Students are the main stakeholders of the education system: Dr. Sibaram Khara, Vice Chancellor, Sharda University

What Makes Dr. Sibaram Khara, Vice Chancellor, Sharda University THE WISE CHANCELLOR – An Exclusive Conversation of Insights and Inspiration with Chetan Sharma, Founder Edumate.tv

Today we have a very special and a very Wise Chancellor with us from Sharda University, Dr. Sibaram Khara. Thank you Sir for joining us. Such a pleasure to have you with us. Please talk us through this very intriguing and exceptional journey of Sharda University. You did so much in such little time. Why and how?

I joined Sharda University in the month of May 2019. And coming over here a lot of academic transformational approaches were adopted, and it has been very specific to the quality teaching and learning measures we took and first initiated the Outcome Based Education, the philosophy and the concepts and the process and the implementation plan and then educating the faculty members. Then we took up  Content delivery, took up the instruction how pedagogy can be very impactful fully embedded in the teaching and learning process and then we also implemented the Quality Monitoring System through I- Cloud software  so that right from the time table teaching lesson plan, then your assignment materials , quality checks, assessments, marks analysis, corrective excellence, slow and fast learner management,  online mentoring systems and then impact analysis.  And through this we actually ensured the teaching learning quality and also the teaching learning was aligned to the Outcome Based education.

You’ve done so much in so little time. It almost seems that you had anticipated the Corona coming. But tell us what was the most difficult part of these challenges and how did you overcome them?

When Covid 19 happened, it was in the mid of March. So, in the first week of March we actually finished our midterm examinations and almost 50- 60% syllabus was covered but just after the declaration of the midterm assessment result we were about to start with the third module of the syllabus. But suddenly, the lockdown happened and then students were moving from the campus to their home and then we had to continue the online teaching and learning activities. So, the most difficult from the beginning was to identify very useful tools for conducting online teaching and learning   and then engaging the students. We faced a lot of problems also in terms of the devises and bandwidth, of course from the students side but here very innovatively we planned that  we will go ahead with the time table, whatever is prepared and the students were advised to attend the classes online and come to the class virtually, attend the classes as per their time table. The faculty members were advised, and we have a very strong monitoring mechanism which we developed. So by the end of the day, by 8 pm every day we used to analyse the participation of the students, then materials were uploaded so our  Community Connect Program which is very unique in Sharda University, that in every semester   at least 6000 students will visit community, we arrange all facilities   to do this so that we make students, graduates who will be capable of showing concern towards the society and community and when they become leaders they will  really think societal views and take the appropriate actions  So for all the societies and communities the students visited they made online surveys and impacts that how these things are hampering  and then we had a virtual Laboratory system , of course  some laboratories were sticky. Where hardware is required, we converted into video based and then simulation-based experiments. And Projects also, except the hardware Projects all the Projects were converted to Survey based, case study based, and simulation based, analytical based, model based. With all these modes, the students sitting in their homes can continue   and they can learn as well and we revised our Evaluation process. But we did it very efficiently and we calculated the outcome also. Finally, we have declared all the results and we did all the things.

I have heard the word outcome, which is very close to your heart obviously. Not only in terms of education, but importantly, it’s been in what you do yourself. That is the characteristic of a great leader, it’s not actually what you say, you actually live what you say.  It’s commendable actually that you’ve taken holistic education to a different level.

We have adopted five villages. We made a special team in the University  and during Covid also the team used to visit the village, 5 nearby villages  and we have given them tremendous support in educating them , creating awareness and we studied the impact of the Covid 19 in their day to day life and prepared a 60 pages report of all those 5 villages and submitted to AGC and government . Our Chancellor is a very visionary person, his philosophy is really wonderful, and this is the 3rd year we are implementing Community Connect and this will really be helpful in making a self-reliant India. Because unless students know the problems of rural and the common people,  the products, demand, the markets and students can become anything,  the solution provider or can be an entrepreneur, it can be a nullest or even the project developer.

That was exactly what I was going to say that you have been the institution that represents the philosophy and thinking of the Prime Minister when he says we require a self-reliant India. That is exactly what I was going to say and thank you for saying that for me. And I admire, you know, just the vision of Sharda University.  I would like you to lay down the vision of Sharda University.

We have to create the knowledge no and the knowledge will be value based knowledge. So, Sharda University, since it’s a multidisciplinary university, we have Medicine, Dental Master, Health Science, Law, Business, Engineering, Architecture, Media, and Business almost all programs are there. So, value-based education, your knowledge, your wisdom and your ethics need to be embedded in your curriculum knowledge so that people should take the right understanding and right decisions for welfare of the society. That is the motto of our University.

Incredible, how you are looking beyond books. You are looking at character building and when you do character building with your students then you do character building for your nation. It’s really very inspiring Dr. Khara. All of us are all going through this crisis, it’s a new crisis, it’s unprecedented. And whenever you are hit with something new obviously there will be debate, there will be discussions, there will be unprecedented in the way you got to behave and act. In a scenario like that we have seen a lot of decisions  coming from the government , the Supreme Court and a lot of opposition from parents, from society, from teachers whether it is  for scrapping examinations, whether it is   restarting the institutions, whether it is payment of fee or it is a reduction in terms of course curriculum. Is there anything special that you would like to opine on?

