Is there a Higher Education Crisis in India?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: It has something to do with social media. Longer answer: The authority of Lecturers, Readers and Professors is crumbling at the hands of social and mobile media.

Everywhere I’ve traveled in India over the past couple of months, I meet kids who nod and concede that they feel like their not learning in class. They’re embarrassed by this, guilty even. They want to continue to respect their faculty and be polite to them. They don’t want to rock any boats, but yes, they’re bored and fidgety in class. One group of kids told me they’re all on What’s App, and whenever there’s a particularly poor class or lecture underway it makes the rounds like a titter on all of the smartphones they always have with them and always have on. “We all get to know what each other is thinking in a class like that!”

Within the corridors and quadrangles of the campus the old forms of deference prevails. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full ma’am. The faculty feels free to order the students around, come to class, come to the lecture, the guest lecturer is here from Delhi. So on the surface of things, anyway, nothing has changed in the way institutions are run. Even though these worlds are now divided between a highly networked youth and a largely computer-illiterate gerontocracy. How long can this state of affairs go on?

The pace at which students want to learn and be engaged is being pretty much disregarded, the new possibilities of online and social media projects are not being explored, opportunities for peer-learning are being squandered, and social media skills are not even being seen as a pedagogic imperative.

Sooner or later the keys to the asylum must change hands.

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