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Posts Tagged ‘Higher Education’

How serious is unemployment issue in Manipur state now and how this issue relates to Higher Education (HE) institutions in the state? Also, at what level in the ‘priority list to tackle first’, the state govt considers these two issues; thereby deciding the financial budget allocation and timely execution through a strategic planning approach? HE_unemployment_01We may need to review all available policies, support systems and prevailing operating scenarios of HE institutes and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) within Manipur state in order to come up with a rather holistic integrated support system. Current socio-economic chaos in Manipur state may be transformed into opportunities if we are able to find means to create employment for youth in relevant industry sectors, and knowledge transfer from HE institutions to youth and local enterprises by enabling them to lead the society.

Currently, HE policy of state govt seems to focus entirely on (1) building and refurbishing physical infrastructure, (2) hiring and supervising academic staffs, (3) scholarships for students to study outside Manipur (rather than capacity building within the state). Also, state govt seems to focus on another parallel educational policy i.e. imparting vocational school (10th or 12th) level training to youths of Manipur either by sending the students outside Manipur or allowing training companies from outside Manipur to deliver short-term courses for local students within the state. State govt has thus started pumping in more funds to the above areas and hopes to bring about quality as well as quantitative improvements within Manipur. But, the interesting question is ‘Is this current approach really working towards improving HE sector within Manipur?’, or ‘what are the impacts achieved so far toward local economy and graduate employability?’, and ‘is there anything else that state govt missed to consider in the current HE policy?’

Most HE sector issues reported in the local media are of institutional related – such as regularization of ad-hoc lecturers in colleges, mismanagement of scholarship funds meant for students, lack of classrooms and equipments to support teaching, cases of students and academics indulging in malpractices in examinations, lack of principals and qualified lecturers in specific colleges, non attendance of staffs in colleges, less or no students getting admitted to study in various degree courses at specific colleges, etc. Yet, none has seriously looked into the issue of employability for graduates out of colleges and universities within Manipur, and the scarcity of non-govt jobs availability within Manipur.

The HE sector policy of govt rather ought to aim at providing 3 key priority needs at each individual college within Manipur – (1) Infrastructure development for creating ‘Centres of Excellence’ oriented to specifically chosen domain knowledge of local/global relevance, (2) Administrative support staffs having expertise in running HE institutions at world class level, (3) Professional support staffs having expertise in career grooming and local enterprise development support for graduates. State govt’s funding budget in the above three areas may be 50-75% of the overall HE sector allocation. This approach may help in turning around the brain drain scenario of Manipur state i.e. Manipuri students going outside the state to study degree courses and high quality Manipuri professionals leaving the state to teach/work in HE institutions of other states. Thus, chance for quality as well as quantity improvement in HE sector can be seen within Manipur state.

Govt’s policy of introducing vocational school level (10th or 12th std) training courses seems to give conflicting message to the students, as it hints as if the degree level courses provided in various colleges within Manipur are useless to the local job environment. Also, most parents may not wish their wards to choose vocational school level course as compared to degree level courses. A vocational student may learn skills to get a low-level job (though maybe of highly advanced technology) within Manipur or outside the state, but career growth for such vocational students is bound to be of low level in any organizational hierarchy. It’s because they are of skill-based training rather than domain knowledge-based learning unlike in the case of graduate courses.

The graduate courses currently opened in various colleges within Manipur are of traditional nature which is about learning basic science, or arts, or commerce. The applicability of such traditional degree course to the needs of current industry jobs elsewhere or any relevant jobs within local Manipur environment is very hard to find. Either course contents of degree courses ought to be adapted to application oriented learning modules, or new local industry relevant degree courses need to be introduced freshly to all the colleges within Manipur. Again, if govt is trying to retrain youths especially college graduates after having studied 3yrs at one of the colleges in Manipur into another school level vocational training courses, then, it will mean that college students have not only wasted three years of their lifetime in colleges but also govt has wasted crores of Indian Rupee in running ‘white elephant’ colleges in Manipur.

