Siddharth Chaturvedi, Executive Vice President, AISECT Group

Executive Vice President of AISECT Group, Siddharth Chaturvedi is the Chairman of the CII Bhopal chapter. Siddharth is also a part of the Governing Body and Board of Management of the Dr. C. V. Raman University in Chhattisgarh as well as the Rabindranath Tagore University in Madhya Pradesh. In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Siddharth talks about the impact of COVID on future jobs, importance of upskilling, challenges for the Indian education system, and many more.

As an impact of COVID-19, jobs that will not add value to any business will quickly perish. What are your thoughts on the future of the job market?

The traditional working pattern has been disrupted by the pandemic causing many businesses to either reexamine their work or close for the good. Apart from that, various sectors had wide layoffs due to poor financial results. Companies in the post-pandemic era will have limited funds to invest in their employees.  

Currently, the prime target is to plan smartly for the better future of the job market. Acceleration of technology adoption across several sectors should be one of the salient features to create new job roles. Besides that, specialized technology and complex problem-solving skills will be valued more. There is no denying the fact that sectors like healthcare, agriculture and logistics will see an uptake in jobs post the pandemic.

Considering the current situations, what impact will upskilling create on graduates and working professionals? 

We update apps on our phones to operate the latest version of the same. Similarly, in every aspect of life, people need to upgrade continuously to remain relevant in the fast-paced world of technology. This applies to the current situation of the graduates and working professionals too. 

To remain employed and be relevant in the competitive job market, upskilling is the need of the hour for the employed professionals. The pace of technological changes is making employees adopt new skills to stay fully productive and have a better-employed future. Furthermore, the industries need to invest in upskilling their employees on emerging skills. Educational Institutions would also need to invest in skilling graduates on future skills platforms.

Considering that a major chunk of future jobs in India will be in areas of Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, what needs to be done to fill the industry-academia gap?

The gap between the curriculum taught in colleges and the skills that an employer need is indeed wide. Going forward, the career trajectory of an employee will revolve around digital technologies such as AI, Analytics and Robotics for which the conventional structure of universities is outdated. 

Businesses nowadays are more inclined towards the use of analytics. Robots have advanced to the extent that they can surpass an industry expert. Even AI has tremendous potential in the Indian job market. However, the engineering students in our country are yet to adopt these advancements as educational institutions across the country still teach outdated technologies which are irreverent in the current scenario.

The industry needs to tie up with educational institutions to get customized courses running in parallel to standard degree programs like B Tech, BCA, etc. so that the students gain relevant skill sets and get employment ready by the time they graduate.

Moreover, educational institutions need to offer more than the mandatory components of Internships and On-Job-Training to provide exposure to students on emerging skills. Entrepreneurship Training, student exchange programmes with educational institutions worldwide and international research collaborations are some of the avenues that universities should actively explore. Industry-Academia collaboration can also see Centres of Excellence being set up jointly to focus on research and training in specialized sectors of Future Skills.

Since the demand for skill-based learning is growing, what does Education 4.0 offer to fulfil the same?

Education 4.0 aligns itself with the upcoming fourth industrial revolution, which is ongoing automation of traditional industrial and manufacturing practices with the help of modern smart technology. This initiative will help students be well-versed with technologies such as AI and robotics. 

Students will learn to interact with the powerful technology of AI to solve everyday problems. This will create more hands-on learning, more credits earned through Industry internships and more credits through live project work.

Besides, Education 4.0 will provide greater flexibility in entry and exit from the formal education system. It will also be of greater use to online learning, e-Labs and simulations for Teaching Learning.

Accessibility has been the biggest challenge for students from rural parts of the country during this time of the pandemic. How can we solve the problem of the digital divide between urban and rural India?

The nationwide lockdown has had a tremendous impact on the education system of the country, especially for students from rural areas. Since the Indian education system is dominated by classroom study, the present scenario has made the functioning of the educational institutions go all topsy-turvy. 

However, the problem of the digital divide between urban and rural India is not insurmountable. To solve this wide gap, the students need to rely on TV as an effective mode of mass delivery. Next, it is important to come up with subsidized data packs from the Telecom Industry for learners.

Adoption of more asynchronous ways of learning such as pre-recorded video lessons or a game-based learning task can be more effective than relying on live classes. Apart from that, the use of more content in regional languages will initiate lots of changes in overcoming the divide.

In India, what are the common challenges teachers face during online classes and how to overcome them?

Before the COVID-19 lockdown in India, not many reckoned that the face of the educational institutions could change so drastically. Schools that never allowed students to carry an electronic gadget turned into learning centres for online classes. Both teachers and students are getting accustomed to this new normal, which is definitely more challenging for the teachers to cope with. 

Online classes have led to increased expenses for the teachers that can be overwhelming for them. To tackle this situation, educational institutions should subsidize and reimburse those costs. Challenges in adopting new technologies and tools for online learning can be strenuous for the teachers. Institutions and the Government should be investing in mass-scale Teacher Training Initiatives to address such issues. The teachers also face challenges in designing effective lessons and changing of pedagogy when shifting to online learning; this can also be resolved through workshops and training.

What are the critical trends of education to follow post-COVID?

The COVID-19 Pandemic has revealed some of the major loopholes in the Indian education system. Decisions related to education once attained will have long term significance in the future of the education system in the country. Furthermore, the closure of schools has had a severe impact on vulnerable and marginalized students.

One of the critical trends that can be followed is the need to have a blended approach to online learning. Following that the increase in investment on the upgrading of the technology infrastructure of institutions requires accurate limelight. Stress needs to be given to training the teachers. Apart from that, updating curricula across major sectors and focus on Start-ups and Entrepreneurship should rise.

What is your advice to the academicians and administrators across the country?

The pandemic has resulted in highlighting the existing inconsistency of the education system. The time to act for a better future and make a difference is now, and the academicians and administrators have a significant role to play in this.

A traditional proverb says that a wise teacher makes learning a joy. Having said that, investment in the biggest assets of education, which are teachers, can be an extremely fruitful decision. Encouraging innovation and creativity as well as maintaining communication with Teachers, Parents, and Students can do wonders.

Taking extra care of the mental health of all stakeholders by removing any form of stigma revolving around it will make a lot of difference. Additional precautions and guidelines should be taken care of whenever an institution is opening up. Last but not least, creation of a dedicated Technology and e-learning task force within the educational institutions should be a primary focus for the upliftment, development and growth of the institutes.

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