Education Innovation in India & Australia

Education Innovation in India & Australia

In this thought leadership discussion, David Linke sits down with Professor Sandeep Sancheti, Provost of Marwadi University in India, to discuss the growth of EdTech in India, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the education sector, and how the future may shape up for higher education in India.

David Linke, managing director of EduGrowth, hosts the latest thought leadership discussion, this time focusing on higher education in India, its significance to the wider world, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the future of the higher education sector.

Today’s guest is Professor Sandeep Sancheti, the Provost of Marwadi University in India, and an academic with more than three decades of experience in the higher education sector both in India and abroad.

Highlights of their discussion and the full transcript follow below:

Effects of Covid on the Indian education sector

Despite the negative impacts of Covid-19 in India and the world, Professor Sancheti nonetheless notes some positives that he sees resulting from it:

  • India has long been a traditional society, but the effects of Covid are causing the country to innovate, change, and grow like never before.
  • Lectures and coursework, even if delivered in person, can be uploaded to the web. Even beyond Covid, this will allow all students to have an equal footing.
  • Virtual laboratories connect universities with high-end equipment to those which do not have it, giving science and medical students the ability to work at a higher level.

Professor Sancheti’s optimism about the future stems from his belief that all the EdTech innovation from the past year is here to stay. He believes future generations will have more opportunities to study, a greater course catalog to choose from, and more modes by which to attend their courses.

“Everything which technology has brought into our life has become permanent, whether it is mobile or automobile, whether it’s something in the kitchen, something in the living room, or your entertainment, or your life. Everything is technology-driven.”
Sandeep Sancheti, Marwadi University

Connecting academics and industry

EdTech not only benefits the education sector, but also those industries into which it feeds. Professor Sancheti’s optimism for the future of India extends well beyond the classroom:

  • Academia and Industry are collaborating like never before. Internships and immersion programs are allowing each sector to gain from the other.
  • Technology, and EdTech specifically, may be able to bridge the gap between faculty and industry.

Future models may include appointments of professionals working jointly between academia and industry.

“[These initiatives] become a permanent bridge if a faculty member is a connection between the industry and the academic world.”
Sandeep Sancheti, Marwadi University

Transforming Indian curriculums

Having spent more than thirty years working with higher education in India, and having worked in education sectors outside of his home country, Professor Sancheti gives his perspective on the state of curriculum in India currently and how he sees it developing in the coming years:

  • Indian higher ed systems are “bulky” and offer little flexibility to students.
  • EdTech may be able to shed that “bulk” and allow students more flexibility in their course and degree choices.
  • Under India’s new National Education Policy, students may establish an “academic bank of credit” (ABC)
  • The ABC allows students to earn credits from any higher ed institution and incorporate them into a degree program, offering students flexibility in where, how, and what they will study.
  • ABC makes graduates more competent and competitive in their fields because they were given the chance to study exactly what they needed for the specialization they aim to enter.

Micro-credentialing and education after graduation

As in Australia, the prevalence of micro-credentialing is expanding, giving education opportunities to those who cannot complete a full university degree or to those who have already completed a degree and are expanding their skillset to be more competitive in their industry. Professor Sancheti explains:

  • Micro-credits and minor specializations are a natural outgrowth of the ABC program.
  • Students may earn specializations in different areas to complement their degree, making them more well-rounded and competent.
  • ABC and micro-credentialing have the added benefit of being “go-as-you-please”. Since the student studies what and when he chooses, he can go as fast or as slow as he needs to.
“These things have become important because all the industrial work today, or all the research today, is not confined to a limited domain, such that “I’m an electronics person so I need to know only electronics.”
Sandeep Sancheti, Marwadi University
EduGrowth Learn from Victoria event - Sandeep Sancheti

Counseling in higher ed

Covid-19 has impacted institutions and students in a number of ways over the past year. For the students’ welfare, Indian universities have been pushing to grow their counseling services. Professor Sancheti explains some of their recent advances:

  • All counseling services are available online to allow for social distancing and equal access for international students.
  • For every 15 students at Marwadi University, one counselor is available.
  • Students give daily feedback on classes as part of their counseling service.
  • Anonymous counseling is available if students are uncomfortable sharing their difficulties openly.

Taking care of students’ mental and emotional wellbeing allows them to continue giving their full effort to pursuing their qualifications. By expending greater resources on student wellbeing, Marwadi University and India as a whole are ensuring the success of their students and, in turn, their country.