Graduate related issues of HE sector are also relevant to the local enterprises within Manipur, because high technology intensive industrial growth will define availability of jobs which is of graduate level (rather than school level or vocational skills level). State govt needs to consider availability of skilled manpower and capable enterprises in each relevant industry sector before forming growth supporting industrial policies in those sectors. HE sector not only provides skilled manpower for the industry, but also, creates research outputs that support industrial applications and products through R&D activities of academics and scientist in HE institutions. Thus, industrial policies of govt correlates strongly with the HE sector policies. Such strong relationship between academics in HE institutions and industry companies are visible in most developed countries (UK, Germany, France, USA, etc).

Relevant state govt department may create funding pots for SMEs that provides funding support to allow employees to study graduate level professional courses and training programmes in HE institutions within Manipur. Each HE institutions may be encouraged to create a centre of excellence via funding from relevant state govt department to help SMEs in that industry sector. Thus, such approach will brings about enterprise oriented HE policies and creation of more jobs in the local economy because of active participation of SMEs in HE policy formation.

We are yet to fill the gap in policies governing supporting HE sector and growth of SMEs in various industry sectors within Manipur. Hence, in spite of funding heavily on HE sector, Manipuri students are leaving after school education to study outside the state. Also, we can’t see any visible industrial growth in various sectors in spite of heavy funding by the state govt, since we don’t have the requisite industrial manpower locally and professionally working mindset culture in the local enterprises. Thus, it is the right time we tackle both the issues of youth employability and industrial growth by creating an integrated support system within Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Education is imparted in a systematic approach worldwide for a purpose which is ‘sharing knowledge to inspire minds’. Though School Education may be rather about teaching and learning, but, Higher Education in college/university is more about empowering students to get a job or start a new business in their post-degree career. Unless graduates are exposed to skills and experiences during their studies (thereby finding utility latter in the job market and social environment), the time spent in college/university will amount to waste of time and effort in today’s competitive world. Thus, teaching may be considered as the main theme of education, yet ‘Employability & Enterprise’ tends to be the main objective of education from the ‘performance measure’ perspective.

 Employability_Enterprise_01

 The current education policy in Manipur state has been focusing mostly on providing teachers to schools/colleges and their transfers management, creating infrastructure, and student intake numbers; instead of any new innovation and growth aspects in education to deal with local societal needs and changing global environment. This approach may work with management of school level (up to 10th or 12th standard) institutions but ought to fail drastically when dealing management of colleges and universities. Students out of school level institutions feed into colleges and professional institutions for higher studies or on-the-job studies. If there is no better college, Manipuri students just need to leave Manipur state in post 10th or 12th std for higher studies and thus, we are seeing thousands of students leaving every year (thereby also affecting state’s economy). For higher education institutions to survive, presence of vibrant industries around to provide jobs and business setup opportunities to graduates out of those colleges/universities is also essential. Higher education institutions are source of inspiration and guide to our society by producing responsible adults with add-on values in addition to the book knowledge. Thus, education policies for school level and higher level ought to vary drastically and both need serious attention by using different approaches to deal with.

Private schools (if not govt schools) within Manipur can survive successfully; because ‘score-card and pass % of students’ (which is within the control of school management with less/no influence from other external sources) are the only benchmark used for rating schools and no other measuring aspects are currently used (e.g. extra-curricular activities, staff profile, diversity of staffs as well as students intake, health and safety on school premises, financial fees and scholarships offers, support for disability students, religious tolerance, focus on sports facilities, and promotion on traditional culture, etc). State govt also seems to focus more on school education as compared to higher education and even indicated its intention to create ‘Manipur Education Services (MES)’ similar to Manipur Civil Services (MCS) just to look after school education services. Though it may be innovative, the focus has been not yet clarified on what exactly will be role and accountability of MES officers. One MES official can be assigned per a group of schools or per zone or per district to manage the non-academic aspect of school administration; e.g. management of school infrastructures to maximize utilization factor and timely maintenance (thereby cost saving), budget management and local social impact of school to maximize benefits of govt funding and school education objectives, etc. Thus, school teachers can focus on teaching part while state education officials can focus on non-academic aspects.

