An alumni of England’s prestigious Oxford University, Amit Goyal, Head of India & Asia Pacific at EdX Online Platform, tells Education Post’s Tanay Kumar that the Indian education system is lagging mostly because critical thinking ability and an awareness of fresh industry streams are conveniently ignored in most schools.
You studied Economic Development at the prestigious Oxford University. What made you choose this course?
I completed my BCA (Bachelor in Computer Application) in 2008 when the world was deep in recession and I knew that learning the basics of economy is really necessary. It would not be good for me if I don’t know the reasons for studying a course for my personal, professional goals.
I saw the structure and the curriculum that would be taught in this course and I was certain that wanted to pursue it. Further, many times, I see students opting for courses either because their friends are doing so or because their acquaintances have suggested a course that would get better financial gains in future. I really believe that students must see the course syllabus and research about it before opting for it. In the digital age, it is absolutely possible.
From 2007, I started working on an IP-based CCTV camera aka internet-based CCTV camera. The leading players in this product at the time were Samsung and Panasonic and their starting price was Rs. 40,000. My father used to run a cybercafe, and he was using this product. I used some component and brought the prices down to about Rs. 12,000. I explained this in my online interview for my master’s at Oxford and they were really impressed. Though my GMAT score was not very good, my project and curiosity worked for me.
Did you find any difference in the higher education you attained in India as opposed to abroad?
At Oxford, everything I learned on was based on hands-on experience, like practically practicing every theory. If one of my subjects was marketing, then I was working along with the teams of Louis Vuitton, which gave me a proper hands-on knowledge on the intricacies of the on-the-job problems and ways to solve those problems. Similarly, in a subject titled, Business Strategy, I was working with the teams of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn hotels.
At Oxford, they really stressed on critical thinking. You’ll be amazed to know that if I wrote the exact text of a book at Oxford during my study, I was not looked at as a very good learner. On the other hand, you’ll get good marks in India if you copey the exact texts of the prescribed books.
Then there was Learner Centricity. I’ll explain it with an example. A coding language, COBOL was considered as an outdated computer language 15 years ago. Even today, there are some Indian colleges that are teaching this language and wasting students’ time. How will students be on par with the industry requirement of 2027 if universities decide in 2023 what they will teach for the next four years? The curriculum needs to be updated every year, which is a regular practice in the West.
Vocational education slowly but surely is picking up pace in India. Since you have been the Country Head of Corporate Education College, where you were an integral part of the vocational education department, how do you see vocational education in India at the moment?
Right now, as per the curriculum and offered courses, vocational education in India is one of the best in the world. I remember, the chain of NIIT really marked a difference in vocational education – in the late 1990s, they were teaching many IT-industry skills that are relevant today. Today, there are many vocational courses in the country that are helping thousands of students. The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 must be applauded for pushing forward vocational education.
Your parents run a school. You must be aware of the challenges they face.
There are surely many challenges in running a school in a tier-2 or tier-3 city. Unfortunately, school education is gradually becoming brand-centric not learning centric as it should be. Many people react differently if a kid says that he/she goes to an expensive international school as opposed to a lesser-known school in comparison even though it is highly possible that those lesser-known schools are imparting top quality education.
Another challenge is getting quality teachers. After some years of experience, many teachers choose to leave smaller schools to join better schools, mostly because of better pay. To retain them, schools have to pay them a higher salary, which results in an increase in fees. If the fee is not increased, labs and other resources at the school faces a crunch, and eventually, parents start thinking of transferring their wards to other better-equipped schools.
What are the most pressing issues in the Indian education system that need fixing?
Unemployment is one, for sure. All parents invest in their children’s education mostly because they hope the kids will subsequently get good jobs. The structure and curriculum in India’s education system needs to be changed to ensure employability. Of course, the NEP is a step in the right direction, but it needs acceleration.
Another thing that needs attention is awareness at the school-level about fresh streams and industries that are coming into play. Although some private schools are educating students about the same, public schools definitely need to pull up their socks in this regard.
A platform like EdX really informs students about the curriculum, academic content and environment in universities like Stanford, MIT or Cambridge. EdX virtually shows the classrooms of those universities. So, in one sentence, students need awareness and exposure to different industrial streams.