NEW DELHI : On a recent Sunday afternoon, justice Vineet Kothari of the Gujarat high court appeared on a computer screen. The black coat and white neck band that are part of a judge’s uniform were missing. Instead, he was dressed in a light pink shirt and a burgundy Nehru jacket.
Kothari exchanged pleasantries with the vice chancellor and others before addressing the law students of the university who had just finished a session of online simulated court proceeding. Over the next one hour, Kothari spoke about a variety of issues but what was left unspoken, was equally consequential. Until early 2020, such an interaction with a sitting high court judge would have taken weeks of preparation. “In pre-pandemic times, it would have taken at least two months of preparation and a fair degree of security and legal protocols, besides all the logistical work,” said Naresh Jadeja, registrar of Marwadi University in Rajkot, Gujarat, that had organized the online lecture by Kothari. “But technology did everything once the honourable judge agreed to give his time and share his knowledge.”
The world of the guest lecturer has been completely upturned because of the pandemic. Geographical proximity is no longer a constraint. In design and architecture schools, for instance, students can now get their drawings vetted remotely by top-notch professionals. “This is a disruption that will remain even when the pandemic is over—the industry-academia connect; the comfort of bringing in specialists, practitioners and industry leaders to educational institutions is a huge plus,” Jadeja added.
These nascent signs of broader shifts within India’s higher education ecosystem may be the only bright spots for thousands of students who have undoubtedly been through a bruising, and in some cases, wasted year. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Since the mid-2000s, as India’s job market tightened and the middle-class aspiration continued to soar, millions of young people flooded into colleges and technical universities in an effort to improve their prospects. The higher education enrolment rate for 18-23-year-olds shot up from 12.39% in 2006 to 27.1% by 2019, and it continues to rise rapidly. Yet, access to quality education has been limited. A massive ramp up in remote learning and closer tie-ups with eventual employers has remained in the realm of discussion, with very few scalable solutions. The pandemic, however, has changed the equation in just a few months. Demand for education is booming in India, with the overall education market size set to hit $225 billion by FY25, of which the higher education market will comprise $35 billion, according to the Union commerce ministry. As the expansion gets underway, hybrid and new forms of learning are likely to play a key role. India is already home to one of the largest higher education systems in the world with over 1,000 universities and 50,000 colleges and institutions. These, together, cater to nearly 39 million students.
Courtesy – The Mint