State govt seems to get no clue what to do with higher education sector in Manipur. Manipur University may be responsible for academic aspects of its affiliated colleges (e.g. updating course materials, checking mandatory quantity and quality of academic staffs per college, conducting exams under the new semester system, providing certificates to graduates, etc), but, its role starts and ends with affiliation of colleges only. Also, since Manipur University is now a central university and not under state govt, it may say anytime to any govt colleges to seek for de-affiliation if unsatisfied with what/how they function. Yet, Higher Education officials seem pleased only with task of govt colleges in Manipur just getting affiliation certificate from Manipur University. State govt are supposed to work more closely than before with Manipur University to devise far-reaching higher education strategies for Manipur and transform colleges into innovation houses; thus, helping villages/towns across Manipur getting the benefits from nearby colleges apart from local youths getting college education. Because, Manipur University has already gain autonomy from state govt on what/how it likes to function, thereby state govt can’t just direct whatever it used to in the past. Thus, Higher Education officials ought to be clear on what is within their role and what is delegated to Manipur University regarding the management of govt colleges within Manipur.

We are yet to see much discussion on ‘what happens to students graduating out of colleges in Manipur (affiliated to Manipur University and other universities outside Manipur) and universities in Manipur (i.e. Manipur University, Central Agricultural University)’, and ‘how colleges/universities in Manipur ought to support students for their future careers’. National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) does take employability (i.e. students getting a job on graduation) and enterprise (i.e. student enterprises in college, new startups by students, new innovation ideas/products from college, engagement with local businesses and industry professionals/alumni) as part of their rating approach for colleges and universities in India, though in less priority and less percentage focus. Sadly, ‘Employability & Enterprise’ agenda has not yet been  seen as one of the main priority areas of Higher Education policy in Manipur, though the agenda is very essential for the survival of colleges within Manipur and can transform colleges into innovation houses for benefits of local people in Manipur.

Looking from the perspective of ‘Education as a system of input, operation, and output’, questions arise like – ‘Why do we create products (degree courses) for consumers (college students) which got less utility (applications) in the local market (industry jobs)?’; ‘how much % of course contents is about hands-on application of knowledge being taught?’, ‘how much budget % is allocated per college on career development aspect as compared to staff salaries and infrastructure maintenance?’, ‘what is the policy of local business engagement for each college around course design and skill development aspects?’, ‘what is the involvement policy of alumni to support back colleges/universities?’, ‘how is other ministries in state govt (e.g. Industries & Commerce, Science & Technology, regional development agencies in each district and panchayat zones) coordinating with higher education department and various colleges from the aspect of innovation for enterprise and employability agenda?’, ‘how about satisfaction surveys from graduates every year on each college by defining performance metrics to rate each college and accordingly provide innovation funding for relevant support?’, ‘how much responsibility and accountability is assigned to the management team in each college for welfare of students and college infrastructure as compared to education ministry itself?’, ‘how the aspect of student unions in colleges currently focused on political aspects can be reoriented towards innovations around course studies?’, ‘why no plans are made to make buildings and equipments of colleges available for students’ career and skills development activities instead of leaving under-utilized in non-working hours (of evenings, weekends, and holiday breaks), ‘why no delegated staffs assigned to provide career development and enterprise creation support in each college/university?’ and, so on.

On the ‘Employability and Enterprise’ agenda, state govt may implement a hybrid model of funding and operation for higher education institutions in Manipur e.g. a centralized depository of support services (in terms of course contents, business startup funds, on-demand enterprise support services, advisory consultants/academics, equipments, a web-based knowledge resource to be accessed by representative of each college if not by every students, etc) and a localized support services per college (e.g. one-to-few teaching staffs be delegated after relevant trainings to advise on entrepreneurship and deliver enterprise support activities, or appointment of management graduates having experience in such enterprise activities).

