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Online education is a great equaliser: IITM Director

Online education is a great equaliser: IITM Director

Chennai: The New Education Policy was announced a year ago to re-boot India’s education system and enable India’s burgeoning youth to prepare themselves for what is widely touted as India’s century, said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras.

While many of its far-reaching prescriptions will take time to implement, several early steps have been taken to reap early dividends, he said in an article, adding: In the field of higher education, institutional autonomy has been correctly identified as a pre-requisite for many of the crucial changes to be wrought. The Higher Education Institutions (HEI) that are already vested with significant autonomy, such as the IITs, have naturally picked up the baton and hit the ground running.

“Among the important objectives set for HEIs are (i) improving the GER of the country towards 50%, (ii) offering of multi-disciplinary programmes to enable students to adapt their education to their aptitude, (iii) redressal of the language barrier and adoption of online /distance learning or hybrid modes to improve inclusivity and access and (iv) modularization of credit-based degree programmes to permit multiple entries and exits along with credit portability.”

According to Bhaskar Ramamurthi, an effort to move towards breaking the shackles of the discipline chosen by a student at entry, several IITs have enabled students to pivot to multi-disciplinary programmes as they mature and discover their true interest. At IIT Madras, for example, undergraduate students from any branch of engineering can upgrade to one of several inter-disciplinary dual-degree (IDDD) programmes, to earn a Masters’ degree in contemporary areas such as Data Science, Robotics, Nanotechnology, Energy Systems, Quantum Science and Technology, and so on. About 20 per cent of each cohort is already taking advantage of these options, enabling students to form multi-disciplinary teams and undertake complex projects.

He also said that online education is a great equaliser where it is effective, and can be used to improve equity in access, reduce cost, and thereby significantly increase the GER. The IITs and IISc have been pioneering online courses for several years now through the NPTEL programme on SWAYAM, with more than 1.5 million students taking courses each semester to supplement the degree programmes they are registered in.

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