Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
For his pioneering and outstanding performance to develop SWAYAM Platform for hosting Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in record time, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Hon’ble President of India felicitated Dr. Manna with the “COMMENDATION AWARD” on 9th July, 2017 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi during the three days’ “National Convention on Digital Initiatives in Higher Education” organized by MHRD in collaboration with AICTE from 8th July, 2017 to 10th July, 2017. He has been conferred with many other honors and awards.
Dr. Manpreet Singh Manna has graduated in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from Mysore University, Mysore in the year 1993. He did Master of Engineering in Power & Machines from Thapar University, Patiala and Ph.D. in Electrical and Instrumentation Engineering from SLIET (A Centrally Funded Deemed University established by Govt. of India), Longowal. Starting his teaching profession as a lecturer from SLIET in the year 1997, Dr. Manna is Former Director (Administration) and SWAYAM Project Cell Incharge. Apart from discharge of day to day administrative functions, Dr. Manna successfully organized the inauguration of “HACKATHON” on 9th November, 2016 at Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi under the benign Chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister for Human Resource Development in the presence of eminent academicians and intellectuals from all over the Country.
Dr. Manna, a Senior Member of IEEE has participated as Visiting Faculty sponsored by Ministry of HRD to AIT, Bangkok during 2012 session. He is a Fellow of Institutions of Engineers (India) and ISQEM, UK. He is also Life Member of ISTE India, IACSIT Singapore and member of Advisory Council of CEGR India. Dr. Manna has published about 140 Research Publications for leading National and International Journals and attended a number of Conferences in the field of Engineering and Technology. Dr. Manna has been nominated as member of the various committees like Member BOG of IIM Vizac; Member of Divisional Railway User Consultative Committee (DRUCC); Honorary Advisor on the Board of CMAI and Member of Advisory Board of Confederation in Education Excellence, New Delhi. Dr. Manna was also elected as President of the CEGR Core Committee for the years 2016 and 2017.
Dr. Manna has been conferred with the “Commendation Award” by the Hon’ble President of India lsquo;Bharat Excellence Award' with'Gold Medal' by the Former Election Commissioner of India at IIC, New Delhi in 2014. Not only this, but Dr. Manpreet is also a recipient of ‘Shreshth Aacharya Award-2011’,‘Best Citizens of India Award-2014’ from FFI, New Delhi, ‘Outstanding Faculty Award-2015 VIFFA’ at Chennai and ‘Rashtriya Shiksha Gaurav Puraskar-2015’ from CEGR, New Delhi and of Innovative Policy Maker -2017 Award from News India & GESA, India.
Changes noticed by Dr. Manpreet in the education sector and how is AICTE working to improve the quality of Technical Education in India
I started my teaching career in around 1997 with one of the central government institutions called Sant Longowal institute of engineering and technology as a lecturer. I got this platform because there was no any other platform available to fetch my family staying at my native place.
Since then, the students are same, content is same, but the delivery pattern has totally been changed. At that time, it was just delivering lectures in the classroom, and there was one sided communication. I would ask the students to maintain pin drop silence and expected them to listen to me but never bothered about their feedback that are they really learning something from me or not. This is because we never allowed discussion. This urge to ask questions has been died at the school level also due to several reasons like the barrier of language, personality or because of the teachers’ mindset. But then we realized that if the students are not asking questions, then there will be no invention.
When I started my teaching career, I could see only six institutions in my state Punjab. But in 2014, there were more than 120 institutions in Punjab. The question is that do we require large number of engineers in my country or is it the sudden sharp growth of the country has taken place. So that was a big question mark when I came to AICTE. I purposely joined this administration and came to the regulator to understand where the gap is and what exactly the policy makers feel over here. It was a golden moment for me that when I came here, its transformation was taking place. Before this, AICTE was purely a regulator where we just looked at the heads of the faculty and other such things without bothering about the outcome of the students, their capacity building or are they enjoying whatever they are doing in the university or not. It was the scenario till 2011 when the government of India realized it.
When I came, my Chairman Dr. S. S. Mantha, already had done a lot for cleaning in the system. And then, a person with a vision and mission, a person with courage and a person with humbleness-Prof. Anil D. Sahasrabudhe joined as the Chairman of AICTE in 2015. It was a turning point for AICTE and a turning point of my life as well. For my life because, I discussed with him that I wanted to do something creative, apart from what I used to do, to make my students happy. He was also with similar mind-set and he started interaction with stakeholders to understand their expectations and challenges towards AICTE. He initiated many new Schemes with full support from MHRD to deliver benefits to students and to bring quality in education effecting necessary changes in the Approval Process by AICTE. Prof. Sahasrabudhe always emphasized that being a Regulator, AICTE should not only measure the length and breadth of class rooms but also the length and breadth of Students’ learning outcome. Similarly, while the Prime Minister Kaushal Vikas Yojana was not ACITE’s mandate, still AICTE, being a Regulator took the responsibility of evolution of the quality check. When we talk about country that gross enrollment ratio (GER), it is 25.2 today which was 24% in year 2015. Thus, 76% students in the country have not been able to go for higher education in my country. So where do these students go? The Kaushal Vikas Yojana is meant for only such students, who, instead of indulging in bad activities, can be made our assets if educated well. As they don’t have money even to feed themselves, we let them continue to work in whichever profession they are to earn their living but certify them simultaneously. We need to certify their skills because our country is a skilled country. And therefore, we came up with the PMKY where we started receiving good response.
Dr. Manpreet on how AICTE revolutionized start-up policy by initiating Smart India Hackathon
We know that even the banks do not provide loans unless we provide them the documents of property. But they should encourage the children and promote them to do something in life. So government of India, through AICTE, launched this start up policy where any candidate pursuing B.Tech have something from incubation center from INR 50,000 to 5,00,000. With this, they can plan to make any socio-economic equipment and they are not even asked to pay the money back.
