Smart Institutions

Prof. Raj Shree Dhar
S – Specific, M – Motivation, A – Achievable, R – Relevant, T – Time-Bound
The two friends Goodwill of Things (GoT) and Internet of Things (IoT) are discussing S.M.A.R.T. institutions this morning that can serve as a platform to create a safe and positive learning environment which encourages social interaction, civic responsibility, active engagement in learning, self motivation and cutting edge technology, as the real custodians of education.
IoT: It’s essential to put a plan in place to achieve the smart institutions. For that we need a tool that enables us to plan, track, manage, automate, and report on these in real-time. Technology creates relationships. Social media, apps, machines, programmes, nano-technology and artificial intelligence change how we interact with ourselves and others.
GoT: That is nice but there is greater news. As we incorporate changing relationships in our lives, we are often confronted with new questions of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsity. Today humanities are needed more than ever. Many people and organizations support this claim, so much so that it is hard to find those who think otherwise. Even people who are skeptical of conventional arguments believe the humanities serve an important function.
IoT: Wow, that’s great. Yet many also argue that a successful career requires vocational or STEM training. The jobs are in technology and sciences, they say.
GoT: That’s right. Yet, this in itself is a judgment of value and while it is important to understand new technologies and their role in our lives, we keep coming back to the humanities to ground ourselves in a newly technological world. Controversies over how we use new technologies similarly lead us to the humanities. All sides ground their arguments in values like justice, compassion and equality. Advocates of facial recognition software argue that it produces security while others worry that it will curb our freedom. Smartphone apps organize our lives, yet enable violations of privacy. Robot soldiers may save our lives, but at the expense of other lives. While values understood broadly as things with worth, are studied by all fields, the humanities provide essential information about their genesis, show values to us in inspirational ways and offer normative guidelines for using values in our lives.
IoT: We should seek ways to pull resources together and invest in digital skills development among youth in higher learning institutions and technical and vocational education and training institutions in a bid to harness the potential of emergent technologies. This could boost economic growth through more efficient production and provision of services.
GoT: That is right. Buddhist philosophy for instance offers sustainable practices for intellectual development, peace and harmonious living; Ubuntu, the concept commonly believed in African societies that promotes the interconnected nature of human beings; and the sustainable agricultural and forestry practices of indigenous people, based on their holistic knowledge about environmental and socio-cultural factors, could effectively contribute to improving cross-cultural knowledge and skills. Embedding a moral responsibility towards the self, nation and wider humanity within internationalization policy and practice at an institutional level can effectively be used for enhancing human lives and contribute to the development of Indian graduates for a successful, sustainable and livable world. This doesn’t mean students have to start a business when they graduate, though those who want to do this should be encouraged and given as much help as possible to succeed. It does mean that graduates must have an entrepreneurial mentality in terms of marketing themselves and meeting the needs of employers. We tend to equate anything related to entrepreneurship to the domain of business or commerce and MBA students. We need to change that thinking and recognize that this also applies to graduates in the liberal arts, social sciences and every other sector in higher education.
IoT: How do these people who live in the land of the traditional benefits relate to the challenges graduates face who will make their living from contract, temporary and part-time employment? Going forward, we must find ways to educate those already in the education system about the challenges of earning a living in today’s workplace and hire people at all levels that have this type of experience. Only then can we realistically align the educational system with the needs of today’s graduates. And some of the career counsellors who do recognise the need to update and improve the services they offer to their students are not getting the resources they need or the support of senior administrators. Effective career counselling must be a part of the curriculum, not an option, as it currently is.
Before they graduate, all students must be required to take workshops and courses provided by the career counselling department that educate them about today’s workplace and show them how to succeed in it. We also need people in these departments, who are entrepreneurial, have operated their own businesses and who can adequately prepare students who want to pursue that option.
GoT: Internationally-minded, humane citizens are open to multiple perspectives of the world and are concerned about the common humanity of all people. They are capable of respecting diverse world views and knowledge systems while at the same time critically interrogating them in the process of developing new knowledge. Such individuals have access to a multitude of ways of knowing the world. Their non-centric approaches to knowledge creation are transformative and therefore may offer feasible and more equitable strategies to address the increasingly profound social, economic and cultural challenges the world is facing today, such as increasing inequalities across societies, growing fear of the unknown, ethnic and religious tensions and multiple losses from disasters.
IoT: Here comes the new National Education policy(NEP) as a one-stop solution to set up large, well-resourced, vibrant multi-disciplinary institutions. The policy envisages an imaginative and broad-based liberal undergraduate education with rigorous specialization in chosen disciplines and fields. It envisions a joyful, rigorous and responsive curriculum, engaging and effective pedagogy, and caring support to optimize learning and the overall development of students. This policy aims to set up effective, enabling and responsive regulation to encourage excellence and public spiritedness in higher education. It also aims to build a holistic approach to the preparation of professionals, vocational education, ensuring broad-based competencies, an understanding of the social human context, a strong ethical compass, in addition to the highest-quality professional capacities.
GoT: Long live NEP…Let’s hope that all institutions become S.M.A.R.T…