Education in rural India

Professor Sancheti explains that rural India will have a number of advantages over urban areas in the coming years. He counsels that we should not discount its ability to make very quick and significant advances, explaining that:

  • Rural India is very environmentally-friendly. Solar power is very common and very cost-effective.
  • The growth of EdTech and migration online benefits rural locations more since urban areas already had access to higher education.
  • The cost of living and the cost of internet connectivity in India is one of the cheapest in the world. With education moving online, Indians in rural areas will be able to take advantage of it in greater proportion than others.
“[Rural India has] the same link, the same technology, the same delay or latency, and the same cost. So [education] becomes cost independent. It becomes time independent. Therefore technology does not differentiate.”
Sandeep Sancheti, Marwadi University

The future of education in India

In considering the future of the Indian education sector, Professor Sancheti’s optimism persists.

  • Currently India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (for high school graduates) is 27.3%. His expectation of EdTech is to grow that number to 50% by 2036.
  • EdTech will allow teachers to do more with less. Instead of delivering the same lecture multiple times to multiple audiences, a professor can deliver content once and then give access to larger audiences online.
  • Ultimately EdTech will produce not only a more educated workforce, but a population of well-rounded leaders, innovators, and citizens with virtues and attributes that will serve them for a better life.

Full Transcript

David Linke:

It’s now my pleasure to welcome to the stage professor Sandeep Sanchetti, the Provost of Marwadi University. Professor Sandeep Sancheti is an institution builder, policy planner, and regular columnist, promoter of sports in higher education and well known for his intellectual strategic foresight. He holds a PhD from Queen’s University of Belfast, UK, Master of Science and Engineering from DTU Delhi and a Bachelor of Technology from… I can’t pronounce the name of that institution, sorry. He’s currently the Vice Chancellor Professor at Marwadi University. Welcome professor.

David Linke:

Before we get into our formal conversation I thought we might spend a brief moment reflecting on Covid and the impact that it’s having on you in your community of students.

Sandeep Sancheti:

It’s having a huge impact. It’s across the world. It’s not only limited to India or some states in India. There are positives and there are negatives of all that has happened in the last year and half. The positives are what I would be really keen on, that we have started accepting change, which was not the case in the education sector. Primarily that we were very traditional in India and maybe elsewhere as well. That’s one thing. The second thing is the introduction of technology, which was not very much welcomed, or required, or wanted. In fact, we were against the introduction of technology for whatever reasons. But suddenly the floodgates have opened and, fortunately for us at least in India, there has been an announcement or a launch of what we call the national education policy. You can also call it new education policy 2020, which is further catalyzing these changes that we need to improve. We need to do something different and therefore the overall thing with Covid is positive in terms of the education space because it has opened up the negative side. Of course there is a lot of learning which happens outside the classrooms, which happens from peer to peer, which happens in terms of skilling or hands-on or internships and things of those kinds. Those are suffering a little bit, but when it comes to the other activities, I think we have been able to maintain the routine. I must say without the loss of the academic year or any time to our students

David Linke:

Globally, we have acknowledged that teachers, academics, and educators have had an incredibly tough twelve or eighteen months. Right now communities around the world, and especially in India, are feeling those impacts. You have a reputation for building some leading Indian academic institutes and this gives you a unique vantage point to think about what’s happening in the industry now, what’s happening in institutions, and where they’re going. How do institutions partner with industry around the world, and especially in India, to improve student outcomes? What are some of the models you’ve seen, and some of the success stories?

Sandeep Sanchetti:

There can be many models which we need to adopt. One-size-fits-all will not work. One model serving the purpose will not work. Fortunately, we always call it “industry-institute interaction”, but institutions themselves have started operating like industry now. They’re like businesses. They need to make profit. They need to have input and output, and therefore you can also call it industry-to-industry interaction and then you have this simplified answer available about how an industry will interact with another industry, it has to be a win-win situation for both of them. I would say that most of the Indian institutions are known for bringing the representatives of industry into board-of-studies, or faculty boards, or academic councils, and aids various other such forums. They will get their input and at times ask them to lead some educational drives in terms of delivering courses or something like that. To some extent internships also happen, but may not be very effective. Because of our large numbers, these are the models which are currently existing. But what we really need is a model where there is a duality; where the industry is also winning and we are also winning. Those models are when we do intellectual knowledge exchange or development. Therefore in India we need to do a lot with industry in terms of research, development, innovation, entrepreneurship, consultancy, and testing joint use of the facilities to cut down the cost. Then of course a lot of long-term projects for which academia is much more ready, and that cannot happen easily without a permanent connection between the industry and the academic world.

