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India needs world class universities

India needs world class universities
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Now that the major construction works in many of these oil-rich countries are reaching completion, they do not need our construction workers anymore;...

Now that the major construction works in many of these oil-rich countries are reaching completion, they do not need our construction workers anymore; they need a different kind of skilled force for working on their well-equipped and technologically advanced structures of global standards, be it in transport, hotels, healthcare, hospitals, education or commerce
This week I visited some private schools in the remote villages of Andhra Pradesh and was moved by the commitment of the local residents there. They are mostly illiterate and semi-literate people who made their livelihood by seeking employment in the Gulf countries for the past two or three decades, leaving their kith and kin in India. Now they have invested their life's income in establishing schools in their native villages for providing to their next generation education which they themselves lacked at the right time. These people who had spent a major part of their productive years in employment abroad, not in the favorite destinations of the highly educated but in countries where manual labor and technical hands were in demand, are now trying to give the kind of educational edge which would keep their children ready for the changing employers' demands and requirements in our neighboring countries as well as in the oil-rich countries. It is a well-known fact that in the past few decades, many families have risen above the BPL only after working as skilled labor abroad. Now that the major construction works in many of these oil-rich countries are reaching completion, they do not need our construction workers anymore; they need a different kind of skilled force for working in their well-equipped and technologically advanced structures of global standards, be it in transport, hotels, healthcare, hospitals, education or commerce. This visit made me think of our need to foresee and assess the kind of demand that would arise in the coming decade and be prepared to supply the best products for those fields. Unfortunately, our routine pedagogy is not generating employable youth for our future demands either at home or abroad. Are we ready to offer well-trained nurses, teachers, technicians, counselors, therapists and others with good interpersonal skills and an accommodative, global outlook? Even after knowing that millions of the best jobs go unfilled due to dearth of efficient, creative computer programmers, are we taking the initiatives? Just as Kerala has modified its curriculum to meet the global demands, are we ready to reform our curricula from the primary level itself? At a higher level, are our universities ready to offer professionals who can be level players? Are we ready to undertake a 'U-turn', give up our hierarchical approach and welcome the 'team spirit' which defies all national, racial, cultural and linguistic boundaries and is ready to bond and work with any expert from any corner of the globe , keeping only knowledge and knowhow as its key deciders ? Our Indian students are competent; they are showing their flexible and adaptable, accommodating nature, proving themselves good team leaders as well as players in the virtual scenarios which will soon be the rule than the exception. But their success is because of their hard work, not because of the support they got in India in the classrooms. Looking at them and interacting with some of the former IIT students who are in leading positions abroad, I wish to suggest that we need to prepare more and more of our students to be the best ones for team work, global requirements by winning the 'Trust' of the industry and colleagues by their exceptional competence in varied fields. They need awareness of the varied cultures and styles of work around the world and must be at ease with whomever they work. In fact, the level of trust in business relationships, whether internal with employees or colleagues or external with clients and partners, is the greatest determinant of success. Credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation are the four variables which decide our TQ or Trust Quotient and wherever the first three factors are high and the last factor is replaced by more of consumer orientation or organizational orientation, higher trust is generated leading to greater success in all successive ventures. Just in the recent past, our educators are considering the importance of group discussions, brain storming, team presentations, team work, virtual classrooms etc., the world is changing so rapidly that unless we are a few steps ahead right now, we will surely be left behind as 'dated' stuff, incompetent to satisfy the new trends in industries anywhere globally. The future belongs to industries which are fluid, offices which are flat, teams which are flexible and ready to take up the unexpected opportunities coming in the guise of challenges There is no fixed and permanent employment which assures job security, there are no rigid rules which dictate the roles and no hierarchy which cannot be superseded, for the 'cheese' will always be moving, shifting and so must everyone who wishes to be in the fray. Currently the global work culture is carbon foot- print conscious and prefers virtual teams or geographically dispersed teams or distributed teams where the team members are individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They are knowledge workers who coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies to accomplish one or more organization tasks. Members of virtual teams communicate electronically and may never meet face-to-face. So, such virtual teams require new ways of working across boundaries through systems, processes, technology, and people and require effective leadership. It calls for ability to work without supervision, even work from homes with autonomy, to plan, execute and contribute to a common cause or target without specific instructions from above and at times do some extra bit which was not really their specified task that captures their ingenuity. In which way are our institutions promoting such environment? Unless our educators inculcate self-confidence, credibility, reliability under minimal supervision and zero supervision, our youngsters will have an uphill task in outdoing their competitors from the global universities of our neighboring countries too, leave alone the well-established international universities in the UK and the U.S.A. We definitely need a few world-class universities to create new benchmarks of quality and help our overall system to move up in the quality spectrum. However, attracting, retaining, rewarding and leading academic talent of "world-class" standards requires understanding of the unique characteristics of education domain and this seems to be grossly underestimated. We need to integrate a deeper understanding of the characteristics and best practices of building a world-class university, so that they can efficiently use the resources available and help the student community to acquire all the qualities mentioned above. While aspiring to have global universities is certainly a good start, there can be place only for a few at the top and our responsibility towards the common man's needs must not be at a discount. We must also prepare our huge work force, our youth, irrespective of the gender and other differences, to be 'job worthy' and 'desirable' for the second level jobs which need to be filled in large numbers. It is here that we can and must work to create opportunities by the millions. A thorough analysis of the forthcoming global demands must guide our curriculum planning and teaching methods.
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