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Classroom perestroika

Vinay Rai, founder-chairman of Rai University, tells PRIYADARSSHINI SHARMA all about his views on revamping the education system.


HE TALKS by giving examples, like a good teacher. But he is no teacher. " I am a crazy guy," he tells you very seriously. He is Vinay Rai, founder of Rai University, one of the first few private universities in the country. A man driven by an urge to change the mindset of Generation Next, he believes that only the right kind of education can bring about this . And that is what he and his `think different' team at Rai University are striving at.

From placing their entire courseware on the Internet to be accessible to all students, anywhere, anytime, a first of its kind educational tool in India, a step greatly appreciated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology of which he is a product, expansion plans in Kerala, RU is definitely glasnost in education.

Change needed

Possessed by an almost frenzied passion, Mr. Rai is obsessed about the change needed in the mindset of the young Indians. He dons the role of a father, a teacher, a philosopher alternately as he talks about his mission in this field, " I tell my children, forget State, Government, parents... They can help you to a point. After that you have to survive. You want to starve, to live, to live well, to face, to fret... . take your pick. I tell them if that instinct to survive is in you then you will succeed in life. RU is about this. It is philosophy and we are taking our children towards this mindset. There are no easy ways but we are trying harder."

So what about academics?

"Pure academics will not survive a good job." He tells you. "There is no point for an employer to have someone who is very good in academics but cannot do the job. Whether this person will deliver the goods, is what employers are interested in. This includes dedication, team spirit, soft skills"Academics is passé. What is looked for now is the add-ons with academics. At RU it is this virtue to think differently that we impart. A system of rote learning, by which we are not allowing our children to think won't help. "

Recognition

Ask him about the pending recognition the University requires, a dogging issue with parents and students, and he has this answer: " Legally we have the same status as Cochin University. Constitutionally education is a concurrent subject, so State and Centre have equivalent powers. Everybody talks about UGC but they have the power to grant funds not to recognise. A deemed university is actually, `deemed to be University to get grants from UGC. It is the AIU or Association of Universities that one has to be a member of. We have not been denied membership. But out of the 97 Universities that sprang up in Chhattisgarh, 60 were derecognised and 37 are in process of recognition."

Mr. Rai is all for revamping the set-up. He cites an incident showing the State's horse blinkered views on education. " For music and theatre I wanted a tie-up with the Vishwabharti University, Shantiniketan as I think it is the best in the field of music and dance. But a senior professor there told me that I had come to the wrong place. Fifteen years ago he said, they got into the UGC scheme and from then on exams had become objective. So for music and theatre 90 per cent of the mark is for theory. Today you can have a Masters in Music who does not know how to sing, a Masters in theatre who does not know how to act." And he quotes his icon Rabindranath Tagore and his famous song, `Ekala Chalo Re.'

Freedom

"We don't have classroom attendance. We allow students to bring coke and sandwiches to class. They can sit with their feet up, if they wish."

But the question of discipline?

"The universe is in a state of chaos. There is order in disorder and disorder in order: A method in the madness. Those who fear a fall will never learn to fly," he philosophises.

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