Rajiv Bansal, Director-Operations, Global Indian International School (GIIS) India

Rajiv is a Business Leader with over 25 years of experience in Education industry in India, APAC, Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean, across the continuum of Skill Development, Employability and K-12 segments. In his current role as Director-Operations at GIIS, Rajiv is responsible for business development, overseeing all operational matters related to infrastructure, academics, affiliation, compliances, recruitment & training, finances and driving the profitability & growth agenda of GIIS’s School business in India. In his past engagements with Aptech, NIIT, Pearson & HCL he has managed P&L, created products & services, set up distribution channels and leveraged technology for education delivery. While at NIIT, Rajiv executed large and complex projects, notably in setting up IT centres of excellence in Latin America & the Caribbean, which required working closely with various government bodies, diplomats and academic institutions on either side. Rajiv holds a B.E. degree and Exec-PGDM as his qualifications.

 

Student exchange programs have always been recognized as an effective medium to expose students to a diverse range of learning opportunities at an artistic, personal, and academic level. These programs are dominantly short to medium term with some exceptional courses that are longer in duration. An exchange program essentially means building a module within a particular academic program that requires a student from a secondary school or university to study abroad. During such a program, a student lives around the campus, interacts with students from different countries, learns about distinct teaching methodologies and gains a distinct perspective. These programs not only enhance subject matter understanding and expertise but prove to be life-altering as they expose a student to a completely different lifestyle, culture and expand the horizon like never before.

Most students utilize these experiences to make conscious career decisions and choose their vocational streams based on the added perspective they gain in a foreign land. Additionally, an exchange program also helps a student explore newer employment avenues that may not exist in their own country. The experience of living in a new setting also helps them self-reflect and identify their own strengths and weaknesses when facing challenges or pushed beyond their comfort zone. Therefore, unarguably, student exchange programs have always been a great learning tool and will remain relevant for a wide range of disciplines. Having said that, COVID-19 levied numerous restrictions on travel and physical mobility at large, including the student and teacher community.

This unforeseen limitation and safety threat changed a lot for such programs as the students could not leave their respective countries to visit campuses of partner institutions and experience such programmes firsthand. Many institutions tried to make up for this physical gap by bringing in virtual interventions and solutions but that took away from the core concept of living in a new setting and experiencing the novelty of newness. Yet, showing agility, adaptability and a solution-oriented approach is the first step towards adopting a progressive educational outlook and all new-age inclusive education institutions in India and abroad showcased resilience.

As mobility, physical travel and interaction still remain a key roadblock in the effective implementation of such exchange programmes, the educators and administrators adopted a solution-oriented approach and introduced novel teaching and interaction methodologies as an alternative.

Cooperative and collaborative learning leads to an exciting experience of belongingness, understanding and pride. This experience in online exchange replaces the physical engagement with online arrangements where every experience for a student in a new classroom is covered. Student Exchange Program in the post covid world includes easy access for all interested students across the globe. Various constraints like financial ones and other logistics requirements will get negated through this virtual learning opportunity.

  • Adaptable curriculum – Institutes have been customizing the curriculum making it flexible so that it gives the student adequate time for studies and learning about other aspects during the program. Flexible curriculums ensure continuity of not just academic learning, but social learning like extracurriculars as well.
  • Innovative Practices – New-age schools with a global presence have been engaging in virtual student exchange programs even before the pandemic. With the help of a global network of campuses, virtual exchange programs can offer students to reach beyond one country and learn multi-cultures by combining multi classrooms. Introducing innovative methods integrating with technology will help more students participate and benefit from such programs.
  • Collaborative learning – Collaborative learning in the classroom helps boost student interaction in the virtual setting. Being able to interact, discuss and work on projects in the virtual classroom helps the exchange of ideas across regions. Engaging students in virtual classrooms diminishes the idea of physical presence as the students get to learn equally more.

From the ease of access to the possibility of greater inclusion and more, virtual classrooms offered benefits that were not possible in physical space. With digitization taking over every aspect of life, the future of the student exchange programme brings more opportunities. Through new initiatives and methods, students receive an equally immersive experience of the exchange programme through virtual mediums. With the help of technology, more and more cultural exchange and dialogue will get initiated.

There are aspects of personality development that are dependent on human interaction, and nothing can replace meeting teachers and classmates and undertaking group exercises etc. but online education bridges gaps like no other medium and we must embrace the gift of technology. The avenues for e-learning that have opened in this phase will continue, and provide many students with the opportunity for more exchange programs.

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