‘Manipur Innovation Council’ chaired by Chief Minister setup in 2011 ought to look into overall higher education scenario and enable colleges and other higher education institutions to transform themselves into innovation houses to cause effective socio-economic impact to the village/town wherein they are located. Also, upcoming ‘Manipur Innovation Roadmap 2012-2020’ whose design work is currently advertised by Planning Department in Manipur State Govt through a tender process needs to incorporate concepts of making all the higher education institutes in Manipur contribute towards innovation culture in Manipur, and integrating other innovation related govt ministries with higher education institutes to empower youth as well as local businesses in easy access to necessary business support and technical know-how.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Understanding issues around Higher Education (HE) and local enterprises in Manipur today may be started by asking two most basic questions simultaneously – ‘Why does someone need to go college/university for HE studies’ and ‘What does industry sector need to grow in terms of manpower and skills’. We ought to look at HE sector and industry growth issues under the same umbrella for analysis and not in distinctively separate dimensions. The same fixed amount of input (i.e. Time, Money and Manpower) needed to tackle those two issues separately may be used collectively under an integrated strategy to simultaneously tackle the need to support growth of more local enterprises (thereby providing jobs to local people) and the need to revive higher education in colleges/universities (thereby satisfied academics, support staffs, and students).

Govt of Manipur ought to understand ‘the underlying implicit and explicit relationships between HE institutes and Industrial firms in a state/country’. The detailed analysis (though very critical) on how operation of state govt departments in HE sector (such as Education (U), Technical Education, and Adult Education) can be improved is beyond the scope of this article. Also, what’s excluded herein is how administration of colleges by respective college management can be enhanced and how liaising with Manipur University or Central Agriculture University as affiliated bodies may be made more efficient.

The approach of designing and delivering HE services in Manipur seems to ‘start and end with Education only’, without looking beyond and considering the local environment in which HE services operate. Graduates and post-graduates with traditional degrees are produced within Manipur who may be of least relevance to local needs or lack enough course experience to cause social impact locally. Moreover, it looks like as if colleges and universities in Manipur are just created to produce few finest graduates to be then exported to other Indian and foreign cities for better jobs and follow-on studies. Thus, return on investment (ROI) in terms of social and economic impact by having 70+ colleges and two universities within Manipur currently seem below expectation on ‘continued business justification’ rating and underperforming as a public service proposition.

On the other hand, state govt departments servicing to social and business organizations (such as Commerce and Industries, Cooperation, Income-Tax) are yet to show confidence on local people about their ability to bring about visible sustainability support to local companies and growth of new startups. Unhealthy law and order issues in Manipur (cited as a result of insurgency) may likely not attract big companies from outside Manipur to open up offices within Manipur and also, locally grown-up businesses may not successfully survive for continued operation after startup.

State govt has initiated some programmes recently to provide skill-based trainings in various industry sectors to youths/students in Manipur by financially sponsoring to third-party institutes within and outside Manipur state. Such initiative does help Manipuri youths/students to get employment in companies outside Manipur. Yet, there is huge vacuum to enable local companies to grow so as to absorb such trained individuals for the benefit of local economy. Thus, this current approach of state govt seems just like a one-sided policy to invest public fund meant for Manipur state on training few local Manipuris youths/students and then exporting them as quality manpower resources to feed into the need of other cities/states in India.

So, What if, for once, we look the spectrum of Higher Education from the perspective of need by industry and local market?

Universities in most global locations (esp. in UK) are now exploring extensively on various HE concepts to serve needs of industry clients proactively – such as Work-based Learning, Bespoke Training, Contracted Research and Consultancy, Modular-based course Programmes, etc. In order to outsmart the upcoming huge competition from various private training business companies on teaching similar course offers as universities do normally, UK universities are now more inclined towards the Research and Knowledge Transfer aspect for survival and income generation while maintaining a reasonable income generation through teaching degree/post-graduate courses.

