In the two decades of my teaching and consultation career, whenever I have counselled parents or conducted seminars and workshops with them, I have invariably begun with: “Where do you see your children ten years from now?” And I have always been bombarded with answers containing this one very loaded adjective: Successful. All parents want to see their children as successful professionals, successful artists, and successful sportspersons—come what may. I find it appalling how not a single parent, in all these years, ever declared that they imagined their child would grow up to be “healthy”, “happy” or “resilient”, irrespective of their profession and the moolah they make annually.
Let’s face some harsh facts before taking this discussion further. One in four teenagers in India suffers from depression. Over the last five years, more than 40,000 students committed suicide in India. Last year, 8,492 students committed suicide. One student commits suicide every hour in India. Teenagers who experience cyberbullying are more likely to suffer from poor sleep, which in turn raises levels of depression, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo. The study surveyed more than 800 adolescents for sleep quality, cyber aggression, and depression, each phenomenon connected to the other. Cyber victimisation has emerged as a unique form of peer victimisation and a major mental health concern among teens who are digital natives. And yet, we keep telling ourselves that today’s teenagers are just fragile or obsessed with their looks—such blame games only making the diagnosis and treatment of teenage depression more challenging.
Covid-19 has further endangered the future of 600 million children in South Asia, according to UNICEF. In India, school closures have impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools and 28 million pre-school children in Anganwadi centres. The Childline India Helpline received almost 4.6 lakh calls in just 21 days around the beginning of the lockdown. There was a 50% increase in the number of calls pertaining to instances of child abuse. Nearly 10,000 of these calls were intervention cases which required Childline staff to reach the children in need of support. Of these, 30% of calls were related to escalation in violence, child sexual abuse, child marriage and child labour.
The lockdown and the consequent economic distress made children vulnerable to exploitation, sexual abuse, violence, child labour and trafficking. Being away from school has also disrupted their daily routine and support system outside their homes. Other factors such as staying indoors all day long and adapting to online classes have increased the sense of isolation among children, leading to anxiety and depression. An increased exposure to screens and to online abuse has also severely affected the mental health of adolescents. As of June 2019, only 40% of the population had access to the internet, making it extremely difficult for students in rural areas to join online classes, which only added further to their anxiety levels.
These statistics bring us face to face with some uncomfortable questions. What then is being successful? Does being successful in terms of examination results ensure the absence of defeat forever? Does success in terms of professional laurels mean the exclusion of failure altogether? Does success in terms of seemingly perfect relationships mean the complete absence of fear and insecurities? Does a great career mean a smooth ride throughout with no rough seas ever?
The answer—whether you like it or not—is that none of these are mutually exclusive. Success and failure are the two sides of the same coin. Therefore, we need to train our children to not hanker after a utopian world where only “success” exists. Rather, right from an early age, let them get acquainted to the thorns just as much as the roses. Let us teach children to deal with failure as a stepping stone to success and to handle success not as an end in itself. Let us not force them with unrealistic expectations and provide them the time and space to grow at their own pace. Let us enforce discipline by setting examples instead of instructing them. Let us encourage an atmosphere where disagreement and debate can happen without abuse and violence, without any shame or fear of being judged. Let us stop body-shaming ourselves and our children and take pride in the people we are. Let us promote healthy food habits, but also bond over a pizza and favourite TV show on the weekends.
A recent advertisement by a popular tech startup, which made news after it was acquired by an edu-tech giant, shows how with its advanced courses in coding, children as young as six years old will be able to create apps and bring about much-needed change, including solutions to complex problems like fixing the earth and environment. The company has also generated much controversy over fake claims of facilitating a kid who learnt coding with the firm and found a high paying job at Google. The company is also facing allegations of corporate surveillance, as a result of which, several of their videos have been taken down.
This enterprise is a minor embodiment of the present modernization project unleashed by corporate capitalism which aims at creating a technologically-empowered high-functioning population of children and enabling them to become high-earning teenagers, besides, of course, high expectations from their career trajectories as adults. What these corporate giants capitalise on is the modern parents’ dream of having such “tech-geniuses” with the lure of assured money and fame. In India, it is not uncommon to use “science and technology” as tranquilising shots for the universal anxiety of parents about the future of their kids. The hidden agenda amidst all of this which deserves our scrutiny is the dangerous mission of these edu-tech giants of corporatizing education and presenting the early learning of technology as palatable to both adults and children.
