Does the Indian education system teach students how to collaborate?

Parallels between open source and education
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Education, infrastructure development, and the democratization of media are the three key sectors on which progression of any society depends. In the United States in particular, and the western world in general, the foundations of world leadership were laid when the country channeled massive investments into the educational sector. The result was a robust and innovative education system that nurtured research and advancement in society. This robust system consists of individual systems, like Harvard University and MIT, but speaks to a larger, nationwide framework on which educational policies and innovations are built. In fact, many businesses trace their origins to university labs.

A similar revolution (although on a much smaller scale and at a slower pace) is in progress in India. Groups like the Indian Institutes of Technologies and the Indian School of Business have incorporated world class standards and their alumni can be found in executive positions in every industry, all over the world. India today is the largest exporter of software technology and engineers in the world and much of this success is owed to the stress of information and communication technology training in the Indian educational curriculum. This, however, reflects only a small number of advancements.

As the world moves and changes at a rapid pace, particulary the global business environment, people are rethinking the way they run their companies by reforming corporate strategies and realigning their values—many times from a competitive approach to a collaborative one. This process of making decisions is becoming more prominent and involving employees operating at all levels.

I recently came across a plethora of initiatives that reflect these ideas at the academic level, like the joint venture, edX, between Harvard University and MIT. Others, like Dweeber and ePals, are innovative start ups that advocate for collaboration. Then there are large, established corporations like HCL Technologies who are rethinking management. Disruption is the keyword here, whether it's at the academic, business or individual level. And this has major implications for (and dependence on) our educational system.

Is the Indian education system operating in a way that prepares its citizens to become contributors to these world changing initiatives? Is our education system inclusive? Does it encourage students in all ways to become responsible global citizens? Is the education system keeping up with the changes in the global business environment? Can "disruption" in the the way education is imparted in our schools and colleges make the world a better place to live and work? Being a fairly pragmatic person, my answer to all these questions, except the last, is "no." Being an eternal optimist, my answer to the last question is "yes."

To bring about change, I believe we need to:

1) Encourage collaboration in the classroom daily.

Most schools prepare students for a competitive, "dog eat dog" world. Instead, we need to promote a collaborative attitude in these growing minds. Not only will it make them better professionals and team players, it will instill a responsibility to promote a great good in society. “Growing by learning and sharing together” is a much better proposition, both at an individual and global community level.

2) Implement mandatory participation in an open source project.

The benefits of participation in an open source project are collateral in nature. This kind of initiative will not only create opportunities for students to network with other students who have similar interests and inclinations, but it will add immense value to their resumes. Students will learn how to connect with each other, work together on small projects with a diverse group, and gain a better understanding of and appreciation for a “collaborative world."

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9 Comments

gscarborough's picture
Open Minded

Your first point is a real problem in many Universities. Having worked in a university for over a deacde, I have seen rampant academic dishonesty in students here from foreign countries. I wonder if it is because collaboration is acceptible in their home countries or if it is because of the high pressure put upon them, either succeed or go home. Thats not to say that American students don't cheat, they do. But we actually had issues with cheating being organized and done on a large scale by groups of foreign students. For instance, foreign students would show up to class on the first day with binders containing all of the materials given out over previous quarters. They would also have copies of past exams and solutions to past assignments.

However, I do agree with encouraging work in an open source project. We would have issues with IP policies about requiring such work, but it could certainly be suggested as a possible assignment.

Aseem Sharma's picture
Open Source Champion

Academic dishonesty from any student, domestic or foreign, should be discouraged using stern measures. It not only pollutes the academic environment but it also kills original thought. However, Collaboration does not equates to cheating or any kind of dishonesty. It is many original ideas from diverse backgrounds coming together to produce great results. The kind of behavior you mentioned has less to do with the open way of doing things in context and more with the individual mindset and past academic culture.

Thanks and Regards,
Aseem Sharma

Ken Turner's picture

I put some of the responsibility of the teacher to create environments where cheating is discouraged. In that, I mean that the teacher should take the responsibility to change up material, exam questions and answers. Too many teachers have an attitude of 'once I create the material I don't have to do it again'. If this is the case, then there is no excuse when students exploit the teacher's laziness.

Vikram's picture

Great Article.

But I think the way education is delivered needs to be changed. Specially in the higher education sector. Students studying in the computer science classes are given overdoses of the theory which is no longer relevant in the industry. They are far from the practical oriented studies. Faculty doesn't initiate the practical, case-based studies because they themselves struggling with the concepts. IT service companies spend good amount of time and money on the fresh graduate training.A three step approach can be followed to improve the education deliverable:-

1) Lectures as assignments:- Rather than faculty spending time in the class to read out the slides and deliver theory, students can be given pre recorded videos of the theory. This will free up the class time for the practical work and case study discussion.

2) Students as Teachers:- Its a proven fact that you learn more by teaching. Students should be made responsible to deliver the theory
in the class. This will not only improve their subject understanding but will also improve their communication and presentation skills.

3) Questions as Answers:- Our examination pattern needs to be changed. As a student I still remember filing up answer sheets for subjective questions that doesn't force me to think beyond the theory.
Answers to the exam questions should be expected to go beyond information, and force students to think beyond the obvious.

Regards,
Vikram
http://www.praclabs.com

Aseem Sharma's picture
Open Source Champion

Thanks Vikram. These are really good thoughts and solutions to change the education system for the good. I particularly agree with your third point. Our contemporary education system limits the mind to a couple of books (and in some cases outdated ones). The purpose of education should be to allow the thoughts and ideas to flow and fly in all directions.

Thanks and Regards,
Aseem Sharma

ANNU INSTITUTE's picture

I agree we need a paradigm shift in our educational system. The current educational system does not encourage critical and collaborative thinking. Most students pass exams by regurgitating what is taught in the sterile classrooms. Collaborative efforts should be encourage within the educational system. If implemented, it may even spill out into the mainstream social community.

Peter Groen's picture

Collaboration, Open Solutions & Innovation (COSI) go hand in hand. Check out and share the collected links to the many high quality free and open source Education tools and resources listed on the non-profit COSI Open Education web site at http://education.cositech.net

anonymous's picture

It is a tragedy that even mathematical genius has to write all subjects to get entry into a degree course.
Is there anything called open schooling?
Are we prepared to accept our child, if it deems fit to learn a subject or two of his choice, and just leave the rest?
How good will be his job prospects?

school management software's picture