Dr S S Mantha, Former Chairman, AICTE and the current Chancellor of KL University speaks with Brainfeed Higher Education Plus on a range of topics. His intellect is unquestionable. His ideas are prodigious. Read the interview for a breakthrough understanding.
Online classes have become new normal. But some students might face Adaptability Struggles, Technical Issues, Computer Literacy, Time-Management and Self-Motivation. How do you suggest coping up with these issues?
We are living in troubled times. But “when you shut one eye, you also don’t hear everything”. This is a wakeup call!! This virus is assuming monumental proportions the world over, with more than 7.2 lakh active cases recorded with the number increasing by the day, with almost a staggering 31000 dead with redemption nowhere in sight. Every conceivable business has been disrupted affecting the economy.
March – April of any year is a very busy time for the students and the faculty. Universities and Colleges should have been abuzz with activity, not this year though. They have all been hit with the students returning homes and the faculty waiting for the Corona shadows to disappear. Activities that are time bound cannot be deferred. What is the way out? Remember, we are in a world completely networked and connected, be it by the Web or otherwise. Our constant tryst with destiny has made us develop several online initiatives in the past. It is time we fall back on those initiatives. Can we turn this crisis into an opportunity?
Our schools must either own up responsibility of ensuring that the corona does not infect their campus, or they must disclaim that a single student or employee infected as a result of this will not touch seats, or bus handles or table tops which of course is impossible. Hence, we must quickly move to online dissemination of a purposeful education. Schools must shift to online teaching. It is simple; the teachers now at their own homes, record their lessons on video and send it to the students on WhatsApp. That also prepares a digital library of content for the schools. The students can visit that content several times rather than over a single limited period in the class. This must include all the teachers and support staff in addition to the students that must immediately be asked to stay at home and learn. Like organizations and companies allow their employees to work from home, our colleges too must allow learning and assessment from home in these highly distressing times. Having said this, the Universities must explore conducting online Examinations and Assessment wherever possible. Desperate times seek desperate solutions.
Several Online providers* have made their content available free to whoever needs it, at least till end of June. The content of credible players like TCS, Coursera can be used to tide over in the technical education domain. Edutech major BYJU’S on Wednesday said it will provide free access to its complete app to school students till April. Free access to Academic textbooks on Cambridge Core, Cengage and Wiley online library is also available. The opportunity must be used by every Institution / College / University to reach out to students so that they complete whatever is left at the time of the disruption. It will optimise education, bring the cost of education lower, release stressed infrastructure and provide much better referenceable archives than the current classroom system provides. Gutenberg invented the printing press and with that the Bible left the church and reached homes. The churches stay as does the Bible in homes. Only the realm of God expanded in the process!!
Use of a Mobile phone did not need training. Adaptability to Online education is not a struggle. It is actually fun. Every such effort provides several online tools to navigate easily and freely. Hence computer literacy and technical problems are non-issues. Without self-discipline, nothing can be achieved in life. Time-Management and Self-Motivation are non-negotiables when we do not have the luxury of time and resources.
The recent rankings released by Universities 21 announced Finland to be having the best higher education system in the world. Why or why not can India adapt their assessment format to become better? What basic challenges lie in path?
The Education Index, calculated using Mean Years of Schooling and Expected Years of Schooling, has Finland at 0.815, one amongst the highest in the world, and India is at 0.473. The Finnish Ministry of Education attributes its success to “the education system to highly competent teachers, and the autonomy given to schools. Education from pre-primary to higher education is free of charge in Finland. The core curricula for pre-primary and basic education focuses on learning and not steering. Adult education and training encompasses education leading to a qualification, degree studies, training preparing for competence-based qualifications, apprenticeship training, further and continuing education updating and extending the professional skills, studies in subjects relating to citizenship skills, working life skills and society, and studies in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis. This is where India can adopt, adapt and scale. We however, need to understand that the population of Finland is just 5.5 Million whereas India is 1.3 Billion. With such numbers to cater to, I think India has done fairly well in the education sector though much more can be done.
Where do you see Indian Higher Education in next decade? What trends might influence most?
With cost becoming a real factor in seeking higher education, building more and more brick and mortar structures is neither feasible nor easy. Online and Blended learning will be the mainstay in future. Students will be learning outside, armed with different devices, listening to a teacher of choice. Competency based skills will not be assessed on paper but based on their performance in the field. Diverse time and place, personalised learning, free choice, project-based learning, field experience, data interpretation, student ownership and mentoring will all become important. Of course, concept of examinations will completely change.
You have led NSQF (National Skills Qualification Framework) that is adopted by MHRD, GOI. Can you please explain about framework in short and share its benefits for students?
The National Skills Qualification Frame work (NSQF), will help promote skill based competency modules to be integrated into seven certification levels starting in the 9th class to Graduation, where a student can undergo skill based learning that enhances employability and employment opportunities and also allows him/her the flexibility to pursue formal education or take up an appropriate job at the end of any level of certification. NSQF allows multi point entry / exit vertical and lateral mobility and is modular and Credit based. A robust credit framework allows credit-based mobility between Vocational education, conventional education and the job markets. With the current low levels of productivity, employment and income, we need to exploit any and all opportunities to progress in these areas. Upgrading work place skills just provides such an opportunity to address these areas of concern. The vehicle to do this is NSQF.
