Former Deputy Director of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay Dr Arvind Kudchadker has expressed concern over rote learning in schools and the need for acceleration in R&D in India. In a tête-à-tête with ‘The Navhind Times’ Staff Reporter Shoaib Shaikh, he hopes Goa will lead by example in providing an excellent educational environment
Q: Goa is seeking to be an education hub with institutes of national repute being established. What do you feel?
Quality institutions should be established at all levels. IITs have established a certain standard, nationally and internationally through BTech courses. This allows a sort of cross-breeding creating a very healthy competition and automatically the level of other institutions around, like other colleges here in Goa, is expected to improve. In 5-7 years with good faculty, IIT should be able to use technology to network and share things with other colleges around and mentor. I am very positive provided we make extremely good use of their location.
Q: What is your opinion about Goa’s education system?
The approach in the education system appears to be more to spoon-feed than independent learning because the emphasis is to complete the syllabus. The syllabus is very heavy, therefore when you want to cover that portion students seldom have time to think, to absorb and to use their knowledge. In broad sense, it becomes rote learning. We do so much of spoon-feeding that problem solving is not happening. I thought Goa being small could easily experiment and we could have effectively become role models for others to follow, but I think we are losing that opportunity.
Q: What are your views about the Goa University?
It could be better in improving the ability to think. Goa University is about masters and beyond, so you’re effectively talking about research. Research has a lot of creativity. So have we created the research and innovation ecology in Goa? I don’t think so. I think an average Goan has that intelligence and is capable and eager to learn. We have one university and umpteen affiliated colleges with a lot of possibility to achieve.
Q: What changes you wish to see in academia and curriculum?
We need to revise the curriculum where the student is able to absorb, experience and apply. We teach too much. Fundamentals are most important. While we have large syllabus to complete, at the same time in a given time I over-teach. So limit the syllabus to the desirable and then get into the mould of student learning. Learning is thinking, absorbing, experiencing and applying to open-ended problems. Every problem has multiple solutions but we teach only a specific solution and our children are able to solve closed-ended problems. Teaching has to move from the conventional teacher-centric pattern to student-centric active learning pattern where students are actively involved in the process of learning. The teaching pedagogy has to totally change with the mentoring of the young faculty in our schools according to the needs and paradigm shift.
Q: What is your take on the funding status to our institutions of higher learning?
The number of institutions has increased but the funding pie from the government has not proportionately increased. Therefore the funding is below critical. If we want an impact then massive input has to go to the Universities. Our old universities are starving for money. And even the industry has not supplemented this need. So like the IITs, the alum of the institutes need to be approached. Goa University could do this as they have very less alumni. You provide the funding and then make the faculty accountable. We need to create an expertise in academia and that can be done only with a very strong financial support and internal structural changes in research.
Q: Why Indian institutes do not figure in the international list of best institutions?
There are various parameters for listing in London or Chinese evaluation system. For example, the research parameter, the number of research publications that are published which make an impact. Our publication record is not impressive. The number of publications is not commensurate with the scientists and technology in this country. Secondly, the number of PhDs we produce is 1,000 compared to 5,000 in the United States and 8,000 in China. As far as the number of researchers per million populations is concerned India has 136, while Israel has 8,000 and Japan has 5,500. These are directly related to R&D (research and development) and if you look at the R&D in the country, it is disappointing. The academia and industry interaction and partnership did not happen and therefore our publications and patents became limited. Though we have some of the institutes producing excellent engineers, at the same time the irony is that 80 per cent of our graduates are unemployable. It’s a pathetic situation. Quality of education has gone down. Only 10-15 vibrating institutions don’t make a country education friendly.
Q: How do you react to the political influence on IITs?
According to me the existing model of the IIT Council should be changed and each IIT should be totally independent and autonomous. The question is why the Chairman of Academic Council of the IITs should be the HRD Minister. Though there is no direct interference but there is an indirect interference as the ministry is funding the institution. The whole structure has to change.