Chairman, JK group of Education Institutions
An alumnus of Kanpur University, Abhishek Singhania is chairman of the JK Group of Education Institutions comprising four schools including the top-ranked Sir Padampat Singhania Education Centre, Kanpur, Sir Padampat Singhania School, Kota, JK Business School, Gurgaon and Sir Padampat Singhania University, Udaipur. Singhania is also co-founder and director of JK Technosoft Ltd and head, corporate affairs, JK Cement — constituent companies of the family-owned JK Organisation (estb.1918), a $4 billion (Rs.30,000 crore) industrial conglomerate.
The Covid-19 crisis has majorly disrupted the education system. How has the JK Group of education institutions responded to this challenge?
Fortunately, our schools began investing in online education two years ago. Therefore, when the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown forced closure of education institutions, our transition to online teaching-learning was smooth. Our digital infrastructure and content was ready and teachers and students were well-prepared to adapt to virtual education. E-learning in our schools is not limited to academics — it covers co-curricular education such as dance, music, arts and crafts, yoga, physical fitness and sports.
What are the major challenges confronting Indian education in the new Covid-19 era?
The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated livelihoods in 198 countries and disrupted the schooling of 1.6 billion children around the world. I believe the major challenge confronting Indian education is the sudden and unplanned migration to online teaching-learning. Indian students and teachers are accustomed to the conventional model, and are hence unprepared for this transition. Poor Internet connectivity is also a major issue in some urban and most rural areas.
Several state governments have issued fees waiver/deferment circulars to private school managements. What’s your comment?
The government has taken a compassionate view of the pandemic which has destroyed livelihoods and therefore issued these fees deferment circulars. We have also restructured our policies to give parents maximum flexibility to pay fee either monthly or quarterly. Moreover, there will be no fee increase in our institutions and no student will be deprived of education because of failure to pay tuition fees.
What are your Top 3 proposals for reviving and reforming K-12 education in India?
Covid-19 is here to stay and the education system will have to adapt to this new normal. My Top 3 proposals:
• NCERT should focus on creating K-12 education content and pedagogies which can be delivered in the blended online/offline modes. Blended learning is the future of education
• Syllabuses of K-12 and higher education institutions in India are not in sync with industry needs. Revamp syllabuses and align them with industry requirements to boost graduate employability
• The Covid-19 pandemic may result in closure of government and private schools especially in rural areas. The government should bail out these schools. It should also launch a parent education campaign to encourage them to send children to school post-Covid.
There will be a lot of uncertainty to manage over the next two years. Therefore, expansion will take a back seat. Instead, we intend to focus on improving all aspects of education delivery in the post-Covid era, especially by building a digital knowledge repository, emphasising personality and character development and boosting sports infrastructure.