Published: 29th March 2021
AICTE's Anil Sahasrabudhe at ThinkEdu 2021: Won't stop someone who learnt science even from YouTube to take up engineering
There are lots of misgiving that has been created by some of the media houses as though maths, physics, chemistry and biology is not required to study engineering but it's not so said Dr Sahasrabudhe
AICTE's decision to let students who do not take up Maths, Physics, Chemistry or Biology apply for engineering courses is not meant to dilute the course but to make it more "inclusive", said AICTE Chairman Dr Anil Sahasrabudhe while speaking at TNIE's ThinkEdu 2021. He was discussing the National Education Policy, the educational reforms and the way forward to an Aatmanirbhar Bharat with CSIR's Director-General Dr Shekhar C Mande and Padma Shri awardee Chamu Krishna Shastry from the Samskrit Promotion Foundation. Edex's Chief Reporter Daniel Thimmayya chaired the conversation.
There are lots of misgivings that have been created by some of the media houses as though maths, physics, chemistry and biology is not required to study engineering but it's not so said Dr Sahasrabudhe. "We have opened up the window to students who have probably not taken one of these subjects because they come from a remote location — it might be that only arts are available for Class 11 and 12 in that region. There might be a Science but no Chemistry teacher. Such students should not be left out — that was our idea," said the AICTE Chairman. "Today, with open schooling, even though your board exams may be from a state board or the CBSE board, you have lots of courses available on the internet, the SWAYAM platform and also on YouTube where one can learn on their own. Such students, if they are able to write the same exam and even perform better than a student who has formally studied Science, why should we stop him and tell him that he is not eligible because he did not have the subject in school? We have also mentioned that if someone has missed out on some parts of the basic course they must complete that in their first year (using a bridge course) and only then they will be able to understand the higher level of Maths and Physics taught," he added.
Talking about research during COVID, Dr Mande said that working closely with the industry helped them maintain the level of funds during the pandemic. "The National Education Policy talks about very critical issues like innovation, research ecosystem and a vibrant knowledge society which inculcates creativity and critical thinking. This integrates entirely with what we have learnt during COVID," said Dr Mande. "CSIR has had a strong relationship with the industry and that worked as a buffer for us. While the entire world went through an economic crisis, we did not feel the shortfall in funding as much as the private funding filled the gaps where ever there was less public funding. paying the fellowships on time has been a challenge but we are working towards that, to make things better and simpler for the future," he said.
Dr Sahasrabudhe said that the AICTE is working hard to bring engineering education to more students and make it easier for them by translating the content to regional languages. "If a student has completed Class 10,11 and 12 in their mother tongue in some remote place we should not close access and that's why engineering education and later medical education would be available in the mother tongue. When we open up this window, naturally you require textbooks, reference books, materials to study beyond the classroom and teachers' training and how they handle classes — AICTE has been working on all of that since the policy was announced. We have got 900 odd people who are ready to write books in Indian languages. The courses on the SWAYAM platform can now be translated into eight languages and we are adding three more languages to the list soon," he said. "The NEP talks about the use of technology in education. This (SWAYAM) will empower students who do not have access to a particular subject teacher in their college or university can now take classes from the best in the country. I think that is real empowerment for students in Tier II and III cities. I think that is going to catapult us into a real knowledge society. In terms of the requirements of COVID itself was taken care of by individuals even in small places. From ventilators to masks — we have seen these come from even very small places. We have the capability and we had tested ground for this for the past few years in the form of the Smart India Hackathon. The Tier II and III students outnumber both in terms of quality and quantity vis-a-vis IITs. All the prize winners, we have found, are from Tier II and III cities. They had a passion that was visible during the hackathons," he added.
Talking about the integration of Indian knowledge in our curriculum, Shastry said that the Indian Knowledge Systems has already become functional because of the sustained effort taken by the government. "An Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS) division has been created in the Ministry of Education and has been housed at the AICTE headquarters. Already 1,000 researchers have associated with the cell and several verticals have been associated with it — environment, social science, science and technology and institutions and individual interested to conduct their research at the IKS are being coordinated. The IKS is collecting the information in the public domain. We are also trying to integrate the IKS with the school curriculum," said Shastry. "The ancient education system was integrated with spirituality. Many, including Raja Ramanna (Physicist), have said that science without spirituality is blind, and spirituality without science is lame. So, Aatmanirbhar Bharat has to have both of these. And the NEP is the gamechanger. From the very beginning of the policy to the end it has a focus on creating a new Aatmanirbhar Bharat. There is a great emphasis on Indian languages in this policy. For the first time, there is a shift from English to Indian languages. To connect our students to their roots, language has a great role to play because most of the words are non-translatable to English even though all Indian languages have an apt vocabulary," added Shastry.