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Re-defining the Education Sector with Lt. General Surendra Kulkarni, Director, Mayo College

Listen to Divya dialogue with Lt. Gen Surendra Kulkarni (Retd.), Director, Mayo College, Ajmer about the reforms in the education sector due to COVID-19. Mayo College is one of the most esteemed boarding schools in India with a sprawling campus in the heart of Ajmer, Rajasthan.

“We have to tap into ancient wisdom but use modern tools to tackle the problems in education & society.”

How has the shift from physical to digital education been like?

Lt. Gen Kulkarni states, “the shift has been difficult only on one account that we couldn’t predict the pandemic. It’s like the law of Inertia – sometimes you have to be forced into a situation to act on it.” In the past few years, educational technology and infrastructure have advanced, and it’s time we make use of it and not wait for a pandemic for such reforms.

Teacher Training Programs 

Teachers have been trained at Mayo College to use Microsoft 365 and other necessary tools to operate digitally. When the pandemic hit in March, all it took was a day of refreshing and the switch was successful.

How will the online v/s offline teaching affect the quality of education provided to students?

Universal Access

The quality of teachers differs in every part of the country. However, through universal access, the students in the remotest areas may now be able to receive the same quality of education as the students at Mayo College.

DR Pro Tip: Internet access may not be viable in a remote village. However, a television forecasting of information done by teachers would be fruitful.

Contextualising Information

The information accessible on the Internet for students in remote areas needs to be contextualised better for their understanding. This, in turn, would help them solve local ground-level issues.

DR Pro Tip: In the future, if students in remote areas access have access to such information via the Internet, India will see a flood of micro-businesses that tap and solve local problems.

How will COVID-19 affect employment?

According to Lt. Gen Kulkarni, “unemployment will get worse.”

Demand/Supply

Supply will exceed the demand for as long as COVID-19 is present. There will be a shift in employers downsizing, and settling for low-cost employees/products – which can result in a decline in quality.

Contemporary & Specialised

The teachers who are phenomenal at their job and are easily able to adapt to dynamic times will be in demand. Those who will be specialised would be able to negotiate a higher salary.

“If you were the Human Resource Development Minister, what would be your top three priorities right now?”

Transfer of Information

A high percentage of what teachers did was transfer information and content, which is not needed anymore. The priority of the government should be to make information and content accessible at a macro-scale that will have micro-impacts.

Concurrence of Education

Due to the vast number of languages and cultures in India, one solution doesn’t fit all. Rather than trying to impose one stringent system, the HRD ministry should give out broad guidelines and aspirational goals. Policymakers should view education holistically and not get into micro-management, like deciding if the maintenance of the buses should be charged for during COVID.

Building Skill Set

The government should take up measures and invest in building a bank of strong and skilled teachers. The teachers should be prepared for the means of tomorrow by honing digital skills and other contemporary tools.

What are the benefits of online learning?

Online learning should be a supplement to traditional classroom teaching. You should learn to leverage it.”Most teachers understand students by their body language. When teaching online, that is restricted.” However, online learning is just a platform for teachers to apply their pedagogy. Teaching online gives them more time to pick up on skills like attention to detail, better plagiarism check and how to keep students engaged. Whenever the schools re-open, and classroom teaching is resumed, the teachers will be able to apply their learnings there.

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