Business World Education Interview with Dr Ajeenkya DY Patil

In an exclusive dialogue with BW Education, Dr. Ajeenkya DY Patil, President of Ajeenkya DY Patil University and Chairman of DY Patil Group, shares valuable insights on the repercussions of COVID-19 disruptions in the education sector, the New Education Policy, and the Union Budget 2021. Excerpts from the interview highlight Dr. Ajeenkya DY Patil’s extensive leadership roles and his contributions to education, healthcare, and social services, including being awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Central Lancashire, UK.

How do you look at the present scenario of the education ecosystem in India? 

The education eco-system in India is undergoing a huge positive transformation. Globalization has brought the best practices from around the world within the reach of educational institutions in India and they are aggressively pursuing this evolution. Institutions are increasingly investing in technology and student success.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the education sector in a major way? What solutions do you think educational institutions can come up with?

Primarily any solutions that we think of should ensure effective student engagement. The learning has continued during these trying times but at the same time, the students were distanced from the university support structures that they used to enjoy while on campus. This support which is key during the important developmental transition of students is something that institutions have to find a way to provide. This is also an opportunity to examine new forms of education which hitherto were limited due to compulsions of on-campus operations. Institutions must start looking at creating more learning opportunities of choice for their students. Instead of the sequential delivery of the curriculum, we can think of an on-demand curriculum. Such disruptive thinking can pave the way for a real student-centric education system that we often talk about.

What are you doing to stay ahead and re-visualize your institution? 

We are trying to figure out how we can deploy technology more effectively to make learning differentiated for students with different needs. We are seriously evaluating how we can make learning to be driven by students themselves. We are looking at how we can transform the present system of credentialing to a system which is based on a holistic learner record which just does not give grades against the subjects studied and gives much more information about the learner. How can this learner record reflect the strengths of the student rather than being a judgemental document? We are trying to revisualize our institution to be a true contributor to the emerging world and contribute to the making of a constructive student who shapes the 21’st century.

In your opinion, will there be an impact on on-campus education from the changed scenario?

The impact is already there. It has been nearly a year that the campuses have been closed. The educational institutions were the first ones to be closed and are being considered at last for opening. No one was really prepared for this prolonged campus closure. The adoption of online learning happened at a break-neck pace, creating an opportunity for online learning to get adaptability. The ad hoc solutions to deliver online education are being replaced with more robust and dependable solutions. Faculty members have been at the forefront of this adaptation wherein they changed their methods of student engagement considerably. Going forward, this forced acceptance of online education would augur well for the online delivery of educational opportunities. It will be a major component to ensure equity, access and lifelong learning which have been somewhat flawed in the brick and mortar education delivery system.

Where according to you, are we lagging behind and what would you suggest to come at par with the education system of developed nations of the world?

We are lagging behind on a number of parameters. The good part is that the acknowledgement and acceptance are there within the community of these issues and everyone is making a sincere effort to come at par. The structures of our education system are a major impediment in this required change. Till the time we continue to have a system that is based around quantitative parameters and over-reliance on the same, effective change will be hard to come by. The world over the systems has changed to more outcome-based assessments rather than input-based evaluation. This fundamental shift is the need of the hour.

What is your take on the NEP and Union Budget 2021?

I am glad to see the much-needed focus on education and healthcare in the Union Budget of 2021. Both these domains are close to my heart and more importantly key to national resurgence and competitiveness. The union budget addresses the core needs of these sectors with a much-needed focus on infrastructure development. The impetus given to skill education in order to achieve ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ as well as the modification in the Apprenticeship Act is laudable. The transfer of vocational models from Japan and then from other countries too, strengthening of 15,000 schools to include all components of NEP, establishing Eklavya model schools across the country are initiatives which would provide the much-needed boost to the fundamentals of the education system in India.