Ar. Rajendra Kumar, Director - School of Architecture, Noida International University

With over 13 years of experiences, Ar. Rajendra Kumar has worked in Spain, Italy, China, and India. He is actively involved in academia and research and is an advisory member of various think tanks. Ar. Rajendra Kumar has written over 50+ Articles, published papers in reputed journals. In a conversation with Higher Education Digest, Ar. Rajendra Kumar talks about the impact of COVID-19 on architecture education, adoption of EdTech by higher education institutions, the future of architecture education post-COVID and much more. 

 

How has been the impact of COVID-19 on architecture education so far? How will it affect the upcoming academic years?

COVID-19 has affected all strata of life globally. None of us could imagine such a situating of global lockdown and so much of fear, uncertainty, social stigma, postpone of mega and minor events etc. At the same time, it also gave a warning alarm to all human beings about the importance of newer ways to tackle the pandemic situations. At one side, the economy, job and financial factors are affected very badly, which are still trying to come in normalcy. In contrast, academic institutions and the pedagogical system did catch up very soon by switching to digital mode.

Architecture education is very much hands-on experience and depends on the mode of personal interactions of teachers-students. But still, teaching innovations and great efforts of teachers to adopt the change were commendable in this very short time. Though there are few challenges like remote areas, lower bandwidth, IT infrastructure to students from marginal society, which are a deep concern, but in my experiences, I found students are coping up with satisfactory level. Perhaps from now onwards, in my opinion, this way of teaching is going to be new normal in years to come.

How has the pandemic impacted traditional end-of-the-year activities like final reviews, thesis exhibitions, and other events?

It has been almost a year with the pandemic, and in this duration, Educational institutes have had one major examination. i.e. end year examinations/ reviews. Most of the institutions had an online mode of examinations under a series of guidelines and advisories by regulating authority of education like the University Grant Commission, Professional councils, education boards etc. In this whole process, many of IT companies came up with innovative software and IT platforms where examinations and reviews happened, that’s very appreciative and great work by global IT companies.

There has been an increase in the adoption of EdTech by higher education institutions across the world. How do you see this trend? What are efforts from School of Architecture, Noida International University in this regard?

It is true that EdTech has seen a new high in the pandemic situation and almost all level of educational institutes have adopted the change and upgraded them. Be in Nursery schools or K-12 level or Higher education institutes like us, at all level upgraded and pedagogical innovation with digital approach became part of new normal. In our school of architecture, we have also upgraded with the latest software and newer IT platform to conduct classes and reviews, which are working very smoothly and almost 100% students have very active participation with satisfactory results.

While colleges have been incorporating many new tools and techniques for teaching and learning, the physical space is still essential for architecture education. What would be the future of architecture education post-COVID?

Yes! While for many courses like humanities, switching to a digital mode of education is a very easy and not very major level of change in teaching are affected. But courses like Medical, Architecture, Engineering need newer ways of online teaching.  There had been limitations of digital mode in such courses, but as I said earlier, change is adopted by students and faculties. As far as future as architecture education Post-COVID is a concern, there will be new normal. At what extents?  It is not the right time to predict because still pandemic is not eradicated yet. Every day and every moment, new facts and figures are popping up, so it might be better to evaluate and recommend at a later stage. But yes, one fact is very much sure that all type of course at all level will see new normal.

Many academicians in architecture education across the globe believe that there would be multitudes of changes in the curriculum, as we must incorporate ‘New Norms’ in the designs. In India, what are the possible changes you would like to make in the architecture curriculum?

I absolutely agree with the need for new reform in architecture education and change of curriculum.  Perhaps this reform of online mode of teaching will accept newer ways of teaching and lectures by Industry experts and professionals across the world to be virtually available in class for students, who are unable to be in universities campus for many practical and logistic reasons.  Though, it was also available in bit and pieces in many educational institutes in the form or virtual lecture as extracurricular activities. But the online mode of industry-academia connects and global experts virtual meeting should be part of the core curriculum and accepted as class hours. For this, policy level reform is needed by respective bodies.

How would the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 impact architectural education?

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is going to be a big change-maker in the educational landscape of India and going to be at par with global standards. Architecture education in India is 5 Years Bachelor course, most of the world’s countries have adopted a 3+2-year system in architecture course. Many European countries have 3+2 Years system as Integrated Master course. NEP’s Steps of an early exit with another certificate/diploma for architecture students will attract more interest among students. Those students who exit with a foundation level of architecture education will be having more sensitive towards the built environment and sustainability due to the nature of architecture education from the very beginning of the curriculum. More professionals with early education, slight exposure to architecture education will bring greater exposure to the architecture profession in India. For analogical example, I quote the example of Civil Services in India. A few decades back, most of IAS/IPS were graduated in a humanities course, from last few years/decade many IIT, IIM graduates, MBBS are also opting for civil services and those IAS/IPS who become administrator have more understanding of engineering, the health system of their administered region.

What is your advice to the students who wish to pursue a career in architecture and design?

For all those students who are aiming to be an architect, he/she should be ready with challenges of hard work, hard work, hard work and no early result. Architecture is one of the professions which needs extraordinary patience and time for success. Taj Mahal is also a result of good architecture with immense hard work, vision, patience.  Architects design the world which people see and appreciate or don’t appreciate. India is going to be the epicentre of global growth in a building, large infrastructure, major constructions. There is a large number of architects’ demand in India. It has great opportunities and wider possibilities of specialization in the architecture profession.

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