Ques 1: Being the Vice Chancellor of an University, kindly tell us about your experience in the Education Industry and what makes it the best Industry to work in?
Ans- I would like to start answering to this question by saying that imparting education is supposed to be a noble profession, but we now refer to it as an “Industry” for valid reasons. I would definitely not like to refer it as an “Industry”, but as a profession.
When someone joins an educational institute as a teacher, he/she must clearly understand that this is not like any other job. There are very strong commitments towards the most important stakeholders, the students, since their future career depends on the interactions they have with the teachers. The biggest advantage that I have seen in my 35 years of experience is that you get much more freedom to express yourself that any other profession. The salary structure may be higher in industry, but the job satisfaction can be much more. However, the bottom line is “you must love the profession, otherwise you have no right to be here”.
Ques 2: JIS University has a large number of students from Bangladesh and SAARC countries. How do you build a positive culture or climate among the students?
Ans- Among the SAARC countries, majority of our students come from Bangladesh and Nepal, which are culturally very similar to us. We organize special orientation programs for them, and the faculty mentors remain in constant touch with them to understand the kind of problems they are facing, and try to find solutions to those.
Ques 3: Being the Vice Chancellor of an Educational University, it is very important to have a dynamic approach towards both student and faculty development. How do you achieve that?
Ans- Talking about faculty members, we constantly motivate them to carry out research and development activities in cutting edge areas, and also adopt the latest teaching-learning methodologies for interacting with the students. They are also encouraged to attend academic events like conferences, seminars, webinars, and faculty development programs, which can help in their overall development intellectually and also professionally.
Regarding the students, we always try to expose them to the latest developments in their fields of study, and also organize invited lectures and webinars by experts on a regular basis to ignite their innovative minds. We also try to motivate them in innovating activities through an indigenous program called SkillX, where they are made to pursue some developmental activities of their choice during their stay in the University.
Ques 4: What according to you, could be positive sides of Covid-19 for Education Industry?
Ans- The most positive thing in my opinion is that we have been made aware of the fantastic ICT technologies that are already around us, and have paved the way for educationists to think about the possible future of the education system. It is almost unanimously believed that hybrid mode of teaching will be the future in post-pandemic era. Also, new concepts like flipped learning will make more inroads, where the classrooms get transformed from monotonous lecture delivery platforms to a workshop where the students learn themselves and spend more time on problem solving.
Ques 5: Why Research in Indian Universities found wanting in global recognition and merit? Please suggest some corrective measures?
Ans- In my opinion, the main hindrance is the mindset of many faculty members who believe that teaching is their primary responsibility, and research is optional. However, in a University like ours we have laid strong focus on academic research and fund generation through sponsored projects. Starting from recruiting new faculty members to provide special training session from the existing ones, we try to build a very friendly research atmosphere in the University. Moreover, we try to focus on areas of research that are relevant to the needs of the society and the industry.
Ques 6: According to you, Skilling the new Indian Workforce, what must the Education System do to build Career-ready Students?
Ans- Of course, industry and academia must work closely together. In an academic institution, students are trained as per the state-of-the-art developments in the subjects to the best of capabilities of the teachers. However, there always remains a gap with respect to what the industry expects from the fresh graduates who join them.
Several measures can be taken to bridge this gap. Firstly, industry can come forward with more internship opportunities and sharing industry-relevant project ideas for the students to pursue. Secondly, industry experts can be included in the academic system of an institution, as members of committees, adjunct faculty, joint project supervisors, etc. Thirdly, we must continually upgrade our curricula in consultation with experts from industry and other organizations such that it always remain societally relevant.
Ques 7: What would you like to give the advice to young aspirants who are searching for good institutes, Universities to shaping their Future?
Ans- The first thing I would like to say is that in the present age of Internet revolution with almost all of us carrying a powerful computing machine in our pocket (namely, the smartphones), the world has become a small place. What a student learns is no longer dependent on individual teachers of an institute and the interactions in a classroom, almost all the course materials and tutorials are available online. We would also like to mention the fantastic initiative by the Government of India, under which a large number of courses from various disciplines are available under the Swayam NPTEL platform, almost free of cost.
In whichever institute you join, always remember that you have to keep your eyes and ears open to things that are happening around you. You will finally decide what and how you will be training yourself towards shaping the future in this ever changing world.
This Interview is done with Dr. Indranil Sengupta, Vice Chancellor, JIS University, Kolkata.