Breaking New Grounds in Education by Design Thinking

Nidhi Bahl updated on : 17 Oct 2016

An entirely different curriculum in the tertiary education system is much required. A system that offers better technological progress as well as structural change.

Sanjay G. Dhande

Indian education system, in its present form, is about two hundred years old. This education spectrum consists of primary, secondary and tertiary education. The system was originally designed to serve the vested interests of British rule in India by the natives. Soon after Independence, India embarked upon ambitious development plans including the ones for education. 

Originally, education was a state subject in the constitution of India. However, in 70’s, it was brought under the concurrent list. It meant that the education was the subject matter of both state and central governments. Soon thereafter, the state governments started limiting their role in education. This resulted in the massive entry of private players in the states at all three levels of education. Even though the central government opened up new institutions, their impact on the quality of overall education scene was still limited.

The essential elements of any education system include – curriculum, pedagogy and human as well as infrastructure. India has expanded extensively in professional education; however the curriculum for most of our professional courses is still about 50 years old. An entirely different curriculum in the tertiary education system is much required. A system that offers better technological progress as well as structural change.

Since the economy is dominated by service sector at 60 per cent rather than manufacturing sector at 17 per cent, a clear emphasis is required for communication, social sciences and cultural issues. There is a need to refocus the curriculum on synthesis aspects as compared to analysis elements. The pedagogy also needs a complete revamp.

The technological tools of ICT should be used extensively by teachers. The large student population can be handled by using learning management systems, automated system of attendance, soft copy grading, digital certification and many other techniques. The human resource is the most critical component of an education system. One needs to provide training and incentives to create a new cadre of teachers, researchers and educationists. The physical infrastructure needs substantial improvements including classrooms, laboratories and central facilities. In particular, the digital infrastructure is now becoming a key element of an educational institution. The digital backbone must be robust and reliable for information exchange.

Most of the technical institutions in India had created their courses based on engineering sciences. The base of mechanics and mathematics were introduced in 60’s and 70’s when India was beginning its nuclear and space programs. Today, the model of technical education as practised in India is out of phase. For example - one comes across situations where students acquiring degrees in Metallurgy and Aeronautical Engineering never join companies or organization dealing with these subjects. These students rather end up joining software industry or financial companies.

Today, we need a new vision for technical education. And to begin with, we require a foundation programme of one year or two semesters that covers liberal arts curriculum. The combination of classical subjects- philosophy & education, critical thinking, language & literature along with the courses in creative arts, design thinking as well as the digital world, mathematical world and physical world will do wonders. In addition to this, an entirely new course like Body & Mind should expose the students with how mental attitudes have an effect on body functions, and how physical prowess alone may not be effective unless it is supported by a sound mind.

The second important aspect is the learning pedagogy. The routine lecture-based learning has become increasingly dull. Students are receptive towards interactive, immersive and hands-on learning. And with a project mode of learning allows students to ask questions and seek answers on their own. The project work allows collaborative teamwork. Rather than memorising, students are happy to develop skills by doing things and develop critical as well as creative thinking abilities. It leads to a positive change in the attitude of students.

The third element of education is the exposure to the real world while learning. The concept of apprenticeship or internship is an integral part of one’s learning process. It is through training that helps them to relate and further apply the knowledge and skills gained in college to the real world situations. So, after their internship, they are mature concerning the selection of topics they wish to study. The restoration of the right mode of internship in the education process is an imperative step. An effective internship program reduces the placement pressure.

To conclude, tertiary education enables students with exposure of global scenarios and issues. It gives them the first-hand opportunity to understand global societies and organisations likewise.

All in all, the future is exciting as well as challenging for educationists as well as students. There is a need for change. The cosmetic changes done in tertiary education so far in India have not yielded satisfactory results. The international rankings show the reality very well. The time has come for public and private academic institutions to transform the system completely.


Contributed by 

Sanjay G. Dhande

Chief Mentor, Avantika University
Former Director, IIT Kanpur

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