Published: 24th January 2021
No distinction today in classroom teaching, online or distance education: Bhushan Patwardhan
The UGC Vice-Chairman was a panellist on the second day at FLAME University's Purpose Summit 2021 on a discussion about online education
The education system is student un-friendly. We don't give any choice to students. There is a duration to complete the course, according to a particular curriculum, and if the student doesn't complete the syllabus, then they are stamped as a failure, said University Grants Commission (UGC) Vice-Chairman Bhushan Patwardhan. "However, now we are changing the system and students can choose their own subjects and make their own curriculum," he added. Patwardhan was speaking at the FLAME University Purpose Summit 2021 along with Mohan Lakhamraju, Founder and CEO of Great Learning, Mayank Kumar, Founder and MD of UpGrad and Shreyashi Singh, Founder and CEO of Harappa Education in a panel discussion on Online Education.
Elaborating on his role and vision at UGC and how he is fulfilling this purpose, Patwardhan stated, "When I joined UGC, I decided to make a curriculum that is student-centric. Now, we are changing the system and students can choose their own subjects and make their own curriculum. There is no distinction today in classroom teaching, online education or distance education. My purpose was to transform the current methods of education and bring in technology to make education more liberal."
Answering a question on the purpose of education, Patwardhan said, "Education can be classified into four categories or purposes. Firstly, for academic purposes of knowledge. Secondly, for imparting moral and spiritual values. Thirdly, to establish a sense of social responsibility and finally, the focus should be on the quality of education." He also said that to include all these purposes in our education system, the present curriculum has to be changed. "Education does a lot more than imparting skills or help secure a job. Problem-solving, teamwork are some of the skills that it also imparts but these are in the background. A lot of foundational work goes into getting a degree and it often gets missed out because it is not in the forefront," said Kumar about the purpose of education.
"At the end of the day, we are a country where several people are in poverty and education is looked at as a ticket out of poverty. Before being employable you have to be educated. The most value is given to things that get you a job. However, the system today is much more flexible than it was 10-12 years ago. Eventually, schools in the state boards will also recognise the importance of these aspects," said Lakhamraju.
Speaking about the scope of online education and whether it is inferior to offline education, Kumar said, "Offline education comes with some inherent advantages that online education cannot have. What online education has to bring in to make itself better is the most amount of discipline and distraction-free environment. Quality content is not a problem." Teachers have monopolised teaching today, said Patwardhan. "We will have blended learning in the future. Online education has a place and a purpose. While you can't do an entire course in medicine online, you can definitely learn the theory of biochemistry online from the best faculty," he added.
"Online education has to be looked at in context. For early educators, online will be a disaster. For working professionals, online will be a boon. It is important to understand who is the learner and what is being learnt. In subjects where discussions are the only way to learn something, it very difficult to do it online. The younger you are the more important offline mode is going to play a role in your education as you have to earn life skills as well. As you get older, online will give you better results as the amount of course correction you can do online is not possible offline," said Lakhamraju.
Speaking about the growth of online education over the pandemic, Singh said, "Every educator has now been exposed to online education over the last 10 months. Over time the experience of online education has improved and will continue to improve. No one was prepared for what happened in March. The jump to online education was overnight. But we have to be prepared for the future and fix the current inequities of not having a device or internet access. We can't use the inequities as an excuse of not moving forward with online education."
Explaining the role of teachers and the human connection in online education, Lakhamraju said, "There is no substitute for a great teacher. But they are few and far between. There aren't enough great teachers, unfortunately. Teachers who grasp the need of the students are what we need. Through online education, we are expanding the influence of great teachers."