Dr. Rupa Vasudevan, Chancellor, Bharatiya Engineering Science and Technology Innovation University (BESTIU)

The world has changed significantly after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the education industry has seen the most drastic changes at all levels. Technological solutions have paved the way towards remote functioning and gaining prominence in the time of crisis in the transformation of every aspect of life. These times have turned out to be the metamorphosis of the education system. COVID-19 has created a paradigm shift in Global Education Sector, and this is more so in India, which has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. 

Most of the traditional colleges and universities are now moving for quick adoption of remote and online education strategies. The world needs a new generation of people with the intellectual and educational capacities to take on the challenges of tomorrow. “Surprisingly, Digital Technology is becoming the game-changer for education and is resulting in a shift from teacher-centric education to student-centric education. Educational organizations have now been tapping into the digital revolution and adopting new technologies to help students reach their full potential”, opines Dr. Rupa Vasudevan, Chancellor, Bharatiya Engineering Science and Technology Innovation University (BESTIU).

It is imperative that one has to be aware of the latest trends in education and technology in the education sector, and academic instituitions should always strive to pursue the goal of cultivating the next generation of creative thinkers and leaders. Instituitions should reflect positive and sustainable change in people’s lives, communities, and the world. This has been aided through the National Education Policy (NEP), which has the potential to change the paradigm of traditional education system. “I have been speaking and advocating about the NEP 2020 in many International and National forums. One of the key targets of NEP 2020 is to raise the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) from 27.4% to 50% by 2035. This much needed education reform has better provisions of inclusivity, equity and quality”, states Dr. Rupa.

At BESTIU, teaching begins with inquiry and that’s why digital pedagogy is so important. A formative assessment approach was carried out for the learners to modify teaching and learning activities to help the students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target the areas that need to be worked on. Innovative Online methodologies in Evaluation with the intervention of AI and citizen inquiry/public engagement describes ways that the public can learn by initiating or joining shared inquiry-led scientific investigations with students.

BESTIU developed an in-house LMS (Learning Management System) in 2018 itself, which has everything synchronized at once place, and thus it was easier for them to transition into online learning. After few weeks, most of the faculty got accustomed to it and the process of delivering lectures became smooth. Making use of the best technology available to ensure smooth and effective transition, Dr. Rupa inculcated High-end Servers & Networking equipment’s from Dell across the campus for seamless intranet & internet connectivity. High-end Surveillance devices were installed with cloud integration for real-time monitoring of activities at the campus. Multiday Interactive Learning Delivery for Video Conferencing was integrated with real-time learning analytics from a large number of students using the cloud integration. For evaluation, they have introduced an AI-based proctoring solution for examination that includes face recognition, voice recognition, gesture recognition, multi-face detection, etc.

Encouraging Overall Personality Development

Built by individuals who have gone beyond the limits of personal aspirations, BESTIU believes in giving complete authority to all to learn, grow and create a niche for themselves. Dr. Rupa has always been a person who loves to lead from the front and she feels that her inclusive-style leadership has enabled her colleagues and students to bring their authentic selves to work. As the Chancellor of BESTIU and being a teacher herself, she feels it is crucial to pursue the goal of cultivating the next generation of creative thinkers and leaders. Dr. Rupa believes she is responsible for building this community, making connections, sharing experiences, and providing tools to equip young people. She adds, “I have always believed that inculcating inclusiveness, good governance, applied innovation, sense of pride, mutual respect and excellence in any educational institution would bring drastic changes like adding value to the formal curriculum through innovation, leading by example and opening up opportunities for students”.

BESTIU was started to venture into a journey of researching to set up an Indic knowledge academy focusing on Indology and Indic studies about Culture, Heritage, dance forms, Archaeology, music, culinary arts, and many others. The university was set up as an enabling space and foster multidisciplinary academic studies and researches, drawing upon theoretical, empirical, and methodological resources cutting across disciplinary boundaries where learning is accessible and affordable, innovators are groomed and their ideas are incubated. A model university that is a hub for the highest-quality academics and research work, BESTIU endeavors to keep pace with the fast-changing scientific and technical improvements and cultivate the most modern skills and attitudes in our students leading them to become Leaders, Entrepreneurs, and Innovators.

