#InConversation with Prof. S.P. Bansal, Vice Chancellor, Maharaja Agrasen University, Baddi
Isha Pharka 14.03.2016
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Professor S.P. Bansal takes us through his journey of challenges and expectations in setting up a University and highlights the importance of vocational education, the scope of educational tourism among other facets of the education industry.

                              Prof. S.P. Bansal
Having witnessed the ever competitive scenario of the education sector, one often thinks how challenging it must be for a new college or university to establish itself. On the other hand, one comes across educationists with a vision, who ensure challenges are faced and objectives fulfilled.
    Similar is the story of Maharaja Agrasen University, Baddi, which has created a niche for itself in a short span. Established in 2013 under the aegis of Professor S.P. Bansal, Vice Chancellor of the university, MAU has been successful in meeting the desired international standards and more...


MAU has had many international collaborations over the years. How important is this exposure for the faculty and students today?

Our objective is to provide professional education of international standard to enable the students and faculty to create a niche for themselves in the world market. International academic collaborations are mutually beneficial to the students and faculty of both the Contracting Universities seeking expansion and sharing of knowledge, experience and expertise in the relevant academic and professional fields. The students get unique opportunity to learn in a foreign environment and earn simultaneously, foreign degree at a minimal cost and equip themselves with the ability and capacity to seek global placements and explore their own potential and caliber. All international collaborations envisage mutual exchange of the faculty and student which gives a definite impetus to lifelong learning to the faculty in updating the curriculum in tune with the international standards and acquiring innovative pedagogical techniques to deliver the contents besides sharpening their research acumen and tools for future development.

    We had established an International Relationship Cell which is continuously exploring further academic collaborations with foreign Universities. In addition to the Girls and Boys Hostel already functioning, the construction of new International Students Hostel has already started in the Campus and will start functioning from July, 2016. The new Hostel will cater to the requirements of foreign students, research scholars and faculty. We are hopeful to attract a good number of foreign students in various courses in academic session 2016-17.


As Director, Institute of Vocational Studies, H.P. University, Shimla, what according to you is the status and importance of vocational education in present times?

In the modern age of globalized and exponential growth in information and communication technology, technical and vocational education is a very crucial aspect of the educational process. Vocational education provides the requisite skills and direct entry route to the job market. It develops craftsmanship, practical experience and practical problem-solving ability.

    Gone are the days when vocational education was considered at the bottom of hierarchy of knowledge. It was considered as a stream of learning available to "lower achievers".

    The trend is changing and the importance of vocational education is being re-emphasized. In my view, vocational education and training is a comprehensive term, referring to those aspects of the educational processes involving, in addition to the general education, the study of technology and related sciences and acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupation in various sectors of economic and social life. This corresponds to the pragmatic definition of vocation as stated by UNESCO in its Revised Recommendations on Technical and Vocational Education. The Second International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education has also adopted the goal of “Technical and Vocational Education for All”.

    The University Grants Commission (UGC) had launched a scheme on 27th February, 2014 for skills development based higher education as part of college/university education, leading to Bachelor of Vocation (B. Voc.) degree with multiple entry and exit points. According to UGC “this would enable the graduates completing B. Voc. to make a meaningful participation in accelerating India’s economy by gaining appropriate employment, becoming entrepreneurs and creating appropriate knowledge”.

    In my view, in our country, we have to give equal, if not more, importance to vocational education as the academic education. Vocational education consists basically of practical courses through which one gains skills and experience directly linked to a career in future. Vocational trainings in a way give students some work related experiences that many employers look for. Maharaja Agrasen University intends to start Vocational Education in the coming year which will be more flexible, relevant, inclusive and creative. This will help the student to be skilled and also create better employment opportunity for themselves. Hospitality and Paramedical courses are one of the largest sources of vocational educated persons in the field of both industries.


How do you define “quality education” and how can it be achieved?

Quality education is an elusive concept which is frequently used but not precisely defined. Education, in my view, is not merely concerned with disseminating knowledge and churning out degree holders in maximum numbers. We need to have graduates who, immediately after completion of studies, are either employment ready to absorbed by the potential employer or are capable to start their own business or profession and become potential employers themselves. This can be achieved by providing quality professional education.

