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Why there is a need to revamp higher education

How do we recalibrate the system of teaching and learning in our higher education institutions?

How do we recalibrate the system of teaching and learning in our higher education institutions?

Rapid and significant changes in the talent market have marked global trends over the past two decades. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are therefore expected to be able to meet the requirements of different sectors. The predominant discourse on talent market demands and graduate employability in India usually revolves around one question: how do we recalibrate or improve the education system in our colleges and universities?

Colleges must constantly upgrade themselves to meet the demands of both students and industries against the backdrop of rapid technological development. The next generation of learners traverse physical and virtual spaces, so learning must be active, agile, adaptive, innovative, cooperative and collaborative. At the same time, students should be trained in social and communication skills and entrepreneurship. Their creativity needs to be sparked to innovate, taking environmental and social concerns into account. Above all, they must be guided to become socially productive citizens with honesty, integrity and humanity. This is possible if they are empowered to learn according to their abilities, interests and specific needs through personalized learning.

Personalized learning

The term ‘personalized learning’ has long been in vogue. Previously, it referred to a one-to-one tutoring system, usually for the privileged. Today, it refers to learning that prioritizes the needs of an individual student and uses flexible instructional practices in terms of content, pace, and material. Learning doesn’t have to be linear, as earners sometimes have to step back if they aren’t equipped with the necessary schemas to understand the content. The whole learning process is student-centred and students are encouraged to design their own learning paths.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics play a major role in online and hybrid learning platforms. Higher education institutions worldwide are introducing programs where AI provides the platform to launch personalized learning. Technology offers a variety of materials in different formats suitable for different students and to track and assess their progress. However, it does not undermine the role of the teacher. There are areas such as communication and collaboration skills, and emotional intelligence, that require human intervention. Therefore, the role of teachers in personalized learning remains just as important as in traditional learning. AI can never replace teachers; it can only enhance and support personalized learning by providing automated tasks, assessment platforms, and feedback.

Many fields of study emerge that all eventually merge with the common learning outcomes of the curriculum. In this way the educational pattern becomes student-oriented. This system change brings a new dimension to the teaching-learning process, where teaching becomes counseling and the teacher becomes a mentor. The students are motivated to take control of their learning process and to become autonomous.

T-shaped learning

Another way to refocus university education is to include T-shaped learning, which aligns with and complements multidisciplinary learning, emotional and cultural intelligence. This in turn drives innovation, entrepreneurial ability, individual employability and organizational success. The vertical line of ‘T’ stands for expertise in subject-specific knowledge and skills, while the horizontal line stands for a wide range of communicative, interpersonal and interdisciplinary skills, communicative and collaboration skills. Thus, the reoriented structure of higher education institutions will prepare the young people to be innovative and creative in their fields, training them to be flexible and collaborative, alongside critical thinkers and good communicators.

The writer is Vice Chancellor, BS Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai

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