Can we really burden our children with the responsibility of finding solutions to problems that generations of modern adults have failed at? Is it right to lure such young minds with dreams of “greatness”? Yes, the future of a nation and its people depends on how its children are trained and taught, but does intelligence only restrict itself to the learning and application of mindless technology? In the absence of a proper humanitarian backing for education and technology, we find our computer algorithms to exhibit the same biases as human beings. As corporate capitalism takes over the world, ordinary people stand at serious risk of having their behavioural and psychological patterns exploited by corporate giants to benefit their scheme of making profits. We need to stop falling prey to these fads that are slow-poisoning our children into growing up too fast. Instead, let us think of why, in spite of all these gadgets, most of our children do not feel happy and secure. How can we dispel their insecurities? How can we extend genuine support and make them feel loved, irrespective of their academic and non-academic performance? How can their self esteem, and problem solving abilities be fortified?
Here, we may consider borrowing a few pages from the manuals of parents in countries which rank high on the index of the happiest children in the world, namely Finland and the Netherlands. Dutch parents choose schools which lay more stress on children imbibing social skills rather than over academic achievement. Dutch parents abstain from using cars and have their children bike all year round. Dutch parents also encourage their children to express their opinions and preferences and negotiate their case in a very democratic way from as early as the age of three. Meanwhile, Finnish children practise sisu, an attitude of not quitting when faced with a challenge, whether it is for putting together a difficult puzzle or resolving a dispute with another child. In Finland, toddlers also carry their own plates and cutlery to the dirty dish cart after eating meals. These are the ways in which they learn independence from a young age.
We don’t even need to go that far. If we take a stroll through our own history, we find that under the Gurukul system, all shishyas, irrespective of their socio-economic status, co-inhabited dormitories with basic but equal amenities throughout their student lives, and grew up learning not only academic and administrative skills, but also social and life skills, which made for holistic education. The system also taught them to nurture nature, look after the community, and manage all their daily chores independently. As a result, this system not only created more complete and confident individuals, ready to take on life under all circumstances, but also instilled a sense of discipline, communal responsibility, social equality and brotherhood among pupils drawn from different strata of society.
As parents, it is not only our duty to help our children grow with the right facilities and amenities, which we fiercely compete with other parents to provide our kids with, but also to help them grow with the right attitude. Most children, especially in urban areas, are growing up with a looming sense of ennui and a lack of direction. Everything, from gadgets to books to chores to relationships, becomes “boring” after the first test drive and it’s time for the next adventure, leading our children and young adults to precarious experiences like substance abuse, promiscuous relationships, multiple sexual partners, an over-the-edge style of living and so on. Besides that, there is a general sense of taking everything for granted as material things are more readily available to children today. From this stems an infectious trait of ingratitude towards health, opportunities, relationships and the environment. And when parents surrender to this attitude, they are not only pushing their children further towards a world of alienation, loneliness and misplaced goal posts, where the latest gadgets are their ambitions and social media profiles are friends, but also contributing heavily towards weakening a nation which needs its human resources to take her to newer heights tomorrow.
We need to work towards helping our children grow into industrious and patriotic individuals who can build a stronger, more vibrant and more inclusive nation, instead of turning into a brood of app-making clones pursuing only what is fashionable and monetarily gratifying. Why don’t we involve our children in nation-building activities like being a part of the army, police, hospitals, social welfare departments, flood relief operations, the spastic society, rural development centres, culture departments, tribal and minority development departments, women and child welfare departments and other such areas? It can do well to have children do at least six months or a year of mandatory hands-on service for any of these sectors where they stand to benefit from understanding the woes of the have-nots or their brethren who fight daily battles for their survival and identity. This would instil in the Gen Z some gratitude for the gifts they take for granted and often squander at the altar of misled fancies.
Education that does not build character is hardly worth its name and success that doesn’t teach you to handle failure isn’t worth pursuing. Success is not a skill you can acquire, it is a by-product. If life skills—just like technical skills—are soundly internalised, there is no reason why success can ever elude our children. And this success would be far more holistic and meaningful than scoring a 99.99 percentile in the classroom.
The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.
Dutch parents choose schools which lay more stress on children imbibing social skills rather than over academic achievement. Finnish children practise sisu, an attitude of not quitting when faced with a challenge, whether it is for putting together a difficult puzzle or resolving a dispute with another child. In Finland, toddlers also carry their own plates and cutlery to the dirty dish cart after eating meals. These are the ways in which they learn independence from a young age.
