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VIRTUAL MANTHAN: Importance of Integrating Skill Oriented & Apprenticeship Embedded Media & Entertainment Programs In Higher Education

New Delhi:  A 3-day online interaction called Virtual Manthan, bringing together Chancellors, Vice-Chancellor and Department Heads of Central and State Universities around the country organised by Media & Entertainment Skills Council (MESC), New Delhi got underway here today, to converge and discuss on the significance of integrating skill-based media programs in formal education introduced in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and on developing easier access routes to formal media education.

Delivering the Keynote Address, renowned Director-Producer Subhas Ghai, who is also the Chairman of the MESC, while exploring a very fundamental definition of education, said that even with the input of same knowledge, information and passion into learners, there is a difference in quality between two professionals; one is better than the other. “One has to look beyond the obvious and recognise that this difference is because of a connectedness with the Universe and universal forces”.

Emphasising that art and artistic skill is what separates the outstanding performer from the others, he said that narrowing down the concept of art just to entertainment or music was misleading. “The difference between the outstanding and the average is about how much creativity and art have we been able to integrate into our thought, our speech and our understanding of things.”

Stressing on internal human development, he voiced for distinguishing knowledge and information from wisdom and spirituality and suggested for incorporating the inculcation of these values even within the structure of formal education. Lamenting that accomplishments in art in the curriculum are termed as ‘extra-curricular’ activities, he called for an internalising of these in favour of a more ethos-based system of teaching and learning media.

Invited panellist, Rajiv Gandhi University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Saket Kushwaha in his remarks, assenting with keynote speaker Subhas Ghai, said that in many senses the teacher and the researcher must act like an actor or a director. Equating it to the process of filmmaking, he said that the element of creativity changes the entire outlook to the teaching or research process. “If a researcher does not dream big about his thesis, he cannot write a good thesis”, he said.

Highlighting that the National Education Policy also addresses the goals of creating good human beings, he pointed out that the emphasis has now moved from extra-curricular or co-curricular activities and this has instead become a ‘core’ curricular activity.

Extending the fullest cooperation of the Rajiv Gandhi University towards the larger goal of academia-industry interface, Prof. Kushwaha stated that the University’s core strengths in audio visual documentation as well as research will be a perfect complement to any initiatives suggested by the media industry for collaboration.

Speaking on the side-lines of the event, Prof. Kushwaha announced that the RGU will initiate this process of engagement by immediately organising a Planning Conference which will chart out a definitive roadmap of how the University will engage with, and collaborate with the media and entertainment industry through the MESC to offer skill based courses in animation, graphics, gaming, VFX, filmmaking, performing arts etc. which will provide the students with a comprehensive and hands-on knowledge in their chosen trades and equip them with job ready skills for the current media industry requirements.

RGU Mass Communication Head, Moji Riba, in his deliberations lamented that there is an inexplicable gap between the media industry and media education and questions of relevance arise on either side. For industry, the larger question was about how invested the industry is about the role of the media and entertainment not just in pushing media economics but also for development. For academia on the other hand he said, the question arose of how updated both the syllabi and the faculties in these institutions are to fast-changing media realities.

Calling for a hybrid model of synergies between academia and industry, Moji said that there was a need for integrating research with industry and in turn integrating communication faculty with the media. Emphasising on sustained engagement as the cornerstone of the new paradigm of communication, Riba also said that increasingly communities, particularly in the peripheries, have evolving communication needs. “In this, Universities can emerge as key enablers and with the collaboration with industry, create a richer communication experience”.

Prof. RR Tiwari, Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Allahabad and Coordinator Dr. Dhananjaya Chopra charted the tremendous changes that have come about in media, particularly in the Hindi media, and gave a detailed account of how the institution was incorporating the components of skill development in the curriculum.

Pondicherry University Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Gurmeet Singh, elaborating at length on the highlights of the New Education Policy by calling it ‘India-centric’, said that a time has come for media industry to integrate with academia and join hands to create policy and its implementation.

Prof Kuldeep Chand Agnihotri, the Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Himachal Pradesh expressed that while the NEP has opened up spaces for innovation, there must also be a continued link to informal education, because that’s where a rich body of traditional knowledge lies. Taking a moment to engage with the film industry, Prof Gurmeet emphatically said that in the changed paradigm of the NEP, and new communication needs, there is a need to give screen space to people from the northeast region. “When more people from the northeast are seen on cinema screens, more will there be a sense of integration and understanding, which policy alone cannot achieve”, he said.

Dean Prof. Pradeep Nair pointed out that by and large the Indian media education really has no connect with what is happening in the media industry. “What we are teaching is perhaps not even relevant in the present context as the industry has changed and become highly technology driven- so also we must update”, he shared. He said that time was appropriate for all the apex media education bodies in the country to assess their curriculum and take stock of what skills are being taught vis-a-vis what skills are needed.

Hosting the session, Chief Executive Officer of the MESC Mohit Soni expressed his gratitude to all the esteemed speakers and called for grooming of a new generation of Master Trainers and committed to collaborating on more such initiatives to take the dialogue forward.

Earlier, Whistling Woods International Vice-President Chaitanya Chinchlikar shared an overview of higher and technical education in the media and entertainment industry and discussed the challenges and possible solutions for Media & Entertainment education.

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