Interview - Jitin Chawla, Founder and Director, Centre for Career Development, New Delhi
Prabha Dhavala, 21 May 2019
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Jitin Chawla, Founder and Director of Centre for Career Development, New Delhi, has conducted more than 18,500 workshops and 260 career fairs in schools and colleges, and addresses students’ concerns on news channels like NDTV, CNN-IBN and Aaj Tak. He did his MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi, and started his career working with ICI (Paints Division) and Hindustan Times.

In an interview to Meha Mathur, Chawla describes why new and private colleges are outperforming conventional colleges with their student-centric approach

Careers360: How should a student approach a generic B.A, B.Sc or B.Com course and how to make it more meaningful?

Jitin Chawla: It depends on one’s own career plan so I would suggest to a student to think of a few goals for himself. So if I am doing a BA programme but I am interested in media career, then along with BA I will take up short duration media course also. So Hansraj College has a tie-up with a private institute and they offer a short duration course as part of that. Similarly if I am interested in design or fashion management, NIFT and Pearl offer certificate programmes. These programmes help a student with practical skills. With B.Com I can do CFP, CFA level 1 (in 3rd year), ACCA, or NSE courses. These are all add-on programmes.

Careers360: But would you say that the courses per say have employability prospect?

Jitin Chawla: Generally speaking, no. In 90% cases, it’s being done the way it was 25 to 30 years back. But today the world of work has changed. If with BA I have done digital marketing I will get a job. With generic graduation people will try for government jobs or MBA, which everyone is trying, hence your chances of success are lower.

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My very strong message to students: they should start thinking of careers and freezing some goals right from 1st year. They wait till the end of 3rd year, or even later. That’s pretty late. Similarly if you want to study abroad after graduation all these things have to be thought out and worked upon.

Careers360: When the placement companies come to these colleges what are their expectations and are they satisfied?

Jitin Chawla: Except for top three to four colleges, they are not happy with the manpower they are getting.

What is it that companies want? They want professional working attitude, good communication skills, both written and verbal. They want a certain degree of professionalism. That you will come on time, you will not spend time whatsapping with friends. You will maintain office decorum. Typically that has been lacking in most students. Also, colleges are not upgrading. When I travel outside, each college has a career centre and it is mandatory for 1st-year students to enrol in a career centre, to participate in workshops, engage in group discussions and interviews and to prepare one-self professionally. In India sadly it doesn’t happen and there is no push from colleges’ side.

I was at a girls’ college in Delhi University last year speaking to psychology students and maybe 90