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Why France remains the best destination for Indian Students amid the COVID crisis

I strongly believe that this is the perfect time for students to invest in higher education with the global economy staring at recession in its face

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The global pandemic has not been able to deter Indian students from their pursuit of higher education in international universities as would the quick transition from campus-based learning to e-learning practices suggest.

Though student mobility in the emerging situation is likely to change and as European countries and USA try to trace their feet back to normalcy, global universities have learnt to adapt to the dynamic situation, fully aware that sooner than later, students would flock back to the campuses while the current scenario demands that they stay on course with an evolved online learning process as well as coping mechanism.

The Ministry of External Affairs statistics put the number of Indians studying abroad at over 7.5 lakh in 2018 and latest studies show that the global health crisis notwithstanding, majority of those who had planned higher education abroad would want to continue because international universities have been expeditious in enhancing healthy safety frameworks for students while putting in place stronger support systems and incentives at the same time.

According to a study by Leverage Edu, a leading edu-tech platform, at least 76 percent students initially said they planned to continue with their education abroad for the September and January dates. When they were informed of the contingency plans created by global educational institutions, the number jumped to 91 percent.

In Europe, France remains among the top destinations for Indian students because of the sheer quality of education, infrastructure, safety as well as multi-faceted cultural life the country presents

What is more encouraging is that more than 70 percent students repose their faith in international healthcare systems. The latest Indian Students Mobility Report 2020 by QS-I.GAUAGE says Indian students are very particular about education when they opt to study overseas. For them, factors like employability, reputation as well as university life merit more attention.

In Europe, France remains among the top destinations for Indian students because of the sheer quality of education, infrastructure, safety as well as multi-faceted cultural life the country presents. It is turning the global health crisis into opportunities and is fully geared to usher in the academic year for new students through virtual classrooms.

Image: Pixabay

It has also announced augmentation of the proportion of scholarships for the academic year by 50 percent which translates to Rs 10 crore (1.3 million US dollars). The scholarships will be awarded regardless of whether a student starts the semester in India or France, the French embassy has said.

That France has been a leader in extending support to foreign students’ community through visas and scholarships amid the pandemic crisis comes as a confidence booster for Indian students who continue to be greeted by the country.

A triple accredited B-School, emlyon business school was among the first international institutions in France to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with establishment of a Covid19 Task Force to address three key concerns – Security, Continuity and Quality. Health safety of students, faculties and stakeholders across the campuses was top on the checklist and the school acted rather swiftly by putting in place social distancing protocols.

Image: Pixabay

That said, the B-School never lost sight of the emerging scenario which necessitated continuity of academic process for the students. Moving 100 percent of its classes online was the first step towards creating an uninterrupted learning platform. It received a big vote of confidence from 98 percent students who were satisfied with the quality of learning materials and pedagogy.

The global VUCA situation taking a toll on the mental health of the students, the school also released and emergency fund of 200,000 K€ (the biggest amount by any B-School in France) to help students cope with the new financial burden; and the wellness center launched e few years ago geared up as part of the school’s commitment to a holistic growth and development of its stakeholders.

The question is, should the virus petrify us or electrify us? This is exactly the time to learn and develop skills for a new future

In India, emlyon business school also launched a special “Care, Share and Dare” webinar series, to reach out to students planning for admissions this academic season and address their concerns. The COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in a complex situation for everyone. The students who are about to begin their courses are looking for answers regarding the protocols to be followed and how things will shape up in the coming weeks and months.

The question is, should the virus petrify us or electrify us? This is exactly the time to learn and develop skills for a new future. This crisis has turned every business model of the past on its head and has propelled us towards a more digitized future.

I strongly believe that this is the perfect time for students to invest in higher education with the global economy staring at recession in its face.

As of now the intake, in September, is very much on the table and we are helping with clarifications about visa and travel. We want to offer the best student experience at any given time. We are closely monitoring the evolution with flexibility is at the core of the process. 

Depending on the programs, options range from temporary online classes, Glocal phygital pre-intakes, January in-person classes or 2021 deferment. We do not want to add additional stress to an already uncertain situation; we are in this together.

EP SPECIALS

How can Indian language assessment tests overcome existing issues to meet international standards 

Tests in India need to benchmark themselves against internationally accepted tests so that individuals can find better career opportunities

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Language assessment tests in India suffer from ineffective infrastructure, high costs and many other issues. To judge test takers accurately, it is important to have accurate, unbiased tests. A comprehensive assessment of language skills makes the hiring process smoother. Assessment tests in India can overcome existing issues in the following ways:

Automated testing – ִּIntegrating technology in language testing offers convenience to test takers, and accurate results to the employers. Artificial intelligence offers less bias and quicker results. In addition, technology allows verified results even for remote users, and can provide high levels of test security. Without adequate technological advancements, the assessment process will continue to be tedious and inaccurate.