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WHY EXECUTIVE EDUCATION IS SO IMPORTANT FOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT AND CAREER GROWTH
A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) concluded that more than 50% of the Indian professionals will have to upskill themselves to match the changing dynamics of the industry. The major areas of progress include technical skills such as Big Data Analytics (BDA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with qualitative skills such as problem assessment, negotiations, and business communications.
Professionals, who demonstrate proven expertise in emerging technologies, while keeping up with the rapid evolutions in the field, are in growing demand. In such an environment, organisations are motivating their employees to re-skill themselves constantly so that their existing knowledge base does not become redundant. While freshers with management education enter the job market possessing updated managerial skills, it is becoming essential for the existing employees to bridge their knowledge-gap to compete with them and advance their careers.
WHAT IS AN EXECUTIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMME?
Top management schools in India and abroad have recognised the gap in the demands of the industry and the existing workforce. Therefore, they are curating short, but intensive courses that are aimed at helping working professionals to upskill themselves. These courses concern a diverse range of topics ranging from leadership programmes, negotiations, emerging technologies, strategising practices, among others. The rationale behind all these programmes is to enrich the existing skill sets of the working professionals and prepare them for the evolving market scenarios.
It is to be noted here that these executive programmes are distinct from regular management degree courses. They are professional development courses that usually conclude with a certification or a diploma on completion. The focus of the executive education programme is around case-solving and building on the core skills with practical industry scenarios.
WHY PROFESSIONALS SHOULD PURSUE THIS
Changing business scenarios, the world over demands a range of advanced skill sets for business professionals to stay ahead in the curve of competition. The impact of an executive education is not only to upgrade one’s resume but also ensure upgrading of core business skills that a professional must acquire.
A certification in a niche functional area with advanced knowledge garners the attention of top recruiters from reputed organisations. Furthermore, it strengthens the position of the individual in her/his existing organisation and also entitles her/him to promising opportunities for securing a more advanced role in the organisation. Additionally, an executive education broadens the perspectives of an individual and enhances her/his business vision. While pursuing these courses, professionals with diverse corporate experiences get to interact with others. This helps in gaining deeper insights about myriad domains in the market and exploring possibilities of growth in them. Collaborative projects and assignments constitute a significant part of such courses that serve as great team building and communication exercises.
Compared to full-time management programmes, an executive MBA programme does not require a professional to take a break in her/his career. These courses are designed as per the convenience of working professionals so that they can establish a convenient balance between their work and education. This also helps a working professional to apply the concepts she/he learns in the classrooms to practical real-life scenarios enabling her/him to receive prompt feedback about the usage of their upgraded skills, which facilitates deeper learning.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe disruptions in the business ecosystem. The market has faced dire consequences of such an unforeseen challenge. The rates of layoffs and company shutdowns have spiked up. While business experts and analysts continue to assess the consequences of these transitions, working professionals must upgrade themselves to stay relevant in a potentially difficult job market.
Pursuing an executive MBA programme is meant to equip working managers with the knowledge and advanced skills-set which will prepare them to survive through the toughest challenges they are likely to encounter in the post-pandemic era.
The writer is Dean (Academics) at FORE School of Management, New Delhi.
Who is a good teacher?
Education is a fundamental aspect in the development of any society. If the youth of a society is educated, it increases the chances of having a better tomorrow. Teachers provide that education which improves the quality of life and contributes to the shaping of both the individual and the society as a whole.
Teachers increase the productivity and creativity of students and, therefore, of future workers. When students are pushed to be creative and productive, they are more likely to be entrepreneurial and innovative, ultimately leading to the economic development of a country.
Children spend the maximum amount of time growing up with their teachers. History has shown us how good teachers have the wonderful ability to shape the leaders of the future. Good teachers can build positive and inspired societies, act as role models and push their students to try harder and live up to their true potential. Most of us has looked back on our formative years at one point and wondered, “What if that particular teacher had given up on me?”
Teachers thus give entire generations a purpose and set them off on the path to progress. All of us agree that teachers are important. We even celebrate Teachers’ Day in India. Yet, teaching is not seen as a desirable career or a passion!
“The B.Ed. has become a degree for marriage, not teaching,” the NCTE chairperson said to a leading daily in 2019. In such a situation, one must ask, are qualified teachers really ‘quality’ teachers? Are hiring and compensation policies that reward certain qualifications the equivalent of investing in enhancing the quality of teachers?