I’ll just give you one example to give the answer how it can be different. We have created a new scheme in Marwadi that is called the faculty-industry immersion program. Every year some of the faculty members — five to ten percent of the faculty — can take the plunge and go to industry at the cost of the institution, spend 10 to 15 days there, learn what they do, what are their challenges, what are the tools and tackles they have, how we can help them come back, bring that knowledge, and deliver it in the classroom. We take those case studies and examples to satisfy your students or educate them and also, in return, sometimes call them to further supplement the education which you are delivering. I think this becomes a permanent bridge if a faculty member is a connection between the industry and the academic world. Generally we had only been sending students, and then they graduate, and then they disappear and once again. The link is lost. We are doing such experimentation to improve such models and make sure that the industry and academic world both are benefiting. But going further, we might also do the joint appointment of faculty between industry and our institution. We are still working on those models. We have not yet implemented that.

David Linke:

I think higher education around the world is deeply thinking about the connection between the academic world and student studying, and then moving into the workforce. I’m really interested around whether or not technology is helping you bridge the gap between a student’s academic life and their employment life, and maybe some of the examples you’ve seen around that.

Sandeep Sanchetti:

I think technology has the potential to bridge that but it’s only been one year since we have started experimenting with that. I’m sure in a year or two we’ll see many good results out of that. One fundamental reason why we will see good results out of that is primarily because, at least in the Indian context, once a student enters a four year or three year program, there’s hardly any change which allowed to happen during the course of delivery for those four years. So the person who is getting admitted today, possibly the course or the curriculum, was made one year back before it is offered to him. So five years, and let’s presume that someone takes a break and does something or something else happens, so he may graduate in five to six years. Well, five to six years he is stuck in a program which was designed five years back or six years back.

David Linke:

Professor, is that a regulatory requirement? Is it the regulation that’s constraining that change to the cause in real time?

Sandeep Sancheti:

It’s not a regulatory requirement, but our systems are so bulky that that kind of freedom is not easy to give that you can change anything anytime. The regulator simply says that you can probably do it within a given framework, but when we give enough flexibility then delivery becomes a problem. That is the reason why I’m saying that technology, once it comes in, we will have new schemes.

Under the NEP, one of the schemes which we have come about is what we call “Academic Bank of Credit”. Rather than an institution deciding about a degree, that which would be the degree, and what will be the constituents for the degree, the student himself or herself can decide it. They will keep earning credits, maybe from Australia, maybe from India, maybe from IIT. My institution, Marwadi, accumulates all that will go into a certain central depository called “academic bank of credit”, converts those credits into degrees, diplomas, and certificates, and therefore the high degree of flexibility will come in that.

This cannot be delivered without technology. Your time frame is different. Language may be a different speed. Maybe different expectations and examinations. Maybe different modes and technology is required. Once technology has come, ABC can happen. Once ABC happens, students can decide what is the course they want to do. Suppose I am doing mechanical engineering but I find that there is not enough scope or jobs which I would like to do once I graduate. I mean in my final year, or pre-final year, possibly, take courses which may be taking me in another direction where the jobs are available. Therefore I can beat the train or beat the staleness, and yet be ready for the industrial jobs. That is number one. Number two is, in addition to whatever is delivered for my degree or my certification, that’s fine. I can do wonderful things parallelly which is now allowed under the scheme. You can add more courses. You can do something simultaneously. So you may be full time in a certain thing, and that means that my topping up in terms of my knowledge or in terms of my actions, will also help me for job readiness. Therefore all these things will be supported by technology and technology will be very important.

David Linke:

I’m interested in the ending context for the emergence of micro-credentials and short courses, and the impact that they’re having on, predominantly in Australia,  the postgraduate market. I was wondering whether you can give us a little bit of insight about what your thinking is around micro-credentials in Marwadi University? 

