Value of an Education, Design thinking and college life with Dr. Lalit S. Kathpalia

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Value of an Education, Design thinking and college life with Dr. Lalit S. Kathpalia

Understanding the value of a college degree is essential. Nowadays, entrepreneurs usually start on their own, also known as dropouts. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, Michael Dell, Jack Dorsey, Ritesh Agarwal, Kunal Shah, and hundreds of other successful entrepreneurs who have made it are dropouts. The value that you can achieve with education is intangible.

I pursued my college degree from Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research and majored in a course that includes a perfect blend of IT and management. My biggest mistake in college for studies was mugging up most of the theoretical subjects, and not questioning anything. I scratched my mind in a few topics where I went in front of a mirror and asked myself, why the hell am I studying this and where will I use this subject in my professional life.

I never asked my subject professors as I was so much afraid of the judgment. After a point of time, I learned that judgment is temporary, though the slack in our learning will be there forever.

So, whatever flaw there is in our education system cannot be blamed on a sole entity but can be considered a fundamental lack of empathy. It is like passed down in a value stream, From school to college, from college to corporates, covering up the entire society. Adopting design thinking enables us to solve those flaws, or I should say problems, from a more human-centered perspective. It encourages organizations and entities to focus on the people they’re creating for, ultimately leading us to develop better products, services, and internal processes.

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So why is college education so important? Why some of the greatest entrepreneurs sometimes defy it and why most of our society has so much value for it?

I had all of these questions piling up, and then, I thought to consult it with someone who is a professor only and has significant experience of 9 years as a Director in SICSR & SIU, also known as Dr. Lalit Kathpalia. He is also a teacher. He has worked for 11 years at Symbiosis and has more than 16 years as a teacher and is currently teaching at PUMBA (Pune University MBA Department) and other places.

So I have some questions lined up for him, long and strong, in order to make my mind more clear about our education system. I hope you guys get some productive feedback, by the end of the day.

  • Are classes online for students working any better than usual interactive courses?

Good question. Well, let me make one thing clear that online students cannot ultimately provide the environment for a physical onsite class. At the same time, Edtech (Education Technology) has seen many improvements, and also the use case of learning has been imbibed by technology creators to make sure that learning can be interactive and also fun using technology to conduct online classes. My personal experience has been that technology facilitates and enables interaction also. And I find teaching online or offline no longer impacts interaction. It is now the ownership lies on the teacher/professor to ensure he/she delivers an interactive class.

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  • What motivated you to become a teacher?

I have a passion for teaching, which I knew early on. I used to give tuitions to many engineering students; one of my students topped his college engineering batch. And at the same time, I started as a visiting faculty in one of Mumbai’s top engineering colleges a year after graduation.

And this passion led me to become a teacher. And I continue to enjoy teaching living life to its fullest.

  • What do you think about Indian education, and how much it truly can impact a kid’s future?

Unfortunately, the Indian Education system is a replica/copy of the Western education model. We tend to mirror, copy all that the Western Universities, education system propagate. India had one of the best Education systems, which made learning fun, personalized, and holistic e.g., Nalanda. We have lost all of that.

We are now preparing students for jobs using an obsolete curriculum. At the same time, the Indian Education system kills creativity in students. We expect students to study for exams rather than educate them for being creative, critical thinkers, and open-minded. We are not preparing students for skills competencies. The education system has made kids stop thinking. We need to be innovative, creative, open-minded and develop an ethical model/framework for education in India.

  • Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Dell Michael, and Ritesh Agarwal are all known entrepreneurs for what they have done in their life and are all dropouts from the best institutes the world have. Does it question the value of a college education?

I think we cannot take only one set of data of entrepreneurs who have succeeded and are dropouts to question the value of college education. I agree that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Dell Michael, and Ritesh Agarwal are dropouts and have succeeded. But at the same time, many entrepreneurs have accomplished and have also completed their college education. Let us use a different yardstick to question the value of college education.

There are various nuances by which we can use to conclude how valuable college education is.

  • Why do private universities have such high fees, and will it go down by any chance in the coming years?

The main reason private universities have such high fees is that they have to fund their infrastructure and ensure that they sustain in the current environment. At the same time providing quality standards in education requires a minimum amount of spend. This includes all expenses related to infrastructure provision and maintenance. At the same time, compliance with the government-mandated 7th Pay Commission salaries to faculty and staff leads to higher fees.

It is also a question of supply and demand. And that could be the tipping point, which could lead to the lowering of fees. The Covid19 pandemic is a case in point of how private universities will now have to relook at the fees charged.

  • Should CBSE, ICSE, or any other governmental education board adopt design thinking?

Good question. CBSE, ICSE, and all government education boards should adopt design thinking. It would take them a long way and make them more innovative, human-centric, and help them understand how Design Thinking can make Indian education on par with the best of the best in the world.

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Dr. Lalit Kathpalia
  • Why is design thinking so important for companies?

Design Thinking can do wonders for a company. Apple, Netflix, Starbucks, BofA (Bank of America) are all a success due to Design Thinking. Design Thinking offers a competitive advantage to a company. And that is why a company in a garage can take on a big corporation and succeed. Every company has to use Design Thinking to be innovative and build a new business model to succeed in the Digital Economy. The biggest reason why design thinking is so important for companies is that Design Thinking helps companies have empathy for their customers and is human-centric.

  • What is your idea of becoming an ideal teacher/master?

My idea to become an ideal teacher is based on what Richard Feynman says. A perfect teacher should teach his students to think, communicate, question, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, and, most importantly, have fun in their learning.

  • How does a master’s degree add value to a student’s life?

I think a Master’s degree adds value by enriching students in the use of concepts, including business models, design thinking, business process management, technology, analytics, and automation. All this makes a student make corporations nimble, innovative, profitable, and also grow. At the same time, the student is not obsolete in his quest for knowledge but knows what to apply. And help businesses grow.

  • Should a bachelor student complete his masters just after graduation, or should he gain some relevant experience in the industry and then go for their masters?

My viewpoint is that work experience in the industry after a bachelor’s degree is a significant big positive rather than a Master’s degree immediately after graduation.

  • I think there is a significant gap between what we are being taught, and what we do in the corporate jobs, what do you think?

You are bang on; there is a significant gap between what is being taught and what we do in corporate jobs. This can be best summarised by Richard Riley (Secretary of Education under President Clinton). We are currently preparing students for careers that yet do not exist using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve problems, and we don’t even know what those problems are, however.

  • The majority of the Indian engineering students don’t know what to pursue after graduation, any suggestions?

The best suggestion I can give to Indian engineering students to pursue after graduation is to get into courses that offer Analytics, Data Science, Innovation as a curriculum to make them ready for the industry and the future.

  • Does Indian IT culture support the design thinking mindset?

The Indian IT culture has not supported the design thinking mindset. And this is a significant weakness of the Indian IT industry. When Vishal Sikka became the CEO of Infosys, it is then that the direction of the Indian IT industry suddenly changed. He was the one to inculcate the culture of Design Thinking in Infosys, and that is the first sign of the Indian IT industry incorporating the Design Thinking Mindset.

And that was it. This conversation with Dr. Lalit would have lasted longer, but obviously, we all have limited time in our lives. I would like to appreciate Dr. Lalit for answering my bold line of questioning, in the most honest way possible. Because most of the professors usually shy away from the real world, they focus on theoretical aspects rather than executional ones, and surely he is not one of them. I hope you guys would get some questions answered, too, if you don’t, let’s chat in the comment section.

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