embedded in them. The technology will give teachers flexibility of bringing a virtual laboratory right in the classroom, making the curriculum very short, leaving the teacher with nearly 2/3 of time for more exploration. Through interconnection of Colleges and other Institutions for knowledge and resource sharing, we can create a "knowledge grid".

Thus, when teaching process becomes interactive, exciting, stimulus and lively, it will attract greater participation of students. At one National Seminar in 2013, I made a power point presentation while presenting a paper on the use of ICT in education. With the help of animations and models, I demonstrated how we can explain an abstract and difficult curriculum concept in a beautiful way. Those who already understand about the miracle of the Technology certainly feel fascinated by its use in education.

Fake research journals, fake research papers, plagiarism and academic corruption are indeed a slur in academic world but today we have the means to check this menace instantly. Though plagiarism is taking place everywhere and in all subjects and has been going on for centuries, but now we can check it with online softwares. The fake journals do not affect the novelty of one's research. Journals with ISSN number can be found to be fake or genuine in Journal Search – IP & Science – Thomson Reuters or Science direct in which the impact factor and Citation index of journals are valid. The best journals are always from good societies and good publishers like IEEE, ACM, Springer, Elsevier, etc. which can be easily seen. Thus, UGC's API scheme cannot be proven to be a failure.

Higher education is a very important sector for the growth and development of human resource. Higher education produces scientists, thinkers, researchers, professionals, economists and teachers, who can build knowledge based society for us. The definition of higher education says that it has to be vocationally or professionally oriented to offer jobs to our graduates and postgraduates. During the last few decades, the sector has expanded alarmingly to tackle the issues of access and equity, but in doing so, the quality has continued to be an area of major concern.

The quality in research, teaching and learning can produce quality human resource which will enhance our competitiveness at the global level. Harboring on classical ideas will take us nowhere. We have to adopt the latest trends and happenings in higher education around the world to change our future.

(Dr Muhammad Amin Malik is Associate Professor, Department of Physics at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback at amin_malik_ku@hotmail.com)

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