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“We are trying to motivate students to be more on campus rather than off it”, says Dr. Tushar Desai

Dr. Tushar Desai, Principal – D. G. Ruparel College, Matunga, tells Shraddha Kamdar in an engaging interview on student expectations, teacher roles and alternative methods to learning and skill building

As I enter the gate of the sprawling campus, a lush lawn welcomes me with the chatter of birds and the students alike. The trees on both sides of the walkway are painted artistically with the traditional Warli art, and the place is a green haven beckoning any human being who wants to get away from the din of the main road just a few steps away. I make the entry and make way to the principal’s office. He is waiting, and calls me in straight away, and we delve into our discussion. The afternoon passes by quickly between discussions covering a whole spectrum right from building skills differently to involve students in reuse and recycling projects to make them environmentally conscious. That’s what Dr. Tushar Desai, Principal – D. G. Ruparel College, Matunga, throws some light on the topics. Excerpts from an interview:

Today, what are the expectations that students have from teachers and vice versa?

n There is a paradigm shift in the nature of the students as well as teachers. Previously the system was guru-centric, but now it has become more student-centric. Owing to the number of information channels that they have at their disposal, the students are aware of a lot of things that their predecessors weren’t aware of. Thus, the job of the teacher has changed to that of a mentor. The student is no more totally dependent on the teacher for information. But they need to be guided, and for that advice they need a mentor. Teachers can guide them whether they are on the right track, doing something they like and what the next step should be. They can mentor students on how to absorb, filter, assimilate and analyse the information that they have.

Can you offer us an example of things that you do differently at Ruparel?

n We are trying to motivate students to take up minor research projects to develop research aptitude. Whenever the word ‘research’ is used, the notion is that it means to invent something. That is not what I mean. Our students take up projects so that they understand how to collect data, the sampling methods and parameters needed, how to tabulate the data use the appropriate tools to analyse the data, to arrive at a conclusion and to compare the results with the established trends on the subject. This certainly leads to better understanding of the topics. We try and identify the students oriented towards research from the first year itself so that skills can be developed.

Can you offer us some insight into the topics that students tend to choose for research?

n For example, say there are a number of washing powders available in the market today. A chemistry student can select certain parameters and analyse these powders on that basis of his interest, the facility available to him, the techniques that he knows and arrive at some conclusion regarding these powders. The results can then be published if possible.

This practice was started over two years ago and some of our students have also been selected to visit research facilities abroad based on the work that they have done in college, their ability and their aptitude.

We have also experimented with social science and language students. For example, if we talk of Marathi as a language – how well can it be used on the mobile? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Why do people not prefer the usage of the Marathi letters and still write the words using the English alphabet? What can be done to change that and improve the usage? These are topics that can be explored.

Our FYBA students have offered an analysis on why the failure rate is slightly higher in FYBSc than any other group of students. What are the different reasons? They designed a questionnaire and took up this topic with their peers in FYBSc and went on to participate at the University-level competition – Avishkar.

You were talking of environmental consciousness among students. Can you tell us a bit about that in the college?

n Students need to participate in some of the programmes that are conducted on the campus. Many students help us to maintain the environmental friendly atmosphere as well. In fact, if you see, the choice of paint for the building is also green, so that it complements the natural green around the campus. We have started an e-waste project where students are learning how to dispose the waste materials properly.

In addition, we have a tie up with an NGO which takes used tetra packs to make beautiful artefacts like pen holders, frames, bins and the like. We have a collection bin for such tetra packs on the campus. Some of our students are involved in a project where we acquire the used paver blocks that the BMC disposes after making new roads, and we resuse these paver blocks to lay our pathways, to construct parapets, and other structures. Our amphitheatre, called Rupangan, is also constructed using such paver blocks. We have also resued discarded tyres and pipes to create colourful barricades around our plants and liven up the campus. Our NSS students help in carrying out many of these activities.

How do you ensure that students come to college and attend classes?
n Our endeavour is that students stay on campus and conduct all their activities on campus rather than the streets outside the gate. Since we have a large campus, we can engage them differently and utilise the facility to enable them to stay on campus. Apart from the amphitheatre, there are many such spots on campus that students can go and chat at, study at and just relax as well. Some of them also call these spots the selfie points. There is a open air cafeteria for the students, and they already have the football field where we allow them to play after 4 pm. Students use the walkway around the field to stroll and spend time with each other. We have several sports activities and a shooting range where students can learn pistol and rifle shooting from a professional.

In academics, we are trying to identify those students who score lower than an ‘A’ grade and enable them to do better and improve their grades so that they do not automatically get filtered out in the selection process, be it for a job or higher education.

Can you offer a message to our student readers?

n Be focussed about your career. Enjoy college, but simultaneously create this focus. If you don’t plan in advance, it might create a problem later on, since you might not be able to cope later. For example if an entrance exam is needed for admission to a particular course, you need to be aware of it, you need to register and prepare for it. For that, you need a plan, you cannot do these things in the last minute. I know for a fact that many of my students have achieved success with this kind of proper planning, and working towards that goal. Do not hesitate to seek help from your teachers and parents when you make this plan!

Original: http://www.freepressjournal.in/education/we-are-trying-to-motivate-students-to-be-more-on-campus-rather-than-off-it-says-dr-tushar-desai/1022051
By: Shraddha Kamdar
Posted: February 20, 2017, 8:27 am