Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
Prof. Onkar Singh has been the founder Vice Chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.), the first non-affiliating technical University of U.P. state and also the Vice Chancellor of Uttar Pradesh Technical University, Lucknow for some time. He is currently serving as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).
Prof. Singh has rich experience of around 27 years in the education system as a teacher, researcher, academic administrator and also through his association with governing bodies of large number of premier institutions and statutory regulatory bodies of the country.
Prof. Onkar’s experience in the education sector
My experience of 27 years in the education industry has been fantastic from the perspective of getting opportunities to contribute in the making of worthy technical human resource and also making a tangible contribution for the betterment of technical education. During the course of my service in technical education, I have learned all the relevant skills and acquired knowledge and experience while serving in different roles.
Education is one such sector where every teacher gets chance to act as a motivator, guide, friend, leader and role model for the students taught by him. There is no doubt that the roles keep on changing as one starts teaching career and grows to reach up to the highest level of Professor. Student interaction in class and outside classroom offers ample scope for mutual learning to the teacher and taught both due to the amalgamation of experience of the former and creativity and innocence of the later. As per me, the education sector is the backbone of the civilization and those who have the interest to learn, unlearn and relearn the subjects of their interest along with the flair of teaching and research should consider education sector for making their career. Education sector offers all possible dimensions to grow and one will be satisfied by accomplishments as a teacher, researcher, leader, mentor and a loved human being.
Prof. Onkar’s philosophy of leadership and his leadership style
As the founder Vice Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur, I operationalized the first non-affiliating technical University of U.P. State in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh. I am a firm believer of the fact that a visionary leader could bring all possible change in any education and satisfied for having discharged my responsibilities through all-inclusive disciplined, dedicated and creative approach. It was my privilege to dream of creating one of the best technical Institutions in terms of world-class teaching-learning processes, teaching human resource, infrastructure, and feedback driven responsive academic and administrative framework. Some of the attributes of my leadership style are being a dreamer, quality conscious planner, open-mindedness, the inclusion of stakeholders in the decision-making process and disciplinarian executer.
Significant challenges faced by Prof. Onkar as the Professor of Harcourt Butler Technical University
Technical education of the country has undergone the paradigm shift and in the last three decades, I have found that the approaches have changed significantly and academic institutions have to adopt the changes at the earliest for improving the employability of graduating students. Today, there is a worldwide call for outcome-based learning, but the real execution of the same is not happening at the ground due to one or other reasons and it is confined as a philosophy on papers. In general, laboratory inputs are not contributing in improving understanding of the subjects to the students, which is not being taken seriously and there is insufficiency of support system in terms of the trained human resource as well as laboratory facilities. Present challenges faced include poor governance, ageing, and obsolescence in infrastructure, lack of quality concerns in teaching-learning processes and poor research output.
Curriculum of Harcourt Butler Technical University
It is worth mentioning that the curriculum is usually as per the requirements, but the challenge lies in adherence to the prescribed curriculum with requisite quality and rigor to eventually roll out the really educated ones. For example, mere prescription of learning outcomes for any course will not serve the goal of creating technical professionals with necessary understanding to apply the knowledge rather the need is to ensure deep involvement of the mentors so that they can generate interest and involvement of the learners in respective subjects. Today, knowledge is ubiquitous and the easy access to it through internet supplements the mentoring of the learners. But even then, the employability remains a concern which is an indicator of the fact that problem of poor quality education lies in the teaching-learning processes and not in the curriculum.
Prof. Onkar’s relationship with the students
As a Professor, I keep on motivating my students to identify their strengths and weaknesses and accordingly help them to fix up their goals. I have felt that the students in general face difficulty in identification of targets suiting them and have a strong feeling that those who choose genuine goals well in time can achieve them without many hardships. In view of ample potential available in every field, the students are guided to make future plans as per their specific interests and liking. In view of approachability of a teacher being essential for a strong teacher-taught relationship, I adopt the policy of giving free access to students so that they can freely speak their mind and allow me to understand them for extending possible guidance. I followed the policy of free access to students even while holding the position of Vice Chancellor which helped me a lot in understanding the real issues and their possible solutions.
Ideal school environment according to Prof. Onkar and how he encourages that kind of culture at Harcourt Butler Technical University
An ideal academic environment should include deep involvement of teachers with students along with facilitation to nurture student creativities. Present teaching-learning processes should be remodeled to make them suitable for real-life problem solving and allowing for the design of new experiments to have holistic learning. A practical component in technical education needs special attention and all laboratories should be made much more creative and integrated with relevant industry. Different departments and sections of the institution should act as nucleating point for evolving industrial units as per the capabilities. This kind of integration will provide an opportunity to the learners and their mentors for real technological exposure along with updating of their knowledge and service offered by the Institution to the industry will generate revenue for it.
Top qualities according to Prof. Onkar that an aspiring engineer must possess
Aspiring engineer should be creative and innovative in the thought process, strong in terms of technical knowledge, possess good computational skills, effective communicator and enterprising to take risks through different initiatives while possessing basic traits of dedication, devotion, and discipline.
Goals in mind for Harcourt Butler Technical University for the next few years
It should evolve as one of the good quality technical education providers.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
Youth should realize that they have to themselves develop their capabilities as per their own potential. Do introspect your strengths and weaknesses before choosing a career for yourself. Rest assured, there are enough opportunities in every field. Do not get disheartened by failures if any, rather analyze the failure and overcome weaknesses to convert them into success. The youth of today has enormous exposure in the digital age, but the need is, to be honest, and sincere in putting in efforts for your own development and realize your dreams.