Many “qualified” teachers have the right degrees, yet lack in-depth knowledge of the subject they are supposedly proficient in. And a PhD should not mean that they stop learning about their subject as it develops over the years. For higher education and upper levels, teachers with mere bookish knowledge, who cannot apply that knowledge in real life, can be detrimental to students’ understanding of that subject. Hence, there is a need for them to be active participants in the dialogue and collaboration between academia and industry.
Good teachers are competent, proficient in the subject (or language) they teach, and hone the potential of their students. Teaching is a tough job, but it is one where you can make the most impact in another person’s life. Even though academic or professional excellence can be measured, the success of a teacher is more difficult to assess. Hopefully with the new NEP, India will get its act right in regulating quality education and educators and grow beyond the perfunctory tick-marks for “teacher’s qualification”.
QUALITIES OF A GOOD TEACHER
Like any other profession, teaching is highly demanding. It requires a high level of competence and a significant emotional quotient. Most successful teaching professionals have some common traits.
• Clear goals
Teachers, like any other industry professionals, need to have a plan for their consumers (in their case, students). With that as a guiding light, they need to have clear objectives and their teaching methodology should vary according to the students they deal with.
• A “don’t give up” attitude
Teachers with long-term objectives and a mission to prepare their students to face the world don’t give up easily. They understand that obstacles and setbacks are part of their job and navigate those challenges with determination.
• Faith in their students
Students need someone to believe in them. They need a wiser and older person to trust them and their efforts, set the bar high but create an environment where it is absolutely fine to fail.
Consistency is not to be confused with a “stuck-up” attitude. It means that a teacher does what they say they will, doesn’t change their rules based on their mood, and their students can rely on them when in need of guidance. Teachers who are stuck in outdated methods may boast of ‘consistency’, when in fact it is merely stubbornness.
WHAT THE WORLD SEEKS
The parents of this generation need to understand and accept the fact that teachers are not surrogate parents. Teachers groom subsequent generations, but don’t do ‘parenting’ on their behalf during school hours.
The world today needs knowledgeable teachers, but also individuals with a hunger to continuously learn, unlearn and relearn. Teachers today need to be inquisitive in order to teach the same subject every year but with better techniques and fresher material.
The teacher of this generation needs to be able to shift gears and be flexible when a lesson or teaching style isn’t working. For this, they also need to shed their biases and learn from their students, even as they teach them. They need to be better today than what they were yesterday. Merely presenting facts from Google is not teaching. All students today are digital natives and can do that job better.
Teachers have a larger responsibility to lead by example and demonstrate the values and behaviours they teach. For this, they must also practise humility when dealing with colleagues and learn constantly from every interaction with them. Along with this, they must rise above petty politicking and insecurities and believe in merit-based growth, where individuals are judged and rewarded on the basis of their performance and the value they add to the institution they are part of.
Let us accept that education is also a consumer service industry where teachers are also accountable for their performance and the results. The big question now is: do we have such good teachers?
The author is an independent markets commentator. The opinions expressed are personal.
Digital transformation & the hybrid model for education
A new teaching-learning environment has now been created that facilitates learning anytime, anywhere and as per one’s interest areas.
What is sweeping all sectors of society and economy at a rapid pace is digital transformation. The ease of access to information and the ever-increasing speed of transaction, along with the interactive nature of digital literacy, have made all cross sections of society adopt digital systems for their accelerated growth and outreach. We see this futuristic transformation most in the new-age children who are students as well as the teaching fraternity across ages, which is nothing short of the word ‘marvellous’. NEP 2020 marks a landmark roadmap in the country’s education system. Advocating a forward-thinking, cogent reform, NEP 2020 is a perfect blend of a need-based policy, innovative learning, cutting-edge research and entrepreneurial thinking, paving the way for a New India.
Education plays a key role in human development and it is the citizens that matter most during these unprecedented times that are driven by the innovation and creative genius of people who are taking up the challenge of becoming ‘creators’ instead of ‘workers’. The NEP 2020 brings about many changes that we have long been procrastinating about in terms of things that cried out for a change, like for example, digital innovation; entrepreneurial thinking; selection of subjects based on passion and strength rather than lack of choice—for a student who wants to study Chemistry and Biology without Physics (which the child may be weak in)—has not been possible so far; being forced to take the ‘next best stream’ if marks are low, and struggling with it thereafter for life, have been some of the core issues. Then there has been this tradition studying only for examinations to get a job, the choice of which has remained the same for decades: Medical, engineering or teaching.