You specialize in Robotics, Control Theory and Artificial Intelligence. There are many counter questions on AI. According to you, can AI be dangerous?
Max Tegmark, President of the Future of Life Institute once said, “Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.“ The flip side is every technology can be misused.
From SIRI to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. While science fiction often portrays AI as robots with human-like characteristics, AI can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous weapons.
AI is properly known as narrow AI (or weak AI), in that it is designed to perform a narrow task (e.g. only facial recognition or only internet searches or only driving a car). However, the long-term goal of many researchers is to create general AI (AGI or strong AI). While narrow AI may outperform humans at whatever its specific task is, like playing chess or solving equations, AGI would outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task.
You have a lot of achievements in your basket throughout your entire life. But which achievement gives you utmost satisfaction. Would you like to share with us please?
Everything I did in a career as one defines; I will cherish. I have no regrets. Still one of the biggest satisfactions for me must be reforming AICTE into a transparent and accountable system. E-Governance procedures at AICTE are stakeholder driven, in all the processes brought about transparency, accountability, flexibility, integrating the entire eco system. A purely transaction-based system was converted to a Process driven system that was based on rules and open to scrutiny and RTI complaint. The system is one of its kinds with ease of use, is scalable, is retrievable, and is secure and robust. This has increased the credibility of the system and improved the brand value. Further, besides creating a huge corpus, and new state of art office building and auditorium, many AICTE offices were created in different States.
My teaching career spanning more than 25 years at VJTI in Mumbai is something I will cherish for ever, simply because I could learn from my brilliant students and also involve them in several of my initiatives.
Please leave your message for young students.
These are challenging times. One needs to strive beyond one’s abilities to be there. Everyone has a talent that that may be latent or profound. Be proud of your talent and capabilities. One need not be an expert at everything. Sometimes life teaches lessons that we cannot comprehend. Sometimes our inherent strength that we must give credit to, identifies pitfalls. We must overcome them in order to succeed. If apart from the education you have, if you have any other skill like an ability to play music or may be an interest in photography or may be want to take up acting or whatever, pursue it with passion. It might come handy on a rainy day. Above all, times are very competitive. So, play hard but play fair. Be honest. And the world will be yours. There is nothing like success or failure. It is the way you look at life.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
In these difficult times the universities must provide student centric learning. In a world that is exploding on information the universities must lead, must drive passion and teach compassion. In the process they must adapt to the new realities outside. They must stress on competency-based skills and experiential learning and not on cliched rote learning. Above everything else they must strive to build values and make good citizens.
*Where one can reach them:
- TCS https://learning.tcsionhub.in/hub/glass-room/
- Corsera https://www.coursera.org/coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR1_0phWTVWr4JNMCSsDBeAUBRK4el_8GtUrbHpVF_UgOkj5zH9d7bb0Cjc
- Cambridge free access to text Books: https://www.cambridge.org/core/what-we-publish/textbooks
- Cengage: https://www.cengage.com/covid-19-support/student/
- Wiley online Library: https://novel-coronavirus.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/
More useful links:
The Ed-tech partners of NEAT have waived off the subscription charges for the benefit of NEAT registered students of its products as listed below.
Infoplus Technology (p) Ltd: 1 Product: LearnEngg:
Visual-Rich Digital Content with 3D/2D Visual for Self-Learning and Teaching Aid Enhanced Learning Experience – Visually LearnEngg has Developed Visual Learning Solutions for theory subjects (Engineering and polytechnic), where in each subject containing 400 to 600 pages of text & over 200 3D/2D Animation that are embedded throughout the lecture notes and solved tutorial problems. Self-assessments are provided for each chapter.
Perfectice Eduventure (p) Ltd:
(a) Product Name – Career Path Navigator: URL:
It assess the students skill level through Diagnostic assessment and then navigate them through Gamification modules to upskill their coding, core & cognitive skills.
(b) Product Name – Job Readiness (Company Specific Mock and Preparation)
Its final touch series package for students to get aware about company’s recruitment process, screening rounds & interview prep as well.
Product Name: Ebox:
Ebox offers the prestigious AI driven and Tech enabled Computer Science Engineering Program at free of cost for one month. This program,as used by many top MNCs, gives the learner a personalised tech skilling on 40 courses, 15 internships and 8 projects.
Product Name: Talent Rank:
Talentrank, portal used by MNCs to identify fresh skilled graduates, offers AI driven and Tech enabled Assessments and Certifications at free of cost for one month. Enrol today and be a part of India’s largest skill certified freshers’ marketplace.
English Helper: Product Name: English Bolo
In this spirit, EnglishBolo is offering the first 25 days of learning, free of cost to all NEAT registered students. EnglishBolo is a 100 days, online Spoken English program. It offers multi-sensory AI technology powered 100 Self- Learning lessons and 10 live, online teacher classes. Youth and adults from all walks of life, from across the country are learning to speak English with EnglishBolo This is an opportunity for you to join them and improve your English!