There is also the issue of increasing gross enrolment ratio (GER) while maintaining quality, as the GER of India is at least 50% lesser than developed countries like Australia and the US. Low global rankings of Indian universities is another concern.
The International Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) are a group of higher education bodies focused on information technology (IT) education and research. These shouldn’t be mistaken for the Indian Institutes of Information Technology that go by a similar acronym (IIITs). While the latter are established by the central government, the ‘international’ IIITs are usually PPP and with some backing from state governments. One such is the Dr SPM IIIT Naya Raipur, whose chairperson is Ajai Chowdhry, the founder of HCL. In an interaction with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he says that IIITs are in a position to jumpstart with global standards of higher education. Excerpts:
While we’ve had many initiatives promoting education over the years, what are the major challenges the sector is facing? How can these be addressed?
Challenges include shortage of quality faculty, contemporary and futuristic curriculum, governance structure, funds or grants, skill-knowledge paradox, accountability, and demand-supply mismatch. There is also the issue of increasing gross enrolment ratio (GER) while maintaining quality, as the GER of India is at least 50% lesser than developed countries like Australia and the US. Low global rankings of Indian universities is another concern.
These challenges can be addressed by initiating a quality assurance system for faculty and through increased funding for R&D. Industry and academia linkages are essential to ensure that the academic curriculum is in line with the demands of the job market. This will help meet changing employability demands. Research-based collaborations through faculty exchange must also be encouraged.
How do you view the Budget announcements for education, skill development?
The FM has proposed a 12.8% year-on-year increase in FY20 allocation for school education to Rs 56,536.63 crore. For higher education, it has increased 14.3% to Rs 38,317.01 crore, giving a total outlay of Rs 94,854 crore to education. An amount of Rs 400 crore has been provided for ‘world-class institutions’ for 2019-20. There is a renewed focus on skilling. The National Research Foundation will fund, coordinate and encourage research.
What is the role IIITs are playing towards educating the youth? In which all ways are IIITs different from IITs?
IITs are institutes of national importance established and funded by the central government (MHRD), whereas IIITs are funded both by the government and the private sector, and are usually set up on a PPP model. There are some IIITs established by state governments, too. IITs provide courses in all kinds of engineering, management and even medical sciences, while IIITs have their task cut out to offer courses related to IT. Interestingly, IIITs do not carry legacy baggage, like IITs and NITs do, such as old work culture, static curricula, etc. IIITs are in a position to jumpstart with global standards of higher education.
Which all private institutes are doing exactly the same thing IIITs do?
There are not many institutions in the country providing data science and AI courses together. In fact, IIIT Naya Raipur is the first to do so. Autonomous institutions like IIIT Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore also offer courses in data science. Some private institutions do offer courses separately in data science, ML and AI, which are of shorter duration and not very rigorous in content. A survey by IBM predicts that the demand for data scientists will increase by 28% by 2020. While the learning curve in data science and AI is steep, it opens a plethora of opportunities across industries. The huge scale of adoption also means there are a lot of jobs available (in India) at this juncture—about 97,000 open positions in the field of analytics and data science right now.
Is the focus of IIITs only to educate students, or is there research focus as well?
At IIIT Naya Raipur, the BTech curriculum has a provision for four minor projects and one major project, which are research and innovation-driven. Select BTech and MTech students can pursue one semester research abroad, and the institute provides financial assistantship up to Rs 5 lakh.
I must add that research should be the focus not only at IIITs, but at every higher education institute. Education without research can never be contemporary. If education is the body, research is its soul.