 First of all, one thing is that teaching, learning and curriculum needs to go ahead uninterrupted and seamlessly. So, that’s why a lot of guidelines are coming but guidelines are always advisory in nature and rather   than regulations. You see at this point, for the government and universities, it is difficult to regulate anything or to make fixed decisions. We have Covid Cell and we have also revised a lot of decisions because the situation is changing day by day so always confusions are there and it is very obvious because the situation is such that no solution can satisfy the teachers community as well as the students.

At some stage Dr. Khara we have to get over it. Confusion cannot help anybody. Confusion is conflicting. There has to be some decision taken and everybody has to respect it and move ahead with it. That’s the way forward. I mean good, bad or ugly they are bound to be ramifications of these decisions.

Yes.  In the University we have taken decisions and we have conducted examinations for the Final Year. Other Year students we have evaluated. We have given proper notice so for our University there are no such academic related conflicts. We have completed successfully, and results are published also.

A trait of your wonderful leadership and that is efficiency and being clear and forthright.  Thank you for that and thank you for bringing that up. Now you mentioned the word online.  You also mentioned the word Community Connect, from what I infer is that a large proportion of your student base will also be from the rural areas also, I presume. And if that be the case, the single most sinister threat which could divide this country is the digital divide. How concerning is that for you?

From practical experience, we have students from Nepal, we have students from interior parts of Bihar and Kashmir and many other parts of India. During the online classes we have seen that there is digital division. Bandwidth, you know, is the most important dividing factor here. And then your devices. Mostly we have seen that students are participating in events through smart phones. So all the students cannot have the laptops and then you have to do certain kinds of solutions and assignments and then participate in a proper manner for examinations, for online tests. And then bandwidth. So, there is a division, I think, and this thing should be patched up and a solution has to be provided.   And I think the government is taking initiative. Unless we give connectivity to all the education seekers and specifically the rural area, then you are actually by only opening the regulation of distance learning. If the facility is there but connectivity is not there, then probably we are not reaching the education to the people. But if we are not making any forum open for the student, how will the student participate?

Well, I’ve observed a lot of traits of leadership and one of them of course is how you have thought through the entire process. You have all the traits of a great leader and of course also not only just of anticipation but of efficient implementation. That makes me a little more intrigued about Dr. Khara. What is the unique proposition of Dr. Khara? Talk to us through Dr. Sibaram Khara’s career so far. And inspire us

Oh Yes. Initially I was in industry and then I joined academics in the last 20 years. In my academic career I worked passionately. Work is my passion. I love to work. So, there is a difference. And in education I always think that instead of taking the usual things as usual, that is always there, what next innovative way it can be done. So, I always think ahead what innovations can be done in the system and then once you think that a leader has to be very hard working as well. So, by doing this my research as well as my administrative career is good and before this, I have been with VIT, University, Vellore where I have really done good there. And then I moved to Galgotia University where from the beginning itself I was Pro Vice Chancellor there. And that is the University from where from scratch I developed everything, all academic best practices and I was the front liners in implementing the Outcome Education. Galgotia University is the first university. And then we were involved in MBA also. And then coming here, it is a good university, is multidisciplinary, has wonderful infrastructure and there is always scope of improvement anywhere. So, with this leadership we are thinking that we have to improve quality, research and come forward and be true to ourselves and let us see. Suddenly we will transform.

Wonderful! And that’s again a very typical trait of a great leader. The quest for learning and the quest for improvement.  And just understanding the limitations of complacency. I think that’s quite beautifully put. Now, when you talk about looking ahead Dr. Khara. The ahead seems very uncertain. And the uncertainty has been thrown across the entire ecosphere of education. The parent, the student, the teacher and even your fellow Vice Chancellors. What would be your advice to each of these?

Students are the main stakeholders of any of the education systems. To have the stakeholders in the University, the University or any education institution have the reason that how he can make a preferred destination for the admission seekers or the students. In any university we have to prove to ourselves the quality education and then placements and research and other things so that you prove the quality so that somebody will prefer that yes, I will take admission here. That means that any education organisation needs to have this very authentic and honest quality initiative because you have to sustain whatever you achieve. So that’s the one message for the education institutions. And it is for the students and parents to decide which stream they will study. So, in the University they have to choose multidisciplinary and opportunities where an engineer can take engineering law and business can take medical management. So, a liberal and multidisciplinary approach is very important to give any solutions for society.  For parents also, the capability of how much they can afford is there, but better education is always required. They have to see  a few things also before they take admission, all this infrastructure facilities, laboratories, faculty strength  and then your facilities, the research facilities , project facilities, multidisciplinary scope and many other aspects, whether it is there and where better education and  better scope id there you take the decision for  admission of your wards.

Thank you for your incredible guide and for opening up our minds and for infusing a sense of lateral thinking. Your pearls of wisdom in terms of your advice, truly make you The Wise Chancellor.

You are doing a wonderful job and making contributions to society by bringing the experts. So, you are presenting, through the mouth of all the visionary people, useful information thereby contributing   to society specifically in the field of education. It’s a great job and it’s a kind of a great service to the society, specifically to education. I admire this.

 

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