For this policy that we made, the proposals came from across the country about the start-up policy for AICTE which was launched by honorable President of our country in November 2016. We immediately launched Smart India Hackathon. This was the largest hackathon happened. We brought the problems from various departments of the government. We got 598 problems from 26 different government departments including Finance, HRD, ISRO, Baba Atomic Centre etc. These problems came for my experienced students who were pursuing B.Tech. It was then when the students realized that what is the environment, what is the problem and how they created the codes.
But we didn’t stop here. We then touched the other area. The good share of GDP in our country comes from agriculture. But the farmers are committing suicides. Reason is that farmers have tractors which they use for very less time in the entire year. But because they have taken loans to purchase tractors, they sometimes unable to pay their EMIs due to natural calamities or so and got bankruptcy. The question here is -Can’t we share the tractor as we do carpool in cities? We can make GPS enabled agricultural equipment too for their optimum utilization.
For this, our honorable Members of Parliament of Government of India were given a mandate by PMO that they have to adopt one village under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana and develop one village as a smart village. They wanted to do something in terms of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). So, AICTE assured the Hon’ble MPs that these are our students and there is no way that they will be corrupt. We asked them to let them go to the village, and study about problems of villagers and bring the model to increase the income of village through water management system, waste management, solar energy generation etc. So, we wanted to map the institutions with the particular village so that some changes can be made. For instance, a community hall for women where they can sit together and share their problems with each other. Our students can build such community Centres, can manage roadways and other things. So, we through SAGY, wanted to develop the country and its villages. So, we at AICTE, provide certification to the children who work in any profession by testing their skills.
That there is a lot of water we get in the form of rain and 85% of which flows into other nations. We have spent a lot on fencing, creating boundaries etc. but haven’t done anything to save that water to flow out of our boundries. Why? As per the statistics, we only have water storage for next three months in reservoirs for energy generation whereas other nations have a lot more than this as China has 6 years storage backup and even USA may have 12 years backup.
Dr. Manna talks about SWAYAM, an initiative by AICTE to provide students with Self-learning
When I was pursuing B.Tech, even in different electives, the students had to study same subjects as there was shortage of faculty. Next problem is that students have to travel for hours in bus to reach college. They waste their time so much during these hours on WhatsApp and other things. Third issue is that, if there is a teacher who is teaching the same subjects since 20 years, he/she is not interested to revise his curriculum at class teaching.
We brought SWAYAM for this. It can be used anytime, anywhere, either through mobile phone, laptop, or through I- pad. With this, any students won’t be so helpless that he/she has to study from a particular teacher only. So, SWAYAM has been launched with a purpose of making IIT reach every house in India. Today, more than 18 lakh students are using this where 900 courses are available but free of cost. We were just supposed to be a regulator. But Prof. Sahasrabudhe said that we have to be a facilitator as well so we did this task also.
So, if we combine many schemes like these together, these are like a treat for everyone. We are launching a few more schemes, such as North-East Quality Improvement Programme. We have not only provided Rs. 5 crores for every Polytechnic and Rs. 7 crores for engineering Institutes to avail the benefits of such Quality Improvement Grants but also mentored well for their capacity building. We worked for north as well, not leaving behind Jammu and Kashmir. We are working towards filling books in the school bags of children in Jammu and Kashmir instead of stones. Any student of Jammu and Kashmir who has done 10+2, can take admission in MBBS after qualifying NEET exam in my country. He/she gets Rs. 3 lakhs per annum as tuition fee from AICTE which is non-refundable, as it is not loan, it is scholarship. For engineering or Nursing, it is 1.25 lakh rupees and to the ones doing BA/B.Com, we provide them Rs. 30,000. Apart from this, every student receives Rs. One lakh per annum for their food and hostel expenses.
We can admit 5,000 students but due to language barrier and food problems, we are unable to reach that number. Still we are trying our level best that if 5,000 students get these benefits, then all of them might study either medical or engineering or anything else. Because if we don’t educate our students, then someone else will mislead them. So, AICTE is working on the same to save the children of our country.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
I believe and I feel that a country, children of which play cricket or football on mobile phones, can never get gold medals. I always tell my students that the time which is for ground must be spent in the ground, and the time which is for the institute must be devoted to that. Students not even devote time in classes even when they come to the institute, they waste their time in the canteen. And at the time of playing in ground, students sit in front of the computer and again waste their time.
It was our time when parents used to pull us inside the house as we used to play a lot in the ground. It is now that the parents force their children to play outside. This is an alarming situation for my youngsters. They are not spending time with their grandparents or relatives. They should realize that there is no better teacher than their grandparents. Until and unless they spend their time with their grandparents, they would not learn new things and our culture will not reach our children. We should always learn to trust our own culture, own language, own religion, wherever we are. Apart from this, I would tell my students to visit SWAYAM, and improve your knowledge to the fullest.
Dr. Manpreet on the importance of portals like Collegedunia.com, for the education sector in today’s time
It is a bouquet of number of events and disseminate good knowledge to my learners. And learners in today’s date are not only the ones between 15-25 years of age. Today, even an 80 years old person is also active. Because young aspiring minds are only those who are keen to learn something new. A person who says that he/she has learned everything cannot be young, we call them old. But today, older generation is keener than children to learn things. Older generation even today reads a lot of books in the library, but the young generation is just aware of the headlines. They do not learn news, no health chronicle, nothing. Only the ones who wish to clear UPSC/state exams read books because of the same reason. So, such sites are working towards making the students more knowledgeable.