By Rajendra Shende
In India, a whopping 650 million of the population is young, that is, below the age of 25. Every year more than 12 million unemployed youth enter the marketplace. Unfortunately, 75% of them are not job-ready due to the irrelevant education they are packed with.
Student dissatisfaction: A global phenomenon
The images in the story-book of this young community are full of promises, adventures and even anxieties. Half a century back in 1968, the protests and revolutionary uproar by students in the western world still echo threats to the edifice of insensitive establishments and social instability. Today’s youth—faced with unjust authoritarianism, extreme inequality due to rampant capitalism, and environmental degradation—are already showing signs of destabilisation.
Rising joblessness among the students graduating from the universities is not only an Indian phenomenon. Even China is creating an army of educated unemployed that some fear could destabilise China’s huge economy. Thus, two of the fastest growing economies are pouring the largest number of unemployed youth into the marketplace. The rest of the world, still recovering from the economic recession, further slackens the hopes of the youth.
SCCN: Smart Campuses are coming soon
Recognising the need for the provision of breeding grounds for youth’s creativity, Prakash Javadekar, India’s Human Resource Development Minister launched an unusual project. This is aimed at addressing the challenges facing the youth by use of cutting edge digital technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics and more. The project not only creates awareness on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) but also contributes to the goals of ‘Campus Community’.
The project is flagship activity of Technology, Education, Research and Rehabilitation for the Environment (TERRE) Policy Centre, a think-tank and action platform for sustainable development. It is called Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN).
While launching the project at Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) in Pune, Mr Javadekar said, “SCCN is a huge laboratory that is essential to test and deploy innovative and creative potential of each and every student in the campus and build their skills at the same time. The lessons and results from this laboratory would prove to be game-changing, because youth will self-propel their careers, based on the educational experience that they would gain by doing and not just by studying”. The youth coming out from campus would promote various flagship projects of the government of India such as Make in India, Digital India and building 100 Smart cities. These students can be start-up leaders and entrepreneurs as well.
Pursuing sustainable development through SCCN
There are more than 750 universities, 40,000 colleges and institutes, and 1.5 million schools in India where around 200 to 300 million students are engaged in learning. Apart from being a significant consumer of energy, water and other utility and material resources, the educational campuses provide captive young thinkers and actors action-based education on sustainable development and implementation of the UN Agenda 2030. They are the spaces bubbling with potential opportunities to create skilled and ‘job-ready’ professional force. SCCN is a tool to exploit that very opportunity.
SCCN is the virtual network of campuses which are engaged in reducing their campus-related ecological footprints and sharing that data through real-time cloud network. It promotes ‘learning by doing’ and economising the campus operation by boosting energy efficiency. At the same time, it builds the skills of India’s young future workforce and moulds managerial talents to build Smart India.
Results from campus activities that target energy efficiency, enhance the share of renewable energy, waste management, water conservation, air pollution would be part of the dashboard in the digital cloud. The well-defined energy and other indices resulting from the campus activity would be shared with other campuses to generate positive competition, inspiring further research and innovation. This will, in turn, enhance the sustainability targets.
A step towards reforming education
SCCN is a massive exercise in disruptive innovation to transform the way the education is imparted to the students throughout India. The network will not be limited to campuses in India. It has outreached to South Asia and beyond. It already has 15 campuses in the network including one each from Brazil and Peru.
SCCN would use the cutting edge technologies to measure, monitor and share the results of the students’ activities aimed at making their Institutes’ campuses clean, green, sustainable and smart.
Apart from the use of the emerging technologies like IoT, big data and artificial intelligence, special apps would be deployed as a communication tool among the campus community. Campus-indices used to compare and compete are based on the UNSDGs. It would encourage the young minds to be creative in competing and would spark a multitude of start-ups.
Web of diverse universities interconnected with common goals of contributing to UNSDGs is a path-breaking project with special emphasis on the age-old practice of ‘learning by doing’.
Will SCCN stand true to expectations?
As per the statement issued by the University Grant Commission, “Smart Campus Cloud Network is a global networking initiative seeking to link educational institutions in the mission of bringing about sustainable, eco-friendly and energy-sufficient development. It is poised to facilitate dialogue and sharing of ideas amongst students and faculty as a way of making the maximum out of SDGs. The Network will be a significant contribution to the realisation of Smart Cities and Smart India mission unveiled by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.”
“Our 54 campuses of MIT group will soon be members of SCCN,” said Dr Vishwanath Karad, Founder and Director General of the MIT group of institutes. For Dr Karad, SCCN is an amazing confluence of 3 Ss: Science, Spiritualism and Sustainability.
The overarching objective of SCCN is to mainstream sustainable development in education, encourage annual reporting by the campuses on their sustainability initiatives and ranking the campuses based on smart sustainable actions by students and faculty. Never before, the colleges and universities mainstreamed sustainable development in their curriculum in such intensive way.
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar also announced the national competition for ‘Clean, Green and Smart campuses’ with its first edition in 2018. Whether the initiative will prove a success is a question to be answered with the passage of time.
Featured image source: Visual Hunt
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