Sandeep Sanchetti:

I’ll not necessarily restrict it to Marwadi University. I’ll possibly say that this is now coming up across all the institutions, and not only the institutions, but across the educational domain. Without doing these additional micro-credits, one would not survive. We are not doing it only in terms of micro-credits, but we are also possibly doing it at a micro level in a certain sense that we have started minor specializations.  I may be doing a degree in computer science, but I may still do something in biomedical because I would like to apply it there. So once you are in your second year or third year, based on your credentials and performance, you are allowed to choose minor specializations. Very soon you’ll find that the minor specializations will cross boundaries. Let’s say I’m in engineering. I’ll need not choose the minor in engineering. I may go into science and humanities or maybe into management. And vice versa will also be true. So these things have become important because all the industrial work today, or all the research today, is not confined to a limited domain, such that “I’m an electronics person so I need to know only electronics”. Now that’s not true. For example, a mobile can be called an electronic device, but I know in my heart that most of it is defined by the battery. Half the weight and half the volume is battery, which is materials and chemical engineering. Half of it goes into the displays and manufacturing, which is mechanical engineering. And for my electronics it’s just a single chip of 40-60 pins where everything is integrated. So it’s a really integrated device. Most of its design and other things are based on certain social angles, certain designs, certain aspects of ergonomics, or maybe the costing if one can afford. Therefore, as an engineer one possibly needs to know all these dimensions and therefore these micro-credentials will always help. The best thing about the micro-credentials is this is a go-as-you-please kind of a thing. While I’m in service, I’ve graduated. I’m 25 years old. I’ve come into a job. But when I move further in my job for the next 30, 40, 50 years till 70 or 75, I may require many changes and many new things to learn. Those can be done through these micro-credentials. I’m sure the industries and the companies will give value to these micro-credentials.

David Linke:

In Australia, around September or October 2019, there were more postgraduate students studying online than face-to-face. The number of students face-to-face went the other way for the first time. Where do you see India at the moment in terms of the number of students in the postgraduate space? Because the undergrad space is very different. In the postgraduate space, studying online or face-to-face, what’s the mix at the moment?

Sandeep Sancheti:

I would not differentiate between postgraduate and undergraduate. Our postgraduate population is much too less compared to our undergraduate. So everything in India as of now, if one is talking of education, is defined by default by undergraduate education. Unfortunately under the current scenario we are all without the face-to-face mode. The current scenario means in the last month, because of the second wave which is slightly more difficult for us to handle. By default or by instructions from the government we have confined ourselves to online mode, and not only the classes but the examinations also. All kinds of examinations and all kinds of competitive examinations, either they have been deferred or they’ve been served online.

When it comes to postgraduate education, some relaxation is there. The medical postgraduates, the pharmacy postgraduates, and those postgraduates who are about to complete their projects and degrees are allowed to come to the campus. But once again, with a lot of control, and checks, and balances, and isolation requirements, so that wave can be arrested. That’s the current scenario. But the overall scenario, which India is going to see, and which we saw just before the onset of the second wave, was that we were heavily into blended mode. It can be the hybrid. It can be the flexible mode. It can be the high-flex mode or whatever name we can give it. India started experimenting. Some batches will come and we will do the batches of smaller classes or smaller sizes in laboratories. Rather than a class of 20, we will make it 10. We will call students alternatively to the class so that you can attend classes on one day and I can attend on the second day. Once again you come back like that.But since many students will come from far-flung areas, and also international students who have gone back to international domains, their respective countries, we were forced to do examinations generally in the online mode so that no one is deprived of the examination. The teaching and learning can obviously happen in a multitude of ways, but examination has to be a common thing and therefore online examinations were a must. But teaching and learning, partly you can say was face-to-face. It may not be more than 10 to 15 percent, but right now it’s almost zero percent.

David Linke:

Think about the experience during the pandemic and now what things might look like as we move out of the pandemic. Hopefully that happens quickly for India. But I think about the students. They’re learning from home and they’re learning from core. They’re learning from work coworking spaces, and they’re in libraries, and all sorts of things. How do we support the health and well-being of a student who’s not physically coming to campus? What models have Marwadi put in place to support those students?

Sandeep Sancheti:

We need to be very open with our students in terms of the current set of limitations and the current set of challenges. So there is a constant dialogue with them. Though we have more than one-thousand two-hundred international students currently residing, we still try to deliver them education in their hostel rooms through the online method only. We don’t call them to the classrooms because there is a risk involved. However, we always have communication with them in terms of how we are going about and how it’s going to be supported. Fortunately at Marwadi University, we were always end-to-end technically connected. We hardly required any paper movements for anything, whether it is your attendance, whether it is your exams, whether it is a class.

