Collaboration in education

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."

About the author

Aseem Sharma - Aseem is a graduate of Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Center, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo, Canada. He also holds a masters in computers application from Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab, India. On Opensource.com, he serves as an author. He also blogs at http://aseemsharma.info/.