One of the reasons things have been this way is because education in India had remained untouched by the disruptions of technology advancements for a long time. In a way, the Covid-19 came as a blessing in disguise for the education system at all levels. It made rapid adaptation of digital technologies for imparting online education and made people interact and express more easily online in the host of webinars, online conferences and seminars that have been organised during the ongoing Covid-19 times. While many have benefited greatly from these like the teaching community that has been able to attend training programmes on topics like online teaching, managing a class and best global teaching practices, there have been issues like fatigue in young learners and technological glitches that have at times created havoc and loss of time for many. Educational publishers have been partners in learning with all the stakeholders during a difficult time like this and have worked hand-in-hand with educational institutions, providing the best-in-class services in terms of digital content, animations, online workshops and webinars, as well as pan India contests for students digitally. Despite all of this, children miss school and being with friends and teachers. Naisha, a student of class 4, says, “I miss my friends and the circle time in school.”
The digital age, however, has its own challenges. Loss of privacy, data piracy, data theft, cybercrimes, and a colossal waste of time on social media and other digital apps that have raised issues relating to ethics and values of this digital age beyond the normal call for ethics and values in a civilised society. However, with one year gone by in the pandemic, 2021 seems to be better prepared in terms of dealing with digital technologies, innovative teaching-learning curve, hands-on learning through projects and teamwork, and others. Globally, people are also poised to take on the challenges like cybercrime, better use of social media time and space, along with online learning, which has actually been a boon in disguise. 2020 was an experimental year and the world didn’t realise what hit them; it took time for schools to develop the online teaching mode and for educators, parents and students to adapt to it. But what seemed like little triumph initially in terms of being able to do everything on the screen soon became a bane with children getting migraines, eye problems for staring at the screens for too long, as well like anxiety and stress due to odd timings and lack of physical activity, while educators and parents have experienced fatigue and anxiety due to being overworked with the pressures of being ‘online’ all the time.“I wear anti-glare spectacles for all my classes now and do yoga in the morning before starting my classes. I am also reading lots of books, painting, dancing and playing the guitar while cutting down on watching TV as well,” says Inayara, a student of class 6. “I used to get a lot of headaches and my eyes used to burn, but now I am better,” she adds.
What looked like a piece of cake initially in terms of working from home and having to just switch on a device, soon became a nightmare. Yes, the internet has been a real boon; without it, learning would have been completely lost this past year. However, it is a ‘Hybrid Model’ today that is the need of the hour—one that is a healthy mix of printed material like books, pen and paper along with the digital content. Another thing that has become increasingly important today as has co-curricular classes like art and craft, physical education, etc. Shammi Manik, CEO of a large educational publishing house says, “It is imperative for both schools and parents to ensure that blended learning with printed books and stationery, along with the digital content is consumed by students to get the balance right; one without the other may cause serious issues. The hybrid model is the way forward.”2020 has been both a challenge as well as a great learning curve for everyone across the globe, especially in the education space: for students to sit in front of a screen with little or no social interaction with friends, and for educators who have had to learn how to use many different tools for teaching, engaging as well as evaluating students. There is no doubt that publishers too have gone that extra mile to help facilitate all kinds of online teaching-learning experience for all three stakeholders through: students, educators and parents. Dr Vinod ‘Prasoon’ Chauhan, who is associated with NCERT, CBSE and ICSE, and is a poet and author of bestselling Hindi series like Saarthak, Unmesh and Udgham for K-8 says, “The Corona era has taught us a lot. If the technology had not supported us at this time, the teaching-learning process would certainly have been greatly affected. Therefore, there is no doubt that online classes have reduced the loss of studies to a great extent during this disaster, but it is also true that online classes cannot be considered as an alternative to offline classes. However, new methodology and tools like Hybrid Teaching, Blended Teaching are part of major discussions today and their imperative implementation are being appreciated in the changing era. Books equipped with authentic innovative measures, ideal teachers and their innovative uses, proper use of technical tools and an environment full of joy makes learning child-centered, comfortable, joyful and experiential.” Therefore, even though the online learning mode is being facilitated through tools like animations, test generators, online competitions, educational games and so on, there is no substitute for physical books and activities. Hybrid teaching-learning methodology is the way forward to facilitate more than just learning for examinations; it aids in overall understanding and in-depth knowledge.
