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Guest Column

Published on: July 25, 2022, 4:45 p.m.
Time to shun the ‘what we want’ model
  • The world of higher education across all countries strongly advocates multi- disciplinary entry

By Sandeep Sancheti. The author is provost, Marwadi University, Rajkot, and former president, Association of Indian Universities

The current set of Indian educational offerings is stereotype – we follow a silo-based approach and industry is uncomfortable with these traditional approaches and old-fashioned outcomes. The new industry demands that we break the stereotypical approach in teaching courses – we have hibernated for far too long, while the world metamorphosed at an amazing speed with the advent of inter-disciplinary technologies, which supported systems like mobiles, robots and other networked devices like personal assistants. 

Disruption due to the pandemic was our wake-up call! Challenges faced due to Covid and pronouncement of NEP resulted in opening up a whole new online approach to the studies – suddenly, the ‘holy grail’ limiting education delivery to classrooms opened up in a student’s palm – with flexi-hours and new assessment styles and tools – a wide range of reforms transformed education overnight. For once, education looked to become ‘student-centric’ and broke the age-old traditional boundaries, setting knowledge free for all who wanted it keenly. 

Not to be left behind, regulatory councils started attempting new experiments. Amongst many such proposals, UGC mooted the proposal of the Academic Bank of Credit ‘ABC’, which is going to redefine the concept of liberal education that will cut across disciplines. Subsequently, AICTE also took a plunge by attempting to liberalise the entry 

conditions primarily for its engineering and technology programmes. One of the precise relaxations, in this case, was an attempt to remove Mathematics and Physics from the essential requirements for entry in engineering programmes. Here, it is 

worth stating that Chemistry and Biology were already non-essential in a way, though a large number of students continued to take them. Such a change in the entry requirements was naturally met with a variety of reactions from educational and professional fraternity, resulting in putting it on hold or withdrawal. Looking at the whole idea through a wider lens, I think we were over-reacting. 

Here are a few questions that may help one look at the matter from a different perspective: 

• Subject like Mathematics is directly required in banking and finance sectors. So, should it be made compulsory in streams like Business and Commerce too? 

• AI, ML, and Big Data are omni-present in every field today. So, should these be included in all the courses?

• Ideally, anyone willing to study any subject(s) should be allowed to do so – it is a free world. However, under some conditions, one may lack some prerequisites and they can be asked to do it as an extra course of study. In another case, if one has not studied the required subject(s) formally, but still competed through the entry channels like JEE etc. to get higher ranks than others, then why should they be deprived of admission in streams of their choice?

• One of the arguments used against AICTE was that it was trying to counter the declining admissions in engineering institutions. But, when you look around – all other domains of higher studies, it is already happening. Mostly, they are open to all kinds of admissions with very little or no 

entry level barriers. A particular example of that would be Science students migrating to Commerce and Arts.

Therefore, I want to rest my suggestion with one final thought – what will happen if admissions to BA or B Com courses also require that one should have studied some courses like Accountancy or Sociology or History, etc, at +2 level? In that case, why is the world allowing science students to venture in Commerce and Arts without the right foundation?

What if the Commerce and Arts disciplines related entry also debar other students except for those who have done the prescribed courses at +2 level before their entry in the first year? I am sure there will be a huge hue and cry, because such attempts will unnecessarily start forcing or binding our students in certain verticals right from IXth or Xth standard onwards. One can also extend this logic at a much higher level of PG and Ph D courses – why are many of the doctoral programmes generally open to a wide spectrum of backgrounds? 

Taking a close look at many examples in the world and also the mandate given by the NEP, it is high time that we stop creating artificial disciplinary boundaries. The world of higher education across all countries strongly advocates multi-

disciplinary entry and NEP is further augmenting it by offering multiple entry and exit options. It is a fact that right now we force upon our students with ‘teaching what we want to teach’ rather than helping them with ‘learning what they want to learn’. 

It is time to heal the education system – to reduce or do away with these artificially created disciplinary or subject specific barriers.

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