A Piece of my Mind on Three Issues.
What is clear to our mind : 1. Education is now a SERVICE sector activity; Students are the PURCHASERS; and Institutions/universities are the PROVIDERS. 2. Technological, Sociological, Economical and Governmental forces influence Education. 3. Our National Growth and Competitiveness is inextricably tied to the attributes, character and excellence of Higher Education in particular.
I now want to piece together my thoughts succinctly and pithily on three issues that evoke a lot of discussion among educationists and trainers in recent times.
1. A common lament among the recruiters ( engaged in supply side talent for industry ) is that a significantly large proportion of graduates coming from the portals of many institutions do not make even the pass grade. Quality of training in institutions has taken a back seat. Even the process of identifying the lacunae and remedying the situation is not being given a serious thought. Hence the mismatch/gap between what is needed and what is available is appalling. I just pen my first thoughts and reasons I visualize for this malady in education : Could these be the possible causes ?
(a) Unchecked proliferation of institutions with ill-designed promotion of education in the garb of affording opportunities to virtually everyone; (b) Lack of oversight and extended leeway to the institutions without a thorough, due and proper assessment of the efficacy of them vis-a-vis the requirement; (c) Lack of Quality Faculty combined with a deliberate insouciance to SELECT WHEN RIGHT CANDIDATES PROSPECT THEIR CHANCES & OFFER THEIR SERVICES in full earnest and desire; (d) Suppression of ‘Faculty Freedom to Engage in Newfangled areas’ out of deeply ingrained fear(s) of possibly getting outsmarted, further spawning unhealthy competition; (e) Least emphasis on ‘Productivity, Quality & Reliability’ (PQR) of pedagogic accomplishments/achievements leading to demoralization of even the well intended personnel; (f) System encouraging students to be trained more to be “slaves of routine” than to “demonstrate skills and competence.” ; and (g) Failure/Inability to take students out into the ‘real world’ through a planned set of activities as appropriate to the discipline.
These are just some thoughts (right or wrong – time will judge); though not detailed and exhaustive.
2. Ranking of institutions by several agencies periodically has been the norm in the last decade specially. Some take pride in achieving good rankings; Some decide to strive hard to make the cut, the next time; Some simply tend to ignore and keep the status quo remain firm; Some discuss and discept elaborately and disregard the rankings that the parameters considered are not valid; Some reject the rankings outright contemptuously. Every hue and shade is visible to all and sundry. Of particular concern to the educational administrators is the very low number of institutions proportionate to the available in the country that make or would make the Global 100/Global 200/ Global 500 and the like. My thoughts run in an unconventional mode and pace :
Just as Globalization is making the geographic boundaries of Nations vanish (in terms of trade, economy, exchange, and whatever ) , Education & Training in this new age obfuscates the distinction between institutions, fashioning/rendering the ranking A SIMPLE MARKETING EXERCISE.
Today we say ‘the schoolmaster is abroad’ implying the education has spread far and wide.
Highly creative and innovative products & services today originate from less well known places and institutions. Flexitime, Performance recognition, Offering a healthy work environment, in an attempt to motivate students and associates have contributed to the enhancement of skills and competency. Rules of the game are changing dramatically in the field of Education & Training. Every institute is now boasting of innovative methods to take students out in to the ‘real world’ and the term universal(ity) is losing its sheen. ‘Specificity’ is becoming the order of the day, be it in terms of disciplines, courses, approaches, degrees, or institutions. And with it the parameters of evaluation are also increasing disproportionately making the very ranking a LESS IDEAL or LESS PERFECT way of comparison/assessment.
Shall we not go beyond ranking on a set of archaic (I do not mean to be harsh) elements and rather focus on “Economic Social and Quantitative improvement of Society/Nation” as a single yardstick in the process of evaluation of Educational Institutions ?
3. Human Relations (HR) is generally viewed as an industry need, position, and function. And HR is also considered to be a noiseless, invisible, flavorless task of taciturnity for decades earlier. The key importance of HR generally gets lost in the milieu of technology, production, marketing etc little realizing that HR imbibes the best from each one of these for its up gradation, and confers the very functions of Tech, Production, Marketing their Status and Rank of importance that they envisage and enjoy. The more the advances in technology, the more the value of HR. Same is true for education & training too. Educational institutions should embark on creating special HR positions (now being handled by the administrators mostly) from the ground floor up. And HR is transforming rapidly too. This is how I see :
We know Ninjas strike and get out without being seen. That is what HR has been doing for long. They should avoid operating in “Stealthy Ninjas”. They should also shed their diffidence to get their ideas work and even become popular with employees/associates. Nothing wrong if one wants to be popular by contributing constructively. It should be hailed and rewarded. HR should be “leading the change” and “taking the risks” – a transformational responsibility in times of uncertainty specially. HR represents the entire people in the institution – the REAL ENGINE of DIFFERENTIATION. This needs to be indoctrinated, formally and informally through every action. Indoctrination, Yes. Each day that HR stays stealthy is another day our people are hidden from peers/seniors/top brass; and another day they are not seen as valuable. Even HR heads sadly fail to understand this reality and that drives them to do and react the way they are doing ( just plain, ornery, handling run of the mill tasks ) now. They need to be showy, noisy, even obtrusive without being offensive in order for them to assert their locus standi.
We need HR positions specially in Educational and Training Institutions to deal with the varied and wide spectrum of customers as Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, the community around, and the like.
Hail the portals of the Institutions engaged in ‘Eradicator of Ignorance; Booster of Self Confidence.”
” Dieu avec nous “
Saturday, November 9, 2013. 7.45 a.m. (IST)
Tidbit : “Take care of Your Troops and train them well; All Jobs will get Done.” ( Leadership Mantra )