Interview by Swati Mishra
Mr. Aditya Berlia, Co-Founder and Pro-Chancellor of Apeejay Stya University and a member of the Management Board of the Svrán Group and the Apeejay Stya Group, is a young entrepreneur, educationist, and a prolific writer. A multi-faceted personality who balances his role in the corporate world with his philanthropic dedication to education, Mr. Berlia has to his credit several innovative industrial, entrepreneurial, and educational initiatives, both in India and abroad.
An alumnus of Stanford University and Harvard Business School, his views, quotes, and articles have appeared across the media including recently in Forbes, The Week and in many more prestigious journals. He is a full packaged man of multiple talents, he is named thought leader in cloud computing and design thinking, credited as well for conducted keynotes and private workshops for industry leaders, politicians, and insiders.
In conversation with Harshit, he shares his views on education sector in India, his leadership style and about his University.
Being connected to education sector is a continuous learning and evolving process
My continuous interaction with students, alumni, and faculty both in our institutions and around the world allow me for continuous moments of learning and inspiration. We have a strong belief that institutions only grow when they are given the freedom and flexibility to thrive. In that spirit, senior leaders limit their involvement in the day to day activates. This allows respective leaders and directors space to have an impact and for institutions to truly become independent and Multi-generational.
Our leadership is summed up in three words- Trust, but Support and Verify
ASU was created with a simple model of leadership – trust, but support and verify. We have faith in our professors and leaders in the classroom to make decisions about their curriculum as well as design and modify courses. We have faith in our students as well to choose and select the courses they feel best meets their individual needs, desires and aspirations considering the probability if they fail quickly and wish to change even their degree.
However, with trust and faith comes the need to support and provide frameworks to enable faculty and students to not only make superior and optimized decisions but also to learn from the experience, wins, and mistakes of their peers and seniors. Support comes not only from counselling, but also from having industry leaders on all our program boards to ensure excellent inputs are made available during every segment of the scholarly journey.
The verify aspect is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the institution by making sure no serious errors and made. Since the entire system operates in good faith, it is vital to have a second check to ensure no one is purposely or accidentally abusing the confidence and trust instilled in them.
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Educational institutions need to think of the role they play in a society
Today higher education institutions need to fundamentally rethink their role in society, in the nation and the broader world. Now more than ever, we need well educated and skilled individuals to advance the future of humankind, and it falls upon our education system to create these individuals. However, many experiments, for example, in mass education such as MOOCs, have failed to live up to their expectations.
Further, to indeed provide excellent education research, both theoretical and practical play a central role. However, these are trapped by either by those who only see narrow fields and not interdisciplinary activities or by individual regulators ranging from education to tax who do not understand how research and innovation or even education is accomplished. The fundamental general challenges thus are the ability to impart consistently high quality of education, redefining one’s role, garner and create sufficient resources to sustain the momentum of excellence and keep freedom of inquiry alive while battling the forces of the close and narrow-minded. ASU faces similar challenges, and we have an ambitious plan to overcome them.
An urgent need to walk the talk in the education sector
We have been talking about reforming the Indian education system for decades. Unfortunately, many of the reforms that have come in the past ten years are derogatory or piecemeal without a holistic vision for the entire ecosystem.
The failure of us all to bring forth these reforms has severely impacted the lives and future of millions of students each year; for this, we should all be deeply ashamed of ourselves. I can only hope that in the coming months years of efforts put in my luminaries across the spectrum with come to fruition, and we will see the dramatic reforms that our country and our students rightly deserve.
We count our success with our student’s success
When I see our students succeed, we always realise that while we played a role in their success, ultimately it is their efforts, discipline, hard work and sheer will that brought them to where they are. When they are tremendously successful, we are grateful to have been able to play a role in their lives and for them to have brought meaning to our work. Also, thus, it is our honour to call them our students.
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For youths: cultivate and use your mind for critical thinking
Do not get swayed by the opinions of others, whether in books, online or on television. Go to the sources may those be text or media to survey and understand before forming opinions and always be prepared to change. In the 21st century, the essential skill is that of discernment. The second suggestion is not only to find what you are passionate about but also what you are good at it.
Few fortunate people discover that their passions match their abilities. For example, just because you are passionate about singing does not mean you can make a career out of it immediately.
For most of us doing what you are good at earns you success, a path forward, and inevitably
becomes your passion. Always remember your passion can continue to be a hobby until it is developed to the point you can make it your main occupation in life. To find this, it is imperative to try as many different things as possible, and an excellent higher education should provide you with space and methods to do so.