In UK, Modular-based course Programmes are highly successful because courses are delivered in block modular mode. As an example: A 5-weeks modular course of a subject paper looks like 1-week face-to-face class plus a 4-weeks (away from classroom) academic experience period to reflect the learning by self. Students are either asked to write a written exam or online test or submit a project assignment by the end of the 5th week. After successful completion of the 5-week period, academic credit is awarded for the module. The student receives the degree after completion of all the mandatory course modules (including projects). In this approach, students (from nearby the university, within the UK and foreign countries) can travel to the university campus to attend the 1-week face-to-face class and then return back home to complete the next 4-weeks academic experience period. These students are still considered to have done the course study in Full-Time mode (though in modular approach).

If one explores the business model of large ‘training business’ companies: (1) these companies pick up the demand of particular skill sets needed for companies in an industry in a geographical market, (2) they hire industry professionals and academic experts to devise course contents and structure of delivery, (3) they advertise the courses for delivery in particular date/month of a year and recruits students accordingly, (4) they hire large classrooms or offices on rent for a specific period in line with the course delivery schedule, (5) they also hire trainers/lecturers on contract to deliver the planned courses. Thus, global companies in training business get the necessary income inflow from students’ fees and the profit after deducting the payment for classrooms hire and contracted staffs. This model is likely to be successful as long as these training companies are able to provide trained students who can get job in a company after studying the course with them.

For HE delivery in Manipur, we can reuse some concepts from both UK universities’ modular course delivery approach and global training business companies’ course delivery approach. Some state govt departments (e.g. as Commerce and Industries) can identify specific industry sectors that need to be groomed for growth within Manipur for social and economic impact locally. Other state govt dept (e.g. Education (U), Technical Education) can be entrusted with the responsibility to design and develop specific courses (in degree and post-graduate levels) by hiring industry professionals and academic experts to meet the likely demands of skills needed in job profiles available in that specific industry, and also include academic aspects of reasoning and creative thinking in the course design for students. This course development can be done in consultation with competent academic governing bodies (such as UGC, AICTE) and universities (in Manipur or outside the state or abroad). State govt departments (e.g. Sericulture, Agriculture, Fisheries, Science and Technology) can provide funding incentives/vouchers to local SMEs and business owners to recruit local candidates as their employees to undertake relevant jobs in their businesses, and at the same time, allow to access those funding grants only to directly reimburse some percentage of course fee/expense of their sponsored employees who are undertaking such specially created degree/post-graduate courses in their industry sector. This approach enforces business owners to be more responsible and accountable in both business growth and HE delivery. Also, students paying fees on own to study such courses are more likely to get a job on graduation in the local market. Already available buildings of local colleges in various towns in Manipur or other state govt offices or Manipur University or Central Agricultural University can be hired in advance for delivery of the degree/post-graduate courses in a modular fashion. Also, lecturers/staffs can be hired on contract for the course deliveries from industry and academic institutions in Manipur.

This suggested approach does involve (1) developing such course programmes after agreeing on a teaching and learning pedagogy (thereby, extensive consultation among industry, academia, academic standard bodies, and govt) (2) applying Project Management and Programme Management methodologies to ‘create and dissolve’ the entire design and delivery activities as multiple projects in a programme mode (thereby, saving money and administrative headache because of not having to build new costly classrooms and incur maintenance cost for infrastructures, not to continue providing salary and maintenance cost for teaching and non-teaching staffs after the duration of course delivery, etc), (3) efficiently managing resources needed for supply and demand to higher education delivery and industry growth (thereby, matching HE delivery services to current needs of industry in a ‘pull mode than push mode’).

Thus, state govt must undertake drastic changes in the current approach of HE delivery and Enterprises support in Manipur. Also, an in-depth research by hiring competent HE-Sector strategists is essential along with consultations with all stakeholders involved in HE delivery and Business Support services.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com

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