Dr Bikash Sharma and his organisation, International Academic and Management Association (IAMA), are silently working towards bringing about change in the education system in developing countries.
Sharma, who is the founder trustee of IAMA, is a management professional with over 20 years of experience in education, management, human resources and IT enabled services domain.
IAMA is a private, not-for-profit membership-based association in the world, working towards eliminating academic and economic disparity.
Sharma, who was born and brought up in Shillong, always had a keen inclination towards education and wanted to do something which would make education more practical, dynamic, boundary less and affordable. His dream became a reality with IAMA. Today, IAMA under his stewardship has its footprints in over 43 countries offering its services to nearly 150 educational institutions, benefitting thousands of students globally.
“Our idea is to ensure quality, affordable and industry-centric education without any barrier of geography, religion, colour, creed or caste. Our modus operandi changes with the country we are in and the need of the hour there,” Sharma, an alumnus of St Edmund’s School and St Anthony’s College, told Sunday Shillong from Gurgaon in an email interview.
Explaining the “modus operandi”, Sharma said when IAMA works in countries like West and East African countries, the programmes focus on the immediate problems like sanitation, healthcare, civil works and vocational education. The programmes are created in collaboration with IAMA’s international knowledge partners.
“Similarly, in India this year we have created global partnership programmes on the lines of apprenticeship. We are launching these programmes in a few institutions where students will get an international work exposure during the course of their study,” he added.
Sharma and his institution are keen to launch such programme in the North East and Meghalaya in particular in the coming cycle. He feels the focus today needs to be more on entrepreneurship for creation of employable workforce, especially in smaller towns and villages.
“These have multifold advantages including creating local employment, besides relieving the already choked cities of additional human flow. The blueprint of this programme is to be launched shortly,” he informed.
IAMA’s focus on education reforms started with its entry into the African continent in 2015. Liberia is one of the first countries where the organisation started its journey from. Liberia is among the poorest countries in the world ravaged by years of civil war, calamities like Ebola and AIDS, among other adversities. The country is plagued by sanitation and healthcare problems and lacks infrastructure.
“But the positives in the country were its youth. They were full of energy with an urge to do something for their country. What was needed was to give direction to them to channelise their energies. We did hold discussions with our local partners there and also government representatives after which we started our work there, focusing on creating and launching programmes relevant to the development of that country. Our efforts were supported by the global community who came forward to sponsor students under our programmes there,” explained the educationist, who received the Movers & Shakers Award at the Asia HRD Awards held in Kuala Lumpur in July.
When asked about the lacunae in the Indian education system, Sharma said the need of the hour is to move to a “learning outcome-based” system where a student will be assessed not on the basis of what he has been taught but on what he has learned and his understanding of what he was taught. According to him, moving away from the system of assessing students on the basis of percentage of marks will help in developing quality manpower resources.
“The second thing that is currently lacking and that I feel is important is to move from a theory-based system of education to one which is more practical. Our mind tends to retain what we see or do for a longer period of time in comparison to what we hear. Another important aspect is to compulsorily introduce vocational courses in our early education,” he said.
The award-winning educationist, who is known among colleagues as an “outstanding troubleshooter and out-of-the-box thinker”, wants education to be accessible to all deserving students irrespective of geography, religion, colour, creed, caste or economic background. This is the reason why his organisation walked an extra mile to better medical studies in Africa and partnered with a North American college for knowledge transfer.
“Locally, we partnered with a university for infrastructure support and created a Faculty of Medicine there. Of course, we did undergo the mandated regulations, including an approval from WHO (World Health Organisation). Using this synergy we created a medical college imparting an internationally recognised medical programme. Interestingly, the fee that we were able to charge was 25 per cent of what they (the students) would have paid if they had studied at the parent medical college, besides saving on the other incidental expenses,” Sharma said.
Sharma feels that more needs to be done to plug the gaps in the education system of India as well as in other countries. In his words, IAMA has “miles to go” before achieving the milestone.