21 Oct 2021 11:49 IST

New normal will be more blended than the past for students

Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, Chennai.

Hindustan group Director says it offers scope for students to learn from a wider choice of courses during their career span.

Dr Anand Jacob Verghese, Director & CEO of the Chennai-based Hindustan Group of Institutions, took over the reins of the Group after the demise of his father in 2006. His father, Dr KCG Verghese, though born in an ordinary middle-class family in Kerala, rose to become a top-ranking educationist. Interestingly, way back in 1990, he started private airline Air Asiatic by providing services between Chennai - Mumbai; Cochin - Mumbai; and Kozhikode - Mumbai. The airline had 15 months of successful service till February 1992. He also set up Orient Flight School, one of the premier aviation training institutes in the country.

 

Dr Anand Jacob Verghese, Director & CEO, Hindustan Group of Institutions.

 

 

Anand Jacob has since then steered the group successfully and expanded the educational institutions to provide technical training and education not only to aspiring graduates in higher education but also by providing primary education; it has established three international schools in Chennai. In 2008, the Hindustan College of Engineering was granted University status by the Government. In this interview with BL on Campus, Verghese discusses the impact of the Covid pandemic on the education sector, on the group and the road ahead:

How did the pandemic impact the education sector?

India undertook a 60-week long nation-wide lockdown of all education institutions for fear of spread of the deadly novel Coronavirus. This hit India’s pre-primary and K-12 children the hardest. Various impact studies indicate that in some parts of the country, 70-80 per cent of the youngest children have not learned anything during the past 18 months, with millions of them in danger of forgetting what they learnt previously. Moreover, with the great majority of infants and children in 1.6 million government Anganwadis and 1.2 million government schools deprived of their free-of-charge in-school mid-day meal, the repercussions on the country’s human resource pool are likely to be devastating for years to come.

And, what about the impact on higher education?

The impact on India’s 42,343 undergrad colleges and 1,043 universities has been less catastrophic. The country’s estimated 38.5 million students in higher education tend to be more ICT-savvy and better prepared to learn from home, and the majority of public and private higher education institutions are relatively well-equipped to provide digital online education. The country’s 54 Central Government and 514 private universities have been able to substantially maintain teaching-learning continuity during the protracted pandemic crisis.

However, despite the online learning, students have suffered a lot, haven’t they?

The pandemic crisis was compounded by the dearth of digital resources in engineering education available to the students. This was aggravated by lack of digital devices such as laptops and tablets for the student population at affordable prices. The accessibility for students from remote locations was another major issue and conduct of assessments and exams online was a daunting task.

How did you manage to overcome the impact of the pandemic in your institution?

Hindustan had sufficient digital resources to handle the situation and move onto the digital learning platform with Learning Management Software (LMS) like ‘Moodle’ and then, subsequently, with support from edtechs like Coursera and EdX we provided courses for students to be actively engaged. Though the teaching faculty were quite displaced with most returning to their hometowns during the period, to ensure they were digitally equipped and ready was not a challenge since they were quite adept at using the technology like LMS long before this pandemic struck.

With the colleges opening, how do you see the road ahead?

Colleges and universities have to grapple with the fact of organising classes as per Covid protocols and also ensuring learning continuity is maintained. To update all resources to handle online and offline will be another challenge but it should be the norm going forward. The new normal will also be more blended than the past, giving scope for students to learn from a wider choice of courses during their career span with the infinite choices available.

How is your aviation academy doing now?

The aviation academy has been on the road to recovery especially with the new airlines Akasa Air and Jet Airways launching and existing carriers Air India, Indigo, Spicejet, Vistara, AirAsia and regional carriers returning to full operational capacity in coming months. Any downturn impacts the inflow of students, but it is always not easy to get qualified pilots when there is an uptake in the demand like we saw in the past. The dearth of pilots is likely to affect the expansion plans of airlines unless crew refresher and recurrent training is done to bring all of them back to the rosters.

How about the training you offer on drones?

Drone training or remote piloted aircraft course is offered by us. Though approved last year, certain components of the approval are not in place, and it will take a couple months to be in full swing. This is being enabled by the MoCA/ DGCA taking the required action to set right certain anomalies in the initial processes. It is only a matter of time to see lakhs of drones being operational for a plethora of uses.