How have you been? I am sure you all are safe but also baffled with this changing climate of the global education system. The rising coronavirus cases and the gloomy outlook of vaccine availability soon might force you to move online.
But there is something more perplexing and worrisome in this scenario: “the engagement”. Yes, it is a big question of how you will make sure that your outcome, your products (your students) are actually studying and using their time productively. Your anxieties might have skyrocketed with the rising addiction rates of pornographic content in this lockdown (especially among the youths) and rising suicide levels among teens.
Are you sure your students are not exposed to these anti-social emotions? Are you sure they are participating enough in the course curriculum? You may be puzzled; there are question marks on your mind. But the good news is, we have a solution. And the answer is “lean management philosophy”.
Lean refers to the identification, elimination and reduction of waste. Waste or “muda” (Japanese term for waste), is any non-value-adding element in the system. For example, take a Diwali light manufacturer, for him producing Diwali lights in the non-festive season is a waste.
The roots of lean management go to the lean manufacturing processes employed by Toyota Production systems in the 1970s, which soon turned into a globally recognised and employed management philosophy. It was at the end of World War II when Japan started to lose its grip over the automobile industry, this company named Toyota started redesigning it’s manufacturing setup. The idea was to weed out “muri” (unreasonableness), “mura” (unevenness in workload) and “muda” (waste or non-value adding activity).
They made revolutionary changes in their production system like focusing on a pull system than traditional push system, trying to be flexible, visualise their production lineup and be flexible. At the same time, they made sure that they never got complacent and kept on improving and analysing. The two main ideas they employed were:
Further, three main ideas form the basis of this Toyota Production system:
Manufacturing is fascinating, isn’t it? But now let’s get back to education. First and foremost, we need to understand who our students are, we need to identify value from their perspective and here we go with the first principle of lean management.
Who is your customer? Definitely parents. Since the parents are shelling money, they are supposed to get an educated, intellectually smart and mature individual in their son or daughter, who can support them at their lowest stage of life.
Now we know that there is no value for a Btech degree without strong technical skills and ability to innovate, there is no value of a finance degree if a finance graduate cannot solve basic financial problems in the real world scenario, there is no value of an MBBS/MD/MS degree if that specific person cannot even identify the basic disease bothering the ailing person.
At the same time, if a 12th class pass out is in a conundrum and is not sure about what they should do after their schooling, then the overall schooling of that particular student was a waste. We can, therefore, bring out certain waste or “muda” from a customer’s perspective.
But, we know that our education system has been consistently delivering wastes on a large quantity. We know that around 80% of engineering graduates are unemployable. Further, around 93% of MBA graduates are unemployable. This also implies that many students (12th pass outs) take up courses that they are not passionate about. And many of them opt for a wrong stream itself.
Is there a defect in the overall production line? The answer lies in “Jidoka”. Jidoka means the process stops automatically if there is any irregularity. This has to be done in education. When a student fails to reach a specific benchmark of intellectual capability, they should not be promoted to higher classes.
Further, that specific student should be counselled and given a strong understanding of mature behaviour. There is a need to make them realise their true potential and there should be a proper habit training where their parents have a role to play too. Counselling matters here.
Now coming to the next possibility, what about a student who is passionate about their subject, or maybe they have always been a good student but have started failing lately. There is a need to identify the reason. One reason may be that they are not getting what they need, or maybe they are not getting exactly at the right time.
Here comes the case of “Just In Time”. You don’t want a student to get overwhelmed with knowledge in one class, right? At the same time, you don’t want to waste their time. Just In time involves the least usage of inventory and employing a pull system where the process runs on the customer demand factor.
A student who is going through mental or physical trauma, a student who at some instance finds one or two of the topics difficult to grasp immediately, there is a need to slow down the process for that particular student. Also, there is a need to bring things to the student’s desk when they have to be on bed rest. It seems that the coronavirus has necessitated this part and, therefore, almost all the institutions have gone online.
But here we have lost the direction by phasing out those students who don’t have either internet connection or computer technology. Further India ranks 131 in mobile internet speeds. Further, India’s internet speed did improve in 2019, but it is still not much. Such infrastructural challenges, along with current pandemic restrictions, make it a challenge for Indian educators to follow JIT principal.
However, this puts an impetus on government planning and infrastructural projects to tackle the tricky challenge. Educators, however, need to realise that value lies in the perspective of the ones who are paying fees. If they aren’t gaining, you aren’t delivering. There should be ways a student can cope up this inventory period; there should be ways a student can keep getting knowledge when they want it.
Further, there should be ways a student can stay positive; there is a need for connectivity. At last, a student should be given time for self-exploration; they should not be burdened with assignments and exams so much that they cannot keep up with the pace.
The “takt time”, we say it in lean management, which is also conceived as the heart of lean manufacturing. Takt time is nothing but the rate at which the customer wants the product. If a student cannot learn a topic in one day, there is no meaning to start a new topic just the next day. Instead, make the class engaging and make the concept rock solid for that particular student. Takt time is the key.
There is a need to have a clear cut education policy and a clear cut education pathway one can follow. From the educator’s side, there is a need to have a clear cut lesson plan they can follow. They need to be well aware of the production process and the flow within it.
A well-designed lesson plan with proper entry and exit points, which are satisfactorily met, is the need of the hour. So plan your stages of perfection. Keep a check on your products (student’s proficiency level) and characterise them according to the stages of proficiency they are in. The result of your program will highly depend on how well you visualise that particular value stream (student’s comparative results and their proficiency).
A student never stays in a particular class for long. Your students are going to pass and go to the next class, college, next level of study or maybe a job. You might not know what they will do, but your education should make it easy for them to move swiftly.
The best way you can do that is by improving the standards of your educational institutions. A poor quality educational institution, with substandard academic practices, can be a hurdle to a student’s development and flow to a higher level. At the same time, a high-quality educational institution, with best quality research practices, can be a big boon to a student’s fluent adoption at a higher level.
Sadly Indian universities crumble a little when it comes to the quality education. There is no Indian university in the top 100 in QS World University ranking. Only IIT Bombay, IISc Bengaluru and IIT Delhi featured in the top 200 list.
Further, a total of 21 Indian institutions feature in top 1000 and only 24 have secured at least some rank. There is a need to employ healthy faculties and conduct evenly good quality research activities within the university so that the activities which students perform while their stay in the university is of any significance to the world they are going to face in the future. Flow creation is greatly necessary when a university needs to match world standards. India needs more world-class universities and colleges and this will make their students world-class.
While we are entering into a pandemic, having a pull system in education can be a big challenge. It might be difficult for an educator to understand what is going on in a student’s mind. It won’t be easy to measure the efforts put on by the student’s side and, therefore, we need better strategies to make efficient pull systems.
Teachers need not be monitors and proctors; rather, they should now act like friends. And why not? Either way, a friend or a guardian should be a student’s teacher. With a low student-teacher ratio, India finds it difficult to make a student-centric education model.
Guiding students while they are at home has always been difficult. But in this pandemic, this problem has just magnified. However, there can be situations where a guardian can act as a teacher, and to an extent, keep a check and guide a student during difficult times. A guardian or a reliable peer group can, therefore, be much more effective teachers to a student than a teacher on a video call.
Every age will come up with its challenges. Students in today’s day and age have far greater challenges and some of the best possible tools than a student of 1950s or 60s. So with the evolving climate of world standards and changing society, we need to evolve our education system continuously.
Lean management philosophy, at its core, asks for continuous improvement. “Kaizen” is the word for that. So, while you are teaching, building learning systems, you are continuously learning too. Keep it up and keep up with the pace.
A fellow learner.