There is a need for re-engineering the elements involved in the student-teacher bond and industry-institute interface. Teachers need a change of mindset to improvise and they need to re-learn or de-learn and apply that knowledge in real life performance.
--BY DR VIBHUTI JHA
In today’s context, educational institutes providing professional education make a unique industry which has students as the input and professionals as the output. The institutes which provide better output to the market are successful institutes while the rest survive as “me too”. If the output is good, both the institutes and the industries benefit. If not, everyone suffers. After leaving school, many students fail to identify their innate interest and end up taking irrelevant courses under the influence of vague information, peer pressure or just by following the trend. Such poor selection of programmes and institutions force them to perform poorly in college and in turn in their professions too. Under this condition, a student who might be good in some other area performs poorly in the area where he is pitted uninterestingly due to the aforesaid reasons. The famous Hindi movie 3- Idiots offers a good example. In the movie, a student is sent to study Engineering without his interest. He does not know his own core strength of becoming a wildlife photographer. Nobody helped him in identifying his strength until he was helped by his friend to realize it, too late in life. Most students face a similar situation and face the consequences life long as a professional career is not a film where things could be rectified easily at any stage. Their dream career changes every now and then as they seem to be influenced by everyone – rich and successful people, professionals, businessmen, stars, players etc. in the absence of proper guidance by their elders or rather teachers. Students look at their teachers for that help in identifying their core competency to chase a career accordingly.
Till school level, as it is a mass education system, identifying and focusing on core competency is most unlikely for a majority of the students. Obviously, such students feel shy to display their latent capabilities due to change in environment, context and unexplained fears. In most colleges, students go through a routinized teaching and evaluation system consisting of tests, tests and tests to prove their worth without even knowing if they are made for the courses they are studying. We as teachers also keep on evaluating them under the preset scanner, thinking that they have opted for their courses out of their own choice or interest. We never really try to know whether they are interested naturally in their courses and are ready to work as professionals in those sectors later? As a result, the students become the sufferers and we lose good professionals suitable for industry X by ‘forcing’ them to do course suited for industry Y and join that too. A majority of us have seen and faced such situations in our lives and careers.
Students usually follow the ‘wishes’ of their parents – “become a doctor/engineer, do MBA and get into business, acquire this degree from abroad and get your life set, go for government job and live your life easy” and so on. By the time they realize their interest/core strength, it is too late to reposition themselves as they are already involved in the unending race of survival in their ‘careers’ with little interest in most cases. As a student, one really needs to be guided properly regarding their interest areas, careers and opportunities while at college as it is the right time for that and teachers are the only and best options to do so with effectiveness. This is a serious issue which needs to be taken care of at college level by the teachers and the college as well.
Since ages, the role of teachers has been established beyond any doubt as the most important one for students. Even today, teachers hold the main responsibility of improving the quality of education and ensuring proper transformation of students into effective professionals and good citizens. The role of teachers becomes even more vital today to encourage students to identify their natural/in-built/inherent interest and focus their attention on them.
But, the unfortunate part in today’s education system is that most teachers don’t realize their role as true mentors and do teaching as a ‘job’ and nothing more than that. Like people in other industries, they are always looking for a better job and don’t really get involved with the students to help them identify their interest areas and focus on them. Some teachers prefer to learn themselves than teach the learners. They keep on improving their skills rather than focusing on sharpening the skills or competencies of their own pupils. It’s not only the teachers who are to be blamed; the students, too, don’t seem to be serious about finding or working on their core competencies, natural interest areas, strengths and future vision.
The bond between teachers and students is lacking depth and exists superficially where both sides are trying to pass the buck. Students don’t realize the future challenges, requisites of professional careers, importance of focused vision etc while teachers don’t appraise them of all this. This makes students puzzled and confused and they try to “pass the course by mugging up the course contents” rather than acquiring knowledge and developing their competencies. Most students eventually lose focus and core vision in this state of confusion and develop stress and distractions too. They get involved in routine evaluation pattern and their precious time is wasted on passing the “tests” and moving around the teachers. A majority of teachers, too, feel happy in keeping themselves confined to their “job” of evaluating the students during the course rather than playing the role of a mentor.
Mentoring the students to identify their core strengths, guiding them for acquiring the desired professional requisites and finally developing them into good professionals is the responsibility of teachers and educational institutes. In fact, educational institutions are meant to be open, questioning, trusting, experimenting, inspirational, direction-setting, and enabling people to believe that nothing is impossible. They should also be a universe of learning, safe spaces to try out new ideas, for diverse thinking, and for conversations that are based on deep thinking, research, new theoretical constructs etc. Such institutes must always be the places for the creation of future where future is shaped in crucibles, classrooms and conversations.
But the reality is we are facing problems in establishing a ‘good’ bond between students and teachers at educational institutions. Hence, the output of the educational institutions is not matching the expectations of the industries. The ‘professionals’ coming out of the institutions lack core requisites of professional performance even when every institute is claiming to be producing “industry-ready professionals”. But industries find them unfit for the job. Institutes claim to be imparting industry-based curriculum but industries find it irrelevant. Institutes claim to impart all requisites in the transformation process but industries find them lacking in every aspect.
In fact, academic institutions have misread the industrial expectations while formulating their curricula. This could be either ways - due to no industrial exposure of teachers who prepare and teach curriculum or due to no/untimely/inappropriate feedback from industries to update academic pedagogy in imparting inputs. No one on either side realizes this crucial ‘failure point’ and blame the other side for the failure in developing real industry-ready, focused and competent professional. Academicians don’t understand the continuous change occurring in industries due to the lack of exposure and keep on emphasizing the “once proven” pedagogy of teaching. Theories become obsolete and technologies change but students are given the inputs on same old contents.
There is a need for re-engineering the elements involved in the student-teacher bond and industry-institute interface. Teachers need a change of mindset to improvise and they need to re-learn or de-learn and apply that knowledge in real life performance. This ‘improvised’ performance matters in their own lives as well as in the students’ lives. Teachers should get exposure to the new happenings around them, the changing environments, global changes, the changing influences on long-established theories etc. They should get knowledge and information about the changing industrial world and learn from everything and everyone around. Our role as teachers is to develop a focused approach in students, not merely giving lectures on subject contents. We need to prepare ourselves far better than ever before to impart the requisites of professionals, ready to take up responsibilities in industries and society. Our role as teachers is to mentor students to identify their competencies, nurture interests and instincts and impart updated knowledge. Our role is to change the mindset and attitude of students to believe that they are no less than anyone. Our role is to help in developing a personality capable of delivering the good and our role is to support the students to become confident performers.
Educational institutions hold the key to change in any country through their teachers and students. A good teacher can bring unexpected change in mindsets and a good student can bring change in the whole generation.Actually we need to protect such ideal recognition of academic institutions which are hurtling towards the deep end of irrelevance in order to develop focused generation for the country.
Let us join hands to overcome all the hurdles and create an encouraging environment for transforming our students into true professionals, responsible citizens and genuine human beings.
(Dr Jha is Professor-Marketing & Director –CRE at Kathmandu College of Management. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org , 9810284079)