Holistic approach – Language proficiency includes multiple language modalities – speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Each of these four skills comprises several sub-skills which contribute to language proficiency. The tests must evaluate all these with some depth to accurately provide full picture of an individual’s language proficiency level. Many tests fail to meet the needs of employers because they focus on a limited subset of language skills. To combat this, tests in India must take a holistic approach towards language proficiency.  

Internationally recognized standards – Tests in India need to benchmark themselves against internationally accepted tests so that individuals can find better career opportunities across the globe and companies can identify workers who can communicate with speakers of other languages. The use of tests with different rating scales leads to confusion and lack of testing transparency. Use of an internationally accepted standard will make sure that the test-takers can take advantage of opportunities abroad with test results that are accepted internationally, and companies can understand more clearly whether their potential hires will be able to do the job. 

One of the major pitfalls of language assessment tests currently available in India is their inherent bias to accents

Widespread accessibility – During the pandemic, many workplace and academic institutions pivoted to an online or a hybrid model. While many sectors adapted to this change, the assessment sector in India is still operating in the old way. Test takers are required to travel to designated centres on specified dates. To tackle this issue, the existing tests must allow test-takers to take the tests online and at a time of their choosing. This increases job access to those in rural areas as well. Proper proctoring needs to be in place to ensure no one cheats during these online tests.  Technology based anti-cheating solutions enable remote testing while ensuring authentic results.

Accent agnostic – One of the major pitfalls of language assessment tests currently available in India is their inherent bias to accents. India is a nation with varied dialects and accents. To assess language proficiency comprehensively and objectively, tests need to be accent agnostic. This ensures that the test takers are assessed on their actual language skills and not their accents.  

All of these features will help the Indian language testing sector to meet international standards. The Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) lists assessments such as Speaknow, Learning Matters, and Progos along with others on their website as those meeting these standards.

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EP SPECIALS

A Mother Goddess

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Am a Blessed Soul, my Ammaa !
Am not lonely, Mother Dear
Never lonely from the beginning
Mummy ever with me always
From my first breath onwards
Ever since stepping In here
First cries to beaming smiles
Birth to birth and rebirths
Life to live and living Alive
Feeding strength always as own
Feeling lively from umbilical cord
Musical ways Of Mother Nature 
Chords Of contentment and pride
Notes Of love forever required
Am a blessed soul my Ammaa
Am not lonely Mother Dear ..!

Ammaa, you inculcated my character
That all women are God’s Own
Mothers be God’s own particles
Mums,the sufferers Of man’s identity
Every woman, a Mother-Goddess!
So God be present everywhere
A forever ally Oh Mom
Praying forever you are Omniscient –
So, none preys upon righteous me ..
No stronger bond there is ;
No emotion simply as divine;
No more natural a bondage ;
Source of sustenance in adversities ;
All pain swallowed in love;
Am a blessed soul my Ammaa;
Am not lonely Mother Dear …!

My silent protector par excellence
Shield of Nature forever motherly
Shelter from all woeful aches
All shocks cushioned ever happily
Heaven on Earth – your Noble Heart
God in person – It’s You  Ammaa..!
Godliness in action – your care
Religion in display – all motherliness
Beginning of growth – you Alone
Drinker of all my tears , Mother Dear
Epitome of nobility  – only motherhood
Joyous creation of almighty God
Sacred bond cast upon us
Bound In love of a Mother
Am a blessed soul, my Ammaa
Am Not Lonely Mother Dear..!

Mother dearest  : light of love
Mother sweetest : beacon of hopes
Mother mightiest : strength of lives
Mother noblest : source of confidence
Mother ablest : supreme God’s Presence
Mother, Goddess incarnate , Amma Dear
My Mother dearest – devoted , dedicated
committed, exalted, exemplary – constant, forever Love alone
Mother always endearing – nonstop,endlessly
Alpha to omega – infinitely adorable
Are you alike in all generarions?
Aren’t you awake in whole humanity?
Oh Mother Divine, bless all world
Aren’t all creatures blessed alike?
Oh Mother Supreme , Bless Mothers
Am a blessed soul, my  Ammaa Dear..!

[ From ‘Chasing a Shadow’ by Pamarty VenkataRamana ]

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EP SPECIALS

Teachers and Parents as Role Models for Students – Why Actions must replace just theory

School wasn’t just a platform for learning (nor it is even today) but was a place that students looked forward to going every day, with cheer

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The moment a question during a lecture or discussion on Role Models is asked, especially to school students, answers of different types crop up, possibly based on their thought process and the traits they hold close to their heart.

We have been promoting the idea of Role Models in life, to make sure, at least for practical purposes, that students think of or emulate someone for whom they have a high level of regard or respect in life and also those that align with their own frame of mind.

