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Why Industry Professionals Make The Best Educators?

Monday, May 16, 2016
By Sonya Hooja

SONYA HOOJA Director, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Imarticus.

Much has been said about our plagued education system. This article provides a critical analysis of four primary issues which at the crux of the problem.

Firstly, the teaching methodologies are orthodox. Merely reading textbooks and taking tests is still considered sufficient. A severe lack of emphasis is on linking topics and subjects in an analytical, and creative manner has led to providing a limited perspective with blinders. The system thus does not act as an enabler to promote understanding of the big picture. In tune with tradition, emphasis is majorly on rote memorization. As a consequence, this has led to student’s behaviour which encourages cramming without understanding and subsequent forgetting of the knowledge gained rather than enduring lessons that encourage growth through  life-long learning. This issue is further aggravated by the depleting quality of teachers in schools across the nation. There is a severe lack of fresh and enthusiastic teachers that want to make their students learn.

Here is a fact to put the second aspect in perspective - “Top performing countries in education across the globe recruit their teachers from the top 5-10% of their best universities” These include countries like Finland and Singapore. On the other hand, India as a nation has collectively developed a rather disturbing mind-set. Teaching as a profession here is considered for those that have been unable to do anything constructive with their lives. There is an element of low self esteem associated with a teacher’s job in India. This persistent negativity has made it even more difficult to attract good talent to this otherwise noble profession in a land where knowledge has always been revered.

Moving over to the third major issue in our education system. The concept of training for teaching is very narrow in this part of the world. The in-service and pre-service training that teachers in low-income schools, government schools and mid-income schools is practically non-existent. Even when such facilities are available, there is a severe lack of emphasis quality. In view of the above, the trainings provided do not bear fruit for the trainers. This adversely affects the professional development for teachers doesn't exis which not only leads to stagnancy in the profession but also leads to a vicious circle ultimately affecting the students.

The last problem that need to be highlighted is the lack of an incentive system across India to motivate teachers to perform better and deliver quality lessons to students. There exists a gross lack of accountability on the students’ performance for the lessons imparted by the teachers. A performance driven measure thus, is the single most important factor to ensure delivery of quality training. The professional growth and incentives of those in this profession should be singularly measured through the student achievement data.

Industry professionals, who have worked in the corporate sector, and have been exposed to real-live business scenarios could address all of these issues. Suresh Rao, after a 15 year of stint at JP Morgan in Investment Banking Operations, left his job to become a teacher. While deciding to enter academics, his focus was to create industry ready manpower with all the required specialised training. The reason according to Suresh’s experience is that employees struggle to match each other’s needs.

“In today’s world youngsters need to be specialised in a specific field. They should be able to give an Xfactor to an industry which no one else can. Only this will help them sustain and be successful,” said Suresh Rao.

Our academia needs a curriculum that a blend of theory and relevant practical knowledge. This is possible only with frequent interactions between industry and academia. As a corporate professional, Rao had been a member of several recruitment panels and campus placement hiring processes. As Suresh affirms: “There are a  plethora of job applications with so many students passing out each year. Ironically though, a company struggles to get the right resource.”

The standard industry complaint that freshers have low employability quotient had triggered Rao to be the link that can connect the industry with aspiring managers. Rao thinks that the industry is justified to have complaints, but a lot more needs to be explored by the corporations to help bridge the gap.

“Dedicated efforts can be made to increase the interactions between industry and academics. A faculty member with a decade of teaching experience is not linked with  the industry to prepare industry-relevant degree holders. Teaching as a profession thus, needs to be incentivised by corporates by offering opportunities to teachers to upgrade their industry knowledge.” suggests Rao.

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