A new teaching-learning environment has now been created that facilitates learning anytime, anywhere and as per one’s interest areas. Student-centric learning looks like they are slowly becoming a reality with digital systems information to learners at an affordable cost and across boundaries, but to make it truly viable, the print material is important, making one’s own notes is important and reading extensively is important. We still have a long way to go, but the best part is that with all that is available in terms of content—both online and offline by publishers—we can see a whole lot of innovation and usage in the education space for the session in 2021!
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS AT KISS: ANALYSIS, ADVOCACY AND ACTION FOR ACCELERATED ACHIEVEMENT
Since its inception in 1990s, KISS has been committed to the vision and practice of sustainable human development.
The unique model of KISS to eradicate poverty and hunger through education has transformed the lives of 1,50,000 indigenous people in Odisha and neighbouring states and contributed to nation building. The other factor responsible for the success of KISS has been its partnerships for people, prosperity and peace on the planet. It has been advocating and mobilising local and global actions on SDGs.
In February 2018 KISS organised two national-level capacity building workshops on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in partnership with the NITI Aayog, United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC), Bonn, Germany and United Nations Volunteers (UNV). This was the first high level event for KISS and NITI Aayog on SDGs in the country involving multiple stakeholders. Policymakers, administrators, planners, senior government officials representing 25 states of India, United Nations representatives, UN Volunteers, as well as many sustainable development advocates from within and outside the country converged at KISS, Bhubaneswar to discuss the importance of capacity building for localising the SDGs.
Inaugurating the event Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, said, “The government is committed to the SDGs and has launched many schemes in that line. Localisation of SDGs is a creative methodology to achieve the targets”. He pointed out the similarity between Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and Indian philosophy. He was right as the tradition of Sanatana Dharma (a way of life designed to best ensure the continuity of humanity on this earth) has been in action in India for centuries. Dharma or duty, ethics and religion in the modern sense as propagated by Mahatma Gandhi has been practised in India from Ancient times. Customising and aligning the SDGs with the rich tradition and philosophy of dharma will work for India and can be a game changer. KISS is a living example of this process in action.
A direct outcome of the capacity building workshop was the establishment of a new SDG Centre at KISS. The centre has been working on numerous SDG projects, events and campaigns. Amongst many two of the notable projects and two campaigns undertaken by KISS are set out below.
‘Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS)’ project: Awarded by Cambridge University, UK, the project is expected to strengthen alliances of experts from the UK and India in the domains of crop science, hydrology, social science and policy. This knowledge exchange partnership will
• Determine the requirements for advancing the Green Revolution in India
• Explain necessary policy agenda
• Develop a collaborative research programme focused on sustainable crop production and sustainable use of resources
‘Creative Hub for Innovation & Reciprocal Research & Action for Gender Equality (CHIRAG)’ project: KISS is implementing a GRTA-UK project on Sustainable Food Systems in partnership with University of East Anglia (UEA), PRADAN and Graam Vaani. It is an SDG initiative to address food and nutrition insecurity in India with gender equality through systemic and sustainable up-scaling of grassroots innovation. The 4C’s of the CHIRAG project for realising food and nutritional security include
• Community Led Platform: Build a gender sensitive virtual knowledge and innovation centre for collecting, dissipating and sharing information
• Creative Practice Hub: Use technology and traditional creative communication techniques to understand food and nutrition
• Curriculum Development: Develop an evidence-based curriculum and content on food and nutrition in order to replicate the knowledge for education and health initiatives
• Constituency Round Table: Conduct fact-based advocacy for political buy-in and financing for long term sustainability and institutional acceptance
International Youth Campaign on Kindness for the SDGs: KISS and KIIT Universities actively participated in the International Youth Campaign on Kindness for the SDGs, launched by UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) on October 2, 2018. At KISS and KIIT educational sessions on the SDGs for more than 10,000 young learners; cleanliness and sanitation drives; and social media engagements were organised during the campaign.
UN@75 Campaign at KISS during Covid-19:
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, KIIT and KISS partnered with UNV India, UN Women India, UNFPA India and Kalinga Fellowship and organised a week-long UN@75 Campaign from 18-24 October 2020. The on-line conversations during the campaign and field level advocacy included the following themes:
• Climate Change
The campaign amplified indigenous and youth voices while addressing the SDGs. Overall, the campaign was a success as it witnessed massive global participation from many countries including staff members from partnering UN agencies, non-government organisations and other national and international dignitaries. They interacted with senior government officials, planners, district level administrators, representatives from training institutions, researchers and civil society organisations working on SDGs in India to grassroots level social workers, indigenous leaders, and youth.
