Optimism/Pessimism: The SeeSaw of Higher Education in India

As I continue my trainings on “Student Centered Learning”, I find myself swaying in many directions.  Some days I’m totally optimistic as I connect and listen and share with young Indian faculty, who are so bright, enthusiastic, and dedicated to their work as teachers.  They are very open to new ideas, so hungry for real learning in their classrooms, and full of energy.  Many are tech-savvy and understand the importance of using technology.  And all seem really passionate about equality and justice, and their role in developing the talents of their very heterogeneous student groups.

Then I’m depressed and overwhelmed!  The Indian higher education system is so rigid.  Classes are huge, classroom spaces are small, and everyone has been brought up in a system dominated by lecture, memorization and exams.  The faculty themselves complain about the environment and feel quite helpless to change this state-dominated, antiquated system.  Many of the colleges lack basic technology infrastructure- most classrooms don’t have proper internet connections and have marginally functional projection systems.  What business do I have encouraging these hard working teachers to adopt totally new methods in a system that encourages the opposite, that puts up roadblocks at every turn?

And then the next day I’m excited again!  I can sense that I am making a difference as I watch these folks talk and interact and learn from each other, share ideas, and write lesson plans. My training a few days at a women’s college was again so inspiring- watch these lovely, bright young faculty share lesson plans with each other incorporating new activities into their classroom plans.

How does change happen?  From the grassroots or from above, or both?  India’s institutional systems seem so rigid- perhaps there will be a very slow movement from India’s faculty or even the corporate sector to improve classroom pedagogy.  I’ll be offering several Trainers Programs in March- I hope to leave behind a cadre of skilled trainers who can come back to their departments and carry on the mission of “student centered learning”.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Adele Strasser says:

    So encouraging just to see them giving voice to their own thinking/creativity with each other face to face. Hopefully they are able to give voice to those who administer their work environment.


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