Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
I was recently invited by the Government of India’s Information & Broadcasting to an interesting discussion on whether India needs a University of Communication.
Well, does it?
As bureaucratic discussions often do, this one laid much emphasis on ownership, structures, and patterns. I wish we had more time–and perhaps concern–for debating how to make academics work for a student. of communication.
That’s because it’s clear they aren’t working the way we’re delivering them, in layers and within time-constrained structures.
For example, should we have the curriculum chopped up (“as usual”) into subjects, divide them into numbers of classes, with an evaluation pattern just like the University Grants Commission-stipulated universities mandate–a major portion through sit-down examinations?
As you have brilliantly figured out, I am being rhetorical. It’s time to change the pattern. That’s why there is a real need for a communication-specific university that sets new patterns of delivery and assessment.
Universities and institutes of communication (mass / media/ whatever) seem to have forgotten three objectives that should make their students:
- lifelong learners and
- Communicators (duh!).TEACH SKILLS FIRST, DEEPER CONCEPTS LATERAcademics in India operate in reverse of that pedagogic logic: First, students cram all the concepts, theories and philosophies without having a clue why, much less how they’re related to each other. Then either enter the industries, clueless and wide-eyed in wonder, or take a professional course intended for skill-based learning.I don’t know about you, but I started toying around with little toys before I figured out how they help me in my life. Toying around with a camera is easier to understandbefore figuring out deeper concepts of aesthetics and ethics of visual storytelling.
THE ONION RING
The method to do this is in concentric circles—what I call the Onion Ring method. In our Introduction to Journalism, we have print, audiovisual, and digital storytelling forms. Not only do students learn all three forms simultaneously, but as part of this module, they go out and fetch stories and then deliver them in all three forms. All stories include the concepts of newsworthiness, objectivity, ethics, and all those deeper concepts.
Granted—the first story is not the one to die for, but maybe the last one is. Frustrating for the prof? Tough. That’s their job.
That’s not just unique to journalism. When you think about it, most streams within communication need restructuring. At our institute, we start with introducing Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) and then break it down into its components of advertising, media strategy, PR, brand activation, and all those nice things. The first time our students made an IMC presentation, I couldn’t sit through them. In their second semester, they’re much more with it. Now I can’t wait to witness their brilliant presentations in the third.
By realizing that it is impossible to teach everything they need to know, and by teaching them a) how to practice and b) how to learn, we would have hoped to have created a systematic learning process.
There is a moral to all this. Each domain is unique. Just as we have figured out how medicine should be taught, we now need to design communication education through a liberal arts approach that ensures that the practice of that subject receive full justice. Each domain needs a different academic and pedagogic approach.
That’s why a university of communication makes so much sense.