[Editorial Analysis] Remoteness is no hindrance to academic excellence

Mains Paper 2: National
Prelims level: Institutions of Eminence
Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context:

• Excellence in education depends on the quality of mentorship; not on the quality of mentorship; not on the size or location of campuses. To improve, faculties should be made bigger and recruitment yardsticks should focus on quality and not quantity.

Core functions:

The core functions of an engineering school are to:
• Guide students along as they inquire and discover their interests in science and engineering
• Engage students with the interactions between technology, society, economics and the environment
• Prepare students for working careers as designers and gadget makers, nut also as entrepreneurs
• Invent new gadgets and discover new science, and enmesh all of these activities with local developmental needs.

Problems:

• A lack of language and study skills causes some students to falter
• About a quarter of the incoming undergraduates need extra training and confidence building measure in using the English language.
• Admission process is a testocracy and almost all the incoming students need to be dissuaded away from a mindset that focuses on MCQs and instead need to be goaded toward free inquiry and whole-problem tackling
• Students should not only become skill engineers’ bit should also train to speak and write clearly

IIT Mandi Model:

• A five week induction programme gently welcomes students into the academic setting and helps them feel at home. This helps in breaking ice between students and faculty.
• Curriculum includes courses from a design and innovation stream which includes a socio-technical practicum. This particular course has seen insignificant enrolment of visiting international students.
• This IIT project developed a landslide warning system that won the SKOCH award.

Recruitment and Retention:

• 2 problems with recruiting and retaining faculty members –
1. First- Hired researchers are burdened with non-academic responsibilities such as-running the canteen, managing the placement cell and managing tenders for various campus building works.
2. Second- Inconsistency and group think in the hiring committees.
• Problem in Recruitment Process,
1. Recruitment has 2 stages- Short listing and interview in front of a panel that consists of mostly professors from outside the hiring institute.
2. If short listing is done mechanically and is done on basis of number of papers, size of grants won then those hired may be the mediocre, paper manufacturing mills.
• Alternative,
1. Reversing the existing two stages in recruitment and explicitly flagging quality as a merit.

Entrepreneurship:

• A wanning fantasy is that only large companies and organizations can invent new technologies.
• This belief has been demolished by so many start-ups in the past few decades and even our PM preach the virtues of a start-up culture.

Conclusion:

• Remoteness is not a hindrance to excellence as many examples are available globally. E.g Cornell University, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University.
• These universities are located at remote corners within the territory but even then provide world class infrastructure and excellent opportunities for students to excel in their respective fields.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), consider the following statements:

1. At present, it is not an intergovernmental organization, which are ordinarily treaty-based organizations.
2. The CDRI Secretariat is based in New Delhi, India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: C

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