He or she could be anyone-from sportsperson to businessman, from scientist to movie star.

One of the striking aspects these days is that the number which quotes the names of teachers or parents is diminishing. This is in contrast to the earlier times when both teachers and parents were among the favourites to be considered as Role Models.

So, a Ronaldo, a Mohanlal, Dr.APJ or a Bill Gates are more common answers.

What then, has been the reason for a change?

Predominantly and predictably, technology has played a major role in this change and so have social media. EASY access to information and the glorification of many characters including celebrities from various fields through umpteen channels and other platforms has possibly been one of the reasons. Added to this are the marketing campaigns, brand endorsements, stage shows, writeups and so on and so forth, available just by sliding a finger on hand held devices.

An essay on, say, Prof. C.V Raman or Srinivasa Ramanujan was an arduous task then, that required flipping through books or pages of printed matter. We had to depend on teachers or parents to get more information about them. We looked up to them for inputs thus forming a different impression about their level of awareness. The same could be done with effortless ease today, thanks to anything and everything that is available online or in the Cloud.

While we had relatively fewer modes of entertainment then- the cinema, or a restaurant, park or an outing or social visits and of course much more of play- teachers and parents gave us frequent doses of knowledge by mixing them with classes or through bedtime stories and during the ‘family time’.

There was much for us to learn from them as the time spent together was qualitative in nature and openness was obvious.

We saw in many or most of our teachers, a value that could be hardly substituted by anything else and looked forward to their sessions as they taught from the heart and not from the books alone. They were assumed to be power houses of knowledge and looking back, I for sure, on a personal note, could say that without a second thought.

Value Education which is separated today, was an integral part of their lesson plan, be it Hindi or Mathematics. Their experience, passion, commitment and their roles as mentors played a significant part in this change among students, not to forget THE FREEDOM THAT PARENTS GAVE TEACHERS IN DECIDING AND EXECUTING WHATEVER WAS BEFITTING. Even the mention of parents being called to the school was enough to send chills down the spines of students.

School wasn’t just a platform for learning (nor it is even today) but was a place that students looked forward to going every day, with cheer. It was a like a get together to learn life skills along with lessons, most of which aren’t very different today either. Naturality was evident as technology or gadgets weren’t the topics of discussion, nor were Facebook or Instagram posts or likes. Friends laughed their heart out through the common things. There was much fun and play. Teachers had absolute control.

At home, both parents weren’t working. As children, we knew that money never came easily as it does today. Pocket money couldn’t be dreamt of, leave alone heard about. We saw the struggles of parents; we didn’t dare question them. We didn’t have the luxury of selection of many things, but were happy about what they chose or bought for us.  Somewhere, we had this feeling that there were pairs of eyes constantly watching and guiding us, wherever we went.

There was an invisible guideline on what we were supposed to do

Connection was real, not virtual. Lack of time was never discussed. There was better communication, more time for each other and together. An impact was created, gradually.

There was an invisible guideline on what we were supposed to do.

Times have changed, they have to. A new world driven by technology is already visible. Sadly, there is also cut throat competition that is mostly unhealthy and thus follows a mad rush to be on top, just academically, more than anything else. Money has lost value and spending for more than what is required has gone up. A majority of children has the impression that parents have enough with them. Parents too go beyond means to provide the perceptible best for their children.

On the contrary, what has to be more evident is the foundation that existed earlier, one that was strong morally and ethically, without more of monetary considerations. Learning the hard way was natural for most of the students themselves.

While a majority of the current generation of teachers and parents is definitely knowledgeable and is tech savvy, it would have this rather sensitive and difficult task of making an impact on a student community that is only just short of gadget addiction, in keeping with the times. Elders too seem to be as affected by this, as their children.

Also to be understood is that the pressure on parents and teachers today is more than what it used to be long back, in the wake of a massive shift- culturally, economically, technologically and emotionally.

Practicing what is preached, supporting and guiding children to explore themselves, nurturing their talents and leading by example could put parents back on track to be their ideal Role Models.

Teachers on the other hand need to empathize with children, lift the ordinary ones to the higher slots, create a level playing field and an equal opportunity environment for all of them to get exposed, without bias. Most importantly passion needs to be a key ingredient of their sessions than just the rush to cover the portions.

This, on paper, may not seem to be missing, though reality is in stark contrast to hearsay.

While I am not under rating the present-day teachers vis-à-vis those of yore, it would take more effort and commitment, to be followed as a Role Model because the impact has to be felt amidst challenges, most of which were absent then or were of a different manageable nature.

It is possible and would lead to a better society driven by values and positivity.

While at school and at home, we have all heard of the adage, “Where there is a will, there is a way”.

For those who put this across to children, making it a reality wouldn’t be a tough ask if backed by systematic action.

May we have more of them.

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