As an educationist, Dr. Rupa has been holding the leadership position and setting up of schools and other institutes for around 20 years. Starting the BEST IU was a major milestone in her career with the purpose to bring back social values, generate innovations and create entrepreneurs in different sectors. Starting World Forum for Education has also been a major milestone in Dr. Rupa’s career and a step towards her goal. “World Forum for Education aims to empower and recognize all facets of knowledge which include the comprehensiveness of theoretical-practical, scientific, technical, socio-humanistic, and cultural training that has impacted the community or society at large”, says Dr. Rupa.

Coming from a family that is deep-rooted with tradition and values, Dr. Rupa learned epics of Mahabharta and Ramayana as narrated by her grandparents, and very importantly ślokas taught by them. Passionate about what she does, her work, she feels handling pressure is a part of her work. With so many distressful things happening due to the pandemic, coping is tough for all, so Dr. Rupa takes one day at a time. Her advice to all who are stressed would be to lighten up, prioritize, do things they love, talk and engage with people who mean the most, have a hobby, exercise regularly, and always remember to laugh a lot. “The two most beautiful roles I cherish is motherhood and the joy of being a teacher, I have learnt a lot from both my child and my students, it has always motivated me to do better things every day.”, says Dr. Rupa.

Considering her colleague and co-founder of BEST Group, Sh. Bharat Lal Meena is a significant influence, Dr. Rupa is deeply humbled and honored to be associated and working with such a persona. “My family has been a great influence in my life as well. Their constant support and encouragement means a lot to me. God has been kind that I could fulfill a lifetime dream of contributing to Knowledge and education for service of humanity”, adds Dr. Rupa.

Currently focused on developing BESTIU with world-class infrastructure, Dr. Rupa is all set to diversify in the food chain market very soon through their brand, Evergreen Naturals, which will provide 100% natural foods like staples, fruits and vegetables directly from the fileds to the customer. “Our university is situated very near the Bangalore International Airport but in the State of Andhra Pradesh, our lands cover more than 200 acres of greenery and plantations. Currently we are working on building a Mother plant nursery in the campus that will have pure indigenous variants of saplings of our local fruits and vegetables”, adds Dr. Rupa, as she talks about the future plans she has chalked out.

Addressing Societal Issues through Academics 

The main motto of education in ancient India was not just acquiring knowledge, but a complete awareness and liberation of the self. As a responsible academician/teacher, Dr. Rupa has always wanted to bring innovation and reforms to the education system of India. Students need to be taught about Indian heritage and social values. Institutions need to stay consistent with the application of knowledge. The whole idea of BESTIU is based on the idea of inclusivity and bringing it into education was their mission from the very beginning.  “Off late, I feel the sense of community is fading away and students are indifferent to social issues. It is important to measure the impact of what students are learning and create the right platform and a parallel system to document indigenous ideas and innovation”, says Dr. Rupa.

It is imperative to be aware of the latest trends and follow them following current trends in technology closely when it comes to the education sector. The leadership in the Education sector needs to pursue the goal of cultivating the next generation of creative thinkers and leaders, educational institutions are responsible for building this community, making connections, sharing experiences, and providing tools to equip young people. Their dialogues should affect positive and sustainable change in people’s lives, communities, and the world. The gig economy is expected to take over services jobs shortly, does not require a master’s degree, but rather skills, and the willingness, to work for anyone, at any time, from anywhere.

In India, the women in leadership roles are not in minority. Although, in the education space, the gender gap is still high with a maximum of men leading the institutions than the women. Interventions need to be made earlier in the lifecycle of girls through school outreach campaigns to promote girls in leadership roles, raise the economic aspirations of girls and their family members, and boost educational choices by girls that could lead to professional and technical job opportunities.

Many things can be done to motivate the morale of women by giving them equal access to education, women in the official setup need to be trained for senior leadership positions, given better access to finance, safety in the work environment, family support, targeted campaigns in TV, radio to reshape the attitudes that prevent women from working in the higher roles. “Any person be it men or women needs to be driven by a purpose and passion for the industry. If the purpose is strong, then there is no stopping for anyone to achieve the top space. I strongly feel that the women are already empowered and I hope to see many more women in top management positions in business and the education sector”, concludes Dr. Rupa.

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