KISS has worked consistently with multiple stakeholders to advocate and mobilise local actions to fulfil global aspirations. The KISS model of localising the SDGs through community engagements, awareness generation, local level action and data collection is being studied nationally and internationally. It has become the go-to-place to witness all 17 SDGs in action. It is gradually transforming into a Global Hub where stakeholders from all sectors working towards the implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development converge for research, training, learning and development. It has started becoming the preferred partner for projects, campaigns and events on SDGs. Only time will tell if KISS SDG Centre served as the lighthouse that guided the Agenda 2030 ship to safe waters.
Indigenous knowledge and grit can change the lives of many and inspire millions. The stories of Kamala Pujari and Dr Achyuta Samanta, both from the state of Odisha, sets the tone for localising Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and importance of community engagement.
GROWING HR ROLE IN EMPLOYEE MOTIVATION AMID COVID TIMES
In today’s world, it has become more important than ever for organisations to hire the best available staff as well as find ways to keep them motivated and committed. Motivated employees bring in increased productivity by achieving higher levels of output. However, often at times, there is a lack of motivation and engagement in the workplace that makes employees feel demoralised and of less significance to the organisation. This acts as a significant contributor to emotional distress and burnout that eventually leads to a range of psychological disorders. A study by ASSOCHAM in April 2015 stated that nearly 42.5% of employees in private sectors suffered from general anxiety disorder or depression.
To promote psychological health through motivation and engagement in an organisation, the human resources (HR) role is critical. Their purpose is to promote self-confidence, creativity, autonomy, and initiative which are the essential characteristics to meet the internal demands of the organisation and streamline the productive flow for work performance.
In organisations, the role of the human resources is of strategic importance. With their activities, the human resources can increase motivation, thus increasing the quality of work-life balance for the employees. Simultaneously, the organisational climate improves that directly impacts productivity.
The HR manager needs to understand that motivation is directly proportional to the improvement of individual performance. While several employees across the globe can and do work while experiencing mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, with little impact on productivity but there are situations where an individual is not able to work because of the severity of the condition. In the majority of cases, supportive HR intervention can be the key to continued productivity.
STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE MOTIVATION AND PERFORMANCE
Since employee motivation and well-being have a strong influence on organisational health, financial success along with customer satisfaction and loyalty, HR managers can adopt certain strategies to put into practice in this context.
PLEASANT WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Professional well-being stems from healthy and pleasant working conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to provide employees with a comfortable, clean, and if possible, customised workspace. Other than that, flexible working hours or work from home opportunities (if compatible with the work activities) can also be offered that can increase motivation levels and lower work-related stress.
IDENTIFYING POSITIVE ATTITUDES
HR managers should value employees who have proactive and successful attitudes. Since autonomy introduces more dynamism and flexibility to work, this professional stance is presently in demand. Apart from that, passing on work-related compliments and positive feedback can go a long way in showing employees that positive attitudes never go unnoticed.
Innovation happens through creativity. Thus, human resources should always be open to adopting techniques that promote this process. Such processes shouldn’t focus on exaggerated structuring and instead adopt flexibility to thrive. The “Hackamonth” program implemented by Facebook allows employees to work with a different team and project for a month. Through this approach, integration between different teams is stimulated, and also the employees are able to develop new experiences and perspectives from their peers.
TRANSPARENT & OPEN COMMUNICATION CHANNELS
HR managers should always be open talks or discussions with employees regarding any issue. Anxieties, frustrations, and possible problems need to be heard and properly addressed to stall negative impacts on the organisation.
Workplace mental well-being is demonstrated when employees feel able to seek feedback, ask questions, report mistakes and problems, or propose some new idea without any fear of negative consequences to themselves, their career, or their job. A psychologically healthy and safe workplace actively promotes emotional well-being among every employee while taking all required steps to reduce threats to employee mental health.
The writer is global head for Mental Health at Round Glass, Managing Trustee Poddar Foundation.
Why career in big data analytics is a big deal in today’s world
Most organisations are turning to advanced analytics for business intelligence, data mining, predictive and prescriptive analytics.
