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“Ambition among students is good…”, says Dr. Dinesh D. Harsolekar

“… but they need to know the right way to achieve them,” says Dr. Dinesh D. Harsolekar Director – IES Management College and Research Centre (IESMCRC), Bandra, while sharing his views on higher education and student development

How do you encourage students towards academics when the syllabus sometimes is archaic and outdated?

Sometimes the syllabus is not up-to-date, but many universities are addressing this issue. For example, University of Mumbai has revised syllabi of all its programmes this academic year. However, this process has to be a continuous process which is slightly difficult. Therefore, individual institutes have to take initiatives to ensure that students get current knowledge. This is achieved by offering them additional content either as part of the classroom teaching, or in the form of non-credit courses. These courses are to be sold to students effectively. They should be explained why these courses are important and why they should study them. Affiliating bodies may object if less than the prescribed contents are covered but if some additional contents are offered, there is nothing wrong in that. However, if this is to be done then the professors will have to put in some effort not only in teaching but also convincing students to go for something extra instead of confining to the minimum prescribed syllabus. In case of professional institutes the students are also encouraged to take up field studies. As part of this they spend time in the field, i. e. industry to get exposure to the current happening in their domain.

Should students be empowered to a certain extent that they can participate in policy decisions regarding their education?

Students are the ultimate beneficiaries of the education system. Therefore, their views are very important. They should be allowed and encouraged to participate in the decision making process. But this is easier said than done. Firstly, it is not possible to involve all the students in the process and if only a select group is involved then one doesn’t know how far the group is really a representative group. Especially, in the university set up it is very difficult. It may be tried in autonomous institutes where the student population is limited. The second problem is that sometimes students’ expectations are unrealistic because in the absence of proper knowledge and expertise they are not in a position to offer appropriate suggestions. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong in finding out their viewpoint. It is up to the decision makers to use their discretion to accept or reject the students’ views. Sometimes, students’ participation may give some very important inputs and ideas.

How can educators motivate students to work towards the goal of ‘knowledge’ (and not just marks) on a daily basis?

We do this very effectively in our Institute. We tell students regularly the difference between, ‘study to pass the exams’ and ‘study to learn the subject’. If they study for an exam, the knowledge which they get remains with them for a short period of time, whereas if they study to learn the subject properly, the knowledge remains with them for a very long time. Moreover, if they study to pass the exam, there is no guarantee that they have learnt the subject. But if they focus on learning, it would not be difficult for them to pass the examination also. We continuously give them the examples of the questions which interviewers ask during placements. We explain to them how they can be better prepared to give correct answers to those questions. This is possible only if they know the subject and not because they have passed the exams. We have succeeded to a great extent in achieving our goal of motivating students to focus on gaining knowledge by learning the subjects.

Do educators and students work towards getting out of the university mode and into the ‘real world’ mode, especially during the final year?

Yes, there are many activities undertaken to achieve this goal. The most common is the final semester project work. Apart from this students are encouraged to take up live projects, in which students work in industry while they are still going through their semester studies. To facilitate this a few free slots are created in the lecture time-table. This enables students to take up the projects which are of importance to industry without compromising on their classroom studies. A single day industry visit (which happens on multiple occasions) is another example wherein students get real life exposure. Institutes organize frequent interactions with working industry professionals where students get a chance to listen to their experiences. These interactions are in the form of guest lectures, round-table conferences, seminars and workshops etc. Soft skills are assuming great importance in the corporate world. Apart from some classroom training students are sent to participate in outdoor camps. They stay there for three to five days and go through many fun filled activities followed by debriefing sessions. We call it outbound training. This helps a lot in developing some very important soft skills like leadership, teamwork, crisis management, positive attitude, motivating others, discipline, manners and etiquette etc. Students equipped with these skills always find favour with the corporate world during campus recruitment.

Do they really get out of the marks mode once they are admitted to an undergrad or even postgrad course?

This is a big challenge. Unless marks are attached to a course or an activity they don’t participate seriously. Here the principle of ‘carrot and stick’ should be used. Apart from being strict the students should be given some incentives to encourage them to participate in the courses which are non-credit courses. For example, in case of professional programmes the successful completion of these courses can be linked to campus placements. In autonomous programmes successful completion of these courses can even be linked to programme completion certificate. With the help of experts the students and their parents should be informed about the importance of the activities where they don’t get marks or grades.

How do educators counsel students about starting small when the placements happen?

This can happen and does happen in many institutes through mentoring system. It is difficult but not impossible. If a student is really brilliant and competent, he will get an opportunity in big company with a fat pay package. There is nothing wrong if he goes for that. However, faculty members (in their capacity as mentors) and industry persons always counsel students and tell them the benefits of starting with a small company. In small organizations they get a wider exposure which is good for their career in long run. Also, because of wider exposure their growth is also faster as compared to that in a big organization. In fact, after getting good exposure in a small company if they try to switch to a big company, they will certainly get good opportunities.

Your message to our student readers?

Students of current generation have very high ambitions. This is good. But very few of them make right efforts to achieve what they want. Only having expectation and not working for it makes no sense. They must get advice from their teachers, seniors and parents to know their capabilities as well as realities of life. Based on this they should set realistic goals for themselves. Second important point is that they should learn to be patient. They want quick success. Sometimes because of this desire they resort to fair or unfair short cuts which may land them in some sort of problems. The third point is that they should learn the importance of money and how it should be earned. When we make money for ourselves through right means we also create wealth for the society. They should also learn to make well informed decisions about their career to avoid regrets in future. Finally, students should appreciate the importance of hard work, reading (instead of wasting time on mobile phone), ethical and fair conduct, polite (not arrogant) behavior and caring for the convenience of others in public places.

Original: http://www.freepressjournal.in/education/ambition-among-students-is-good-says-dr-dinesh-d-harsolekar/1003165
By: FPJ Bureau
Posted: January 16, 2017, 9:45 am