Debajyoti Goswami & Dr ( Prof.) Dhiraj Bora
(The writers can be reached at Assam Science and Technology University)
Modern Indian higher education is maturing by a total of 903 universities/institutions, 37,977 affiliated colleges, 1,550 constituent colleges, 187 PG/off-campus Centres and 1298 reorganized centres and 10,011 standalone institutions. Quality assurance in higher education is today the top priority of the policy agenda. Post-secondary education needs to making students’ future-ready with skill development to enter a more complex and independent world. In order to strengthen the quality improvements in higher education, the UGC has undertaken three initiatives like regulatory initiatives, academic and research initiatives and digital initiatives. On April 18, 2018, ‘the Study in India’ programme for admission was introduced.
The misnomer of the north-eastern region with the statement that the key performance indicator of higher educational system scenario is bottom-line of all India profile should be corrected. The present status of higher education of the north-eastern states is under a development process to achieve the national and international peers. Moreover, it is felt that regional higher education sector is neglected by the State as well as national renowned industry on many occasions. In reality, in a vast nation like India, public funding has its own limitation. Public funding cannot keep pace with rapidly rising costs of higher education. Governments of the states have not enough jobs to accommodate graduates.
“Access, equity, quality and opportunity” must be the main motto of the present education system. Based on these, for making faculty and present students’ future-ready, education must be nurtured by the supply of quality of teachers and pedagogy, expanding “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)” and improving life skill of students.
An initiative was launched in September, 2014 towards making India an important investment destination and global hub for manufacturing, design and innovation. Actually making India programme is based on four pillars namely new processes, new infrastructure, new sector and new mindset. All these four pillars are based on access, equity, quality and opportunity in the education of the country. Present education syllabi must encompass skill development for the courses offered by the higher leaning institutions. Therefore, the country tried to carry a flagship programme called startup India with a view to building robust startup ecosystem and transforming India in to a country of job creator instead of job seekers. As on 31st March 2019, there are 17,390 startup across 499 districts in 29 states and six union territories. An employment data of 1,77 ,116 jobs has been reported by 15,478 startups with an average number of 11 employees per startup. The spirit of the young trucks to the skill development can be increased by setting up incubation centres in higher education sector and setting up of the tinkering laboratory at school-level education. The Government of India has already set up Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) in private sector. Thirty-one AICs have been funded with a total sanction of Rs 144.75 crore and disbursal of Rs 57.68 crore. In the meantime, a total of 5,441 schools have been selected for establishing Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs). The Government of India is mandated to set up 15 startup centres and 15 technology business incubators through the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Research Parks is to propel successful innovation through incubation and joint Research and Development (R&D) efforts between academia and industry. Under Startup India 8 Research Parks are being setup. In Assam, at IIT Guwahati, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is establishing such Research Parks. Who will contribute to these platforms and how can these be achieved? The simple answer is that our students of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and mathematics). The platform is participation in a hackathon. A hackathon is usually a day-long (can be 36 hours, 48 hours, etc.) coding competition where software programmers, developers, designers, and others come together to build and design something. It is a nationwide initiative to provide students a platform to solve some of pressing problems we face in our daily lives, and thus inculcate a culture of product innovation and a mindset of problem-solving. Hackathons help participants coding skills to work. Solve interesting business problems and real-world challenges to harness creativity & expertise of students, build funnel for ‘Startup India’ campaign, crowd source solutions for improving governance as well as quality of life and provide opportunity to citizens to provide innovative solutions to India’s daunting problems. Participating students must keep in mind those students given free food, free swag scope for meeting new people, scope for meeting recruiters, can help land an interview for job opportunities and to learn from the experts. In Hackathons, by analyzing ministry concerned’s problem, the exact problems are being tried to resolve with expected outcomes, etc.
The Startup India Yatra is a platform which aims to help entrepreneurs (especially from non-metropolitan cities) realize their startup dream. Unfortunately, comparing with the all India profile of Startup India Yatra, North-eastern states participate very meagerly in terms of number of districts covered, total individuals outreached, total number of institutions covered and total number of incubation offered. In this concern, all the Universities with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics background should pay an integrated effort to increase the states’ Startup Ranking by holding hackathons in the Northeast. The whole effort should surely accommodate capacity development of students to the industries with the spirit of cooperative federalism in the northeastern states. It will make awareness for skill development mission of India. The Northeast hackathon should be based on the current scenario of startup ecosystem or problem-solving atmosphere. It will take time for organizing in the same structure of MIT Boston, USA. The Northeast ecosystem needs to be in the form of a bplan where teams are given problem statements in advance rather than 48 hours of the event. The coding spirit of software from the Silicon Valley will take its time to reach Guwahati through Bangalore which is the hub of software or hardware. This is important that competitions are organized among the participants in the ecosystem and then this Hackathon will pave the way for competitions similar to Silicon Valley of the USA to follow the west in the world of AI and block chain and startups.
With an idealistic synergy of Union government, the first edition of hackathon, was organized at Assam Science and Technology University. The efforts were initiated to identify the best talents across the Engineering Colleges within Assam. The competition was organized on 27th October, 2018 for all the engineering students of Assam studying in any semester. The hachathon asked for innovative ideas like traditional methods of crop cultivation with prime importance on ploughing, seed sowing and watering; upgrading traditional biomass cooking stove to reduce the health risk of household as well as upgradation of water harvesting mechanism for areas with lower water table in Guwahati.
With this example of a holistic approach, let all the universities of the north-eastern states be united and build a strong consortium for joining in the race of Startup India Yatra.