This time of the year, as the academic year comes to an end, every educational institution in the country, be it a kindergarten, a school, or a college has a batch of students getting ready to enter the next phase in their life. Their juniors get ready to occupy the space left by them. This happens year after year, in campus after campus. It is part and parcel of the system. But rarely do we stop to see the wealth of human capital that leaves the academy each time this happens.
And seldom do we try to pass the experience of the outgoing batch to the batches down the line. Because of this we go on making the same mistakes batch after batch. This is more relevant in colleges, and more so in the case of professional colleges.
One of the fall outs of the proliferation of engineering colleges across the countryside is the junior senior interaction. Almost all the private professional colleges operate their dedicated fleet of buses which pick students from great distances and drop them back every day. The number of hostellers has come down. Students are within the class rooms for most of their college hours and get back home soon after the class hours. The first years are kept completely out of bounds from the seniors to prevent ragging. All these leave little opportunity for contact.
We should understand that the outgoing students do not have an incentive to share their experiences. More often than not they are anxious about the next phase of their career and life. It is always the junior who is at a loss here. And unless there is a good system in place, this sharing will not happen. Soon the junior becomes the senior and he/ she goes through the same or similar situations that the seniors had passed through a year earlier. It would be wonderful if the seniors were around for guidance then. But that is not going to be. It would be good if the junior could get in touch with the senior (who is an alumnus by then). But it going to be difficult; not because the seniors have vanished off the face of the earth; but because the seed for this interaction was not nurtured when they were in campus.
In the case of medical and allied professional courses, the interaction between the batches is healthier than in the case of others; thanks to the longer course duration and the compulsory internship.
Alumni associations are almost always seen as an overhead. Not many institutions have a healthy alumni network as there is rarely any incentive for the alumni to be part of the forum. Anyone who has gone through the phase will know that keeping in touch needs proactive effort from one’s side and unless one takes the interest the natural course is for a relation to wither away. Out of sight is mostly out of mind. In this era of social networking, keeping in touch is not difficult but the intent should be there.
The authorities should recognise that it is in the interest of the institution to pass on the experience of the seniors to the juniors. They should create and provide the opportunity for a healthy interaction between the batches when they are in campus and then only any form of interaction can take place once they move out of the institution. Or else batch after batch will go on reinventing the wheel.