    From a broader point of view, quality in education is multi-dimensional concept which starts with the induction of students in the HE institutions and has the following facets:

  • Healthy and safe environment for learning and research
  • Industry-related, research-intensive curriculum and its continuous updation
  • Innovative pedagogical processes in delivering the contents
  • Fair and impartial evaluation of the learning outcomes
  • Requisite Skills Development

Quality education is inexplicably linked with the wholesome development of students enabling them to prove as highly relevant and responsive to the society. At Maharaja Agrasen University, all the above aspects are strictly adhered to.


The biggest challenge faced by a teacher today is curriculum planning as per the industry needs and effective content delivery in tune with the rapidly changing communication technology.


Did you ever adopt or come across an innovative teaching methodology during your teaching career? Please share in detail explaining its impact?

We are adopting modern teaching aids in tune with the rapidly changing communication technology. The outcome has been very encouraging and beneficial to the students.

    We are following 3-Layer pedagogical approach. After the first Internal Examinations, the top ranking students are put in 1st Layer (securing 75% and above). Layer 2 comprise of students in the range of 55% to 74%. Layer 3 comprise of students securing less than 55%. Extra academic support is extended to Layer 3 students enabling them to come to Layer 2 and then to Layer 1. Teaching through Case Studies and by adopting Simulation Approach has proved very useful as it amounts to practical-oriented teaching methodology.


What according to you is the biggest challenge faced by a teacher today and how can they overcome it?

The biggest challenge faced by a teacher today is curriculum planning as per the industry needs and effective content delivery in tune with the rapidly changing communication technology. A teacher can overcome this challenge by careful academic planning and intensive research in their respective field. In my view, there is no shortcut as there is no substitute for hard work.


You’ve done extensive research work in the field of tourism. How important is “educational tourism” and what exposure can it give to students and teachers?

The future of tourism industry in India is very exciting but still there are many human resource challenges faced by this industry such as lack of qualified staff at both the operational and managerial levels. There is a huge gap between the supply side and demand side requirements in this sector. The Tourism industry has not been able to establish the educational infrastructure necessary to attract a fair percentage of best talents who are looking for openings in tourism industry. Though some beginning was made by having in-service training for the staff especially for changing consumer behavior, consumer preferences for selecting a destination, tour itineraries, sales and marketing for companies, spending patterns etc but the need is for more focused education for career opportunities and tourism information research.

    Since some progress was visible yet it has not reached the educational progress as seen in other manufacturing industries like automobile, textile, engineering products etc. Thus, tourism syllabus is to be revised as per the needs of the market such need fuel the need for educational institutes and tourism education and research through those institutes. Ministry of Tourism, Government of India also had a research and marketing wing in the Department, still not specific tourism education policy was drawn up. The tourism education remained restricted to market surveys research looking into the collection of data. Tourism education has to create a framework for a value-based tourism curriculum that will be relevant and effective to meet the new challenges of the industry.


In all your years in the education sector, what are some of the biggest changes that you’ve witnessed?

There has been a tremendous growth of higher education in India. In 1950, the number of Universities in India was 25 whereas presently there are 722 Universities. Earlier the sole objective of education institutions was knowledge dissemination. Now there is a paradigm shift to knowledge creation through high-quality research and development.

    Many Private Universities established under State Acts have taken upon the responsibility of providing quality education comparable to international standards. There is healthy academic competition between the institutions of higher learning and a strong focus on providing world class infrastructure for the development of intellectual capital. It is needless to say that only the fittest educational institution would survive and thrive in the long run.

    There has also been a substantial shift from traditional courses like (BA, MA etc.) to novel integrated courses and increasing emphasis by UGC to adopt Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) enabling the students greater flexibility in selection of their courses and future career. 


QUICK FIVE:

A book that has inspired you: ‘Karma Yoga’ by Swami Vivekananda and ‘Wings of Fire’ by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

A saying you always pass on: Hard work alone is not sufficient. Work intelligently

Teaching for you is: Joy and worship

A message for the teachers: Teachers are torch bearers for mankind, carrying the light of knowledge and passing it from generation to generation

A student of today must look forward to: All the new opportunities to make himself a better person and help himself grow as a leader and learner. 


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    Anonymous

    Nice