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A transdisciplinary approach to education needed

Simply being literate in relevant subjects, media, technology and information isn’t enough. You also need soft skills like leadership, productivity and collaboration

Generic academic teachings have been important for human progress, today’s times call for a radical change.
Generic academic teachings have been important for human progress, today’s times call for a radical change.

By Sunil Rai

To address modern-day problems in a sustainable manner, students need to be both critical thinkers and have a receptive worldview—a linear education system can no longer be helpful. Universities need to envision themselves as institutions of global standing and weave together a transdisciplinary approach that holds promise to enhance students’ learning and development. While imparting knowledge at a higher education institute, it has often been observed that students passively absorb material presented by an expert, and then draw on processes of memorisation instead of applying creative solutions and navigating challenging situations. While generic academic teachings have been important for human progress, today’s times call for a radical change. That means doing away with conventional ways of teaching and providing students with a holistic and inclusive curriculum that opens their minds and makes them tackle challenges effectively, be industry-ready, cultivate respect for opinions and prepares them to be leaders in the true sense.

A learner-driven education system
Students should be offered personalised curriculum. They may need to choose a particular subject to pursue a career, but that shouldn’t stop them from pursuing subjects they are passionate about—for example, a law student should be given the opportunity to study design, or an engineering student should be given access to learn business management, and so on.
Industry in the classroom approach
More than reading or listening, students understand a concept better when they learn it through experience. It’s time educators stop expecting students to apply fixed methods to arrive at a prewritten conclusion and instead encourage them to think creatively, form their own viewpoints and foster critical thinking. This approach will make students adept at solving real world problems.

Extracurricular activities
Although being armed with theoretical knowledge is beneficial, having a strong base of soft skills is an important driver of success. Students should be made to participate in sports or cultural activities, realising the potential extracurricular activities have in building character. Social internships are also an interesting concept that can instil in students the necessary human and social skills.In the future, just being literate in relevant subjects, media, technology and information will start to lose relevance. But a healthy cocktail of these, mixed with important soft skills like leadership, productivity and collaboration, will be extremely important.

The author is vice-chancellor, UPES.

Read also: Technology and the future of higher education

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