The group has an origin-to-origin from what we call the shares or the financial world, where the transparency required was of the highest order and so was the speed requirement in dealing and displaying anything. The same principles followed when we launched ourselves into the education space. Therefore going everything electronic, I hardly process anything in paper mode, whether it is my leave, whether it is my dispatches, which happens end-to-end right from admission till the placement. Everything happens. So fortunately that connect is always there. All the notices, circulars, everything is there. It’s been practiced with us for the last two or three years, or maybe more.

All the lectures which I give, and some students have not been able to attend, by the evening will be hosted on our website for our internet participants to access. Even those things are available. So there was not a shock in that, “oh we have to do all that and we are not ready”. I think some of the LMS’s and other things were already being used and integrated into that. Most of the library resources were shared through some distribution mechanisms, and online subscriptions, and other things.

The only loss which has happened to some extent is the laboratory, and there we have now started with the virtual laboratory experimentation. We can call it vLab or online labs, not that we have perfected it and not that everything is available. But the vLab is an initiative which the government of India started. It was just kind of lingering. People are not very receptive to it. Once Covid came in last year, suddenly there was a boom-and-boost to what we were doing online through virtual labs, and that is now picking up. With that we can do wonders in the sense that, suppose you have the high-end equipment and I do not, I can connect with you and you can allow my students to do experimentation on that high-end equipment since it’s software controlled. You can always build in all the safeties which are there. I cannot damage the equipment or do anything wrong with that, and so on. There are many beauties which are involved in that. So that part we are still developing. In the computer science domain a lot of things are available, but for mechanical, civil, electrical.

Counseling is very important, so we have a student-to-teacher ratio of 15 to 1 for counseling. That counseling remains very effective. If they have any difficulties, they can share individual ones or collective ones. We are now trying to implement almost daily feedback on the classes. That’s another thing which we are trying to introduce. These are some of the examples through which we are trying to make sure that students are not put to any discomfort.

There’s another initiative which we intend to start. Sometimes the students want anonymity. So in India there are people who started some special groups or online services where counseling can also happen with some anonymity. We can get the inputs and students can feel free to consult them and get help. So even those will be roped in very soon by us. Then all platforms and all kinds of opportunities are available for them for counseling etc.

David Linke:

Did you increase those support services during the pandemic or were they already in place?

Sandeep Sancheti:

Most of these things are already in place. For example, I said 15 is to one, counseling, or online attendance, or lectures, or lecture materials: all those are available. But I gave you the last example of a 24/7 anonymous service platform. We are going to introduce this now, so that people who are slightly shy who may not speak up sometimes with their teachers very well can also attempt something of that sort.

But in addition, almost weekly, there are standard practices that can convey to them and with them. We have allowed the environment to be as natural and as comfortable as possible, being more friendly with them in these testing times. We have celebrated if they have some special things to celebrate and we are celebrating that so that they don’t feel out-of-place, especially if there is a Covid impact on any individual. There are isolation spaces within the campus, and they are served special food, and so on. All those things are possibly keeping them very happy and safe.

David Linke:

I have two questions from the audience. There’s one of your colleagues that basically said, “I feel that regular courses can be supplemented with deliverables which bridge gaps between what is being taught and what is required by industry. Do you think that is a regular thing that’s happening across Indian institutions?”

Sandeep Sancheti:

In my first or second answer I called it an ABC, academic bank of credit. It’s precisely that. I may study partly in your institution and partly in my institution. One student feels that he wants one specialization or course which is neither available with you or with me. He need not be worried much about it because he can study it in MOOC form. He can study it from viewers. He can study it from another institution where the teacher is good, or the timetable suits him, or the content, either introductory or advanced level, whatever he wants, is available. All that is very much possible. It cannot be denied and this is a scheme called student-centric education, or as we call it, education 4.0 in India, like industry 4.0. Yesterday I learned the new terminology. One of my friends ended up writing on my blog or somewhere that it is going to be student 4.0 also, not only education 4.0. It can also be called academics 4.0.

It basically means liberalization, openness. And those voids to be identified is a tough call. But to deliver and patch up those voids possibly would be easy, and therefore the counseling systems will have to be very strong.

David Linke:

Do we have plans with social entrepreneurship and sustainability in rural India?