The organisations World over are taking various measures for competitive advantage, remain relevant and for the survival. Those ranges from adopting various strategies and technologies. What we are seeing is there is larger role of technology in the businesses. Further, the technologies themselves are used as larger part of strategy as well the vehicle for an organisation’s competitiveness and survival.
Organisations are realising a great merit and value in the adoption of the digital technologies. There is spurt in the digitalisation of the organisation at various levels and speed both for large and small corporations. Main focus is on making business processes more transparent, efficient, controllable and automate. It has changed the entire ecosystem of production, processing, storage and distribution of both products and services. Big data analytics is the broader umbrella of technologies which not only provide framework and platform for the storage and processing of data from heterogeneous sources but also provide sophisticated algorithm based on machine learning and deep learning for analysing the data and derive insight from it.
VALUE OF BIG DATA ANALYTICS
Most organisations are turning to advanced analytics for business intelligence, data mining, predictive and prescriptive analytics. Some of the prominent sectors that are switching to analytics as a fundamental component of their functioning include finance, sales, marketing, supply chain logistics and shop floor among others.
The source of data are the business processes, customer and supplier engagement data, transaction data, as well as the millions of sensors in the form of Internet of Things (IoTs) and also the data stored on the Clouds. Big Data Analytics uses these data for the creating and running highly efficient and automated business processes. One of the important implications of use of big data analytics is to have data driven decision making and business processes across the hierarchy and breadth of businesses. Big data analytics is a key driver for innovation; more and more companies are using big data analytics to bring new innovative products and services by analysing the large and complex data. Consequently, there is a growing demand for professionals who are skilled in big data analytics. Also, there is a larger focus by big organisations to re-skill their workforce specially in the area of big data analytics.
Professionals with skills in big data analytics are in high demand and draw premium. Some of the key responsibilities is to obtain data from divergent sources, clean and pre-process the data, train machines to learn and do intelligent work based on the data, and deploy these machine learning models in the data driven processes. They together give us new insight for taking decision, data driven action and even help make prediction. For this they also need an Apache Hadoop framework for handling bid data set. They help create dash boards where data and tasks can be seen and visualised in real time. These are fundamental for any business and key for the business growth.
To become a big data specialist, a professional need a variety of skills including programming using Python or Scala, knowledge of statistics to use large data effectively and of course knowledge of machine learning algorithms to derive insight from the data. Professionals also need to have problem solving skills and critical thinking to take advantage of this larger information ecosystem.
BRIDGING THE SKILL GAP
As global markets are rapidly transitioning towards automation and computing, especially due to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), modern businesses are struggling to scout for skilled professionals who possess the relevant expertise. Therefore, the scope for a promising career opportunity in big data analytics is consistently expanding.
There is a significant deficit in the supply side of big data professionals as compared to its soaring demands in the current job market. This is a global trend, wherein despite the overwhelming requirements for this skill set, there is a huge number of unfulfilled positions due to the shortage of skilled data scientists.
If the case of the Indian market is considered in isolation, there is a challenging scarcity of big data professionals. Bridging this deficit can attract global organisations to outsource their work to Indian employees, a trend which is expected to grow by several folds in the coming years. Considering a career as a data scientist or analytics consultant, depending upon the niche of expertise is a great option for professionals who are seeking to create commendable impacts in the corporate scenario.
B-SCHOOLS’ ROLE IN BIG DATA
To effectively use big data skills in a business environment professional also need to have core business and management skills so that they can transform their business problem in a form which analytics platform can help solve. Since these skill sets come from variety of disciplines a systematic approach is definitely desired.
Leading B-schools around the world as well as in India are recognising the promising opportunities in the power of big data. They are curating their curriculum accordingly to impart key and relevant skills that foster the problem-solving skills and curiosity to the students and prepare them to become competent professionals in a data driven economy.
Management institutes are offering both introductory and advanced courses in Big Data depending on the role and responsibilities of the professionals and the career goal of the students. Coupled with their practical exposure to programing, platform and machine learning models and Automation, these B-schools are determined to produce multifaceted leaders of tomorrow.
Big data analytics may come across as an advanced framework for formulating strategies and data driven decision. However, it is an effective method to comprehend data and offer impactful solutions. Keeping this scenario in mind, it is safe to predict that the career possibilities in this field will skyrocket in the coming years.
Prof Lalit K. Jiwani is professor and area chair of Information Technology at FORE School of Management, New Delhi.
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