Sandeep Sancheti: 

I’m not an expert on rural India because I’ve never had much of a chance to work there. Fortunately, by design or by nature itself, rural India is highly sustainable. I think you will be in awe when you see some of the examples of how they recycle everything which is available to them as a resource. We in the bigger cities ought to learn from rural India when it comes to sustainability. We were in a culture of use-and-throw very easily, because the affordability was there and we thought we need not worry about it. But certainly our eyes are opened up with the pandemic, with the inclusion of SDGs all over the world. A lot of emphasis in India, a lot of rankings, ratings, assessments, and accreditations are talking about that.

The sustainability is coming into the big picture more so because now financial viability is also becoming a big issue in Covid times. So we are trying to save money wherever we can, whether it is triple use of water, a triple recycling, or double recycling, and triple use of water, or whether it is anything else. India is a hugely solar-driven country these days. Our solar power generation is almost three times cheaper than the power generation through conventional modes. So all of us are going towards those kinds of things. A lot of green and environmentally friendly materials are being used. And now we will not need big buildings and concrete jungles to survive and make our institutions because many institutions will go in online mode. Therefore you’ll find that India in general would be what we call environmentally friendly and would be able to recycle and reuse many of these resources which are there.

Rural India is most suited for that. Given an opportunity, if I have to establish a new institution I will do it in rural India. And not only that, I’ll do it there. I’ll myself settle there permanently because that’s the way you can live in the friendliest environment. So rural India possibly will gain in terms of advantage after what has happened through Covid and what technology is doing to education.

David Linke:

Whilst we’re talking a little bit about rural India, just a quick question around the equity and access to technology, and internet, and infrastructure in rural India. Is it an issue that institutions are considering or thinking about, and EdTech companies either Indian or Australian trying to supply need to be conscious of?

Sandeep Sancheti:

I would say that technology has been blamed to some extent throughout the world. Particularly in India, it is a digital divide. I don’t call it a digital divide. I’m a hardcore technologist and therefore I can say that everything which technology has brought into our life has become permanent, whether it is mobile or automobile, whether it’s something in the kitchen, something in the living room, or your entertainment, or your life. Everything is technology-driven. Unfortunately education was not receptive to it, and now it is changing. You can possibly see the cost of data in India is the cheapest in the world. The cost of mobiles in India is the cheapest in the world. One of the cheapest is the cost of automobiles. One of the cheapest technologies, once it sets in and is mass produced, it becomes cheaper. And in these times I would say the growth of technology, or the speed with which the technology is growing or is being implemented, is becoming faster.

You know all those examples that maybe the steam engine came in to the masses, it took probably a hundred, two hundred years. Whatever it may be, something else came. The conventional telephone, PSTN lines, probably took 100 years to reach whatever, or 50 years to reach whatever number, and what happens with Facebook, and what happens with LinkedIn, what happens with the other Instagram social media? So implementation is becoming faster. Once the implementation becomes faster, it is no different. Technology does not differentiate between rural and urban India, or the urban parts of the country. The connectivity which you and me have today, between Australia and India, is the same connectivity which will be there in a rural setting which is 10 kilometers away from my home. The same link, the same technology, the same delay or latency, and the same cost. So it becomes cost independent. It becomes time independent. Therefore technology does not differentiate. Technology is a big provider, I’m sure, with India’s potential, and we are generally technologically savvy. I would say that education will be a very different world and there’ll be no differentiation. The rural will once again probably come to prominence in terms of education, which was not the case earlier.

David Linke:

Australia’s EdTech sector is really focused on improving and supporting existing institutions. They’re about trying to help them with their digital transformation. In terms of digital provide within your institution and other institutions, what’s driving your adoption of technology there? What are you thinking about most? Is it about the educational outcomes? Is it improvement of engagement? Is it connecting to your university strategy? Is it about student needs? Is it about industry needs? What’s the thing that’s top of mind when you’re thinking about, “I’m going to adopt some new technology?”

Sandeep Sancheti:

All those points which you just narrated are the drivers. I cannot single out any one that is the one which is driving it. I cannot eliminate any one because these are all important. Now imagine that I wanted to study from a professor of Harvard or Stanford who was very well known. Can I afford it, either in terms of time, or money, or effort, or maybe the clearances, or even if I go is it guaranteed that I’ll succeed in what I wanted to learn with whatever intent I was going there? It may not be true, but today here in India I can do that. That is the reach of technology. Technology makes it repeatable, makes it reliable, makes it reproducible, in addition to the cost components which I have said. It makes it omnipresent. Now all these characteristics were not there. David, if I ask you to lecture on one topic four times or in a week to four different classes, I’m pretty sure in the first one you will be doing something good. In the second one you’ll still do good because you are excited and you learn from the first one how to improve it. By the time you go to third and fourth you’ll get bored that you’re repeating the same thing. So repeatability is not there. Reproducibility is not. Technology is a donkey which will make us very comfortable if you want to do such things. Therefore technology should be used appropriately by us. In my opinion, technology can always help mankind do whatever they want to achieve without compromise on quality and cutting down the cost.

All those components that my students will have access and equity. Please understand one thing. I will give you one example from our national education policy, NEP 2020. I do not know if some of you had the chance to see. It’s sought after by the world. Many countries have started looking into the Indian policy and just one number I’m giving you from there. Currently in India gross enrollment ratio is 27.3% they say in the report. That has been achieved by independent India in roughly 74 years. This policy says in the next 15 years we have to attain the GER to 50%. Please imagine in 74 years we have attained a GER of 27.3%. In the next 15 years we have to make it 50%.

David Linke:

What do you mean by the 23%? Is that 23% of the population completing high school, or a degree, or whatever?

Sandeep Sancheti:

This gross enrollment ratio is a term used across the world for the 12th graders. Those who complete 12 years of formal study and go to colleges. What percentage of those 12th graders actually end up going into the higher education space. And that is a percentage that in India we have attained only 27.3% in 74 years and in the next 15 years we want to attain another 23.5%. Imagine that our base number is also going up. The base is not fixed. The people who are completing 12th would be more and more because our population base is still growing. And if that has to happen do you think India will have the wherewithal to construct all that infrastructure? To have so many teachers to do all that, which is a challenge even now, and therefore technology will be the real base to deliver that. I’m pretty sure that dream which our NEP and the government have given to us will be achievable purely because of technology. So technology will be the one stop solution for all the problems. One pill for all the ills.

David Linke:

I personally have been driving around Bangalore a couple of times over the years and I can tell you that we don’t need more infrastructure in terms of buildings in Bangalore. We need some more infrastructure in terms of some other things. So I fully concur with you that a technical solution might be a really good thing, especially in some of the Indian cities. 

If we think about student outcomes for a moment, and the things that they need to set themselves up for the future, how is your institution, and even education providers in India as a whole, helping service that? How are you supporting those students to gain those skills in a time frame that allows them to reach their own personal goals?

Sandeep Sancheti:

This is something very difficult in the Indian context. I also studied outside India. My personal feeling is Indian students are pretty shy. They come with a very conventional mold and therefore they don’t open up necessarily about what they want. Now once that doesn’t happen it’s very difficult to deliver what is required by them. However we can say that in Marwadi University, we are trying to tackle it in a certain way and that is number one. The outcome cannot be one-size-fits-all or cannot be generic. Everyone becomes a single kind of a performance-oriented or delivery-oriented that they can all do the same job. I think that’s a wrong thing. Every one of the 60 students in a class of 60 will have a different mind, different speed, different expectation, and therefore we are trying to make sure that we are able to deliver that diversity in terms of this. Sitting in the same class, you may be doing the advanced portion of that particular subject and I may be doing the slightly lower version of that particular topic which is there.

It’s just 10 days back that we decided that we have identified 10 generic attributes, general attributes, which everyone should have. I can just give you an example of one or two one attributes which we like to deliver to all the students irrespective of their discipline, whether they are doing commerce, or arts, or engineering, or medicine, is that they learn the art of learning as a learnability. Leadership doesn’t mean that you have to contest an election and become minister, or represent your people. Leadership is when you’re able to do the things under your control. You define the parameters and outcomes of that. Various things which are there and those are the attributes we are trying to deliver. I may be an engineer but once I graduate, I may be a film star. I may be doing forest conservation. I may be a bureaucrat. I may be a politician. Various things I can do, though I am an engineer. So we deliver those kinds of attributes that one can define their life and change the direction. Change the gears. Change their speed as they move in their journey of their life.

David Linke:

Well that must be the absolute goal of education. So on behalf of everyone Professor Sandeep Sancheti, thank you so very much for spending time with us giving us some insights to what the things that you’re working on and where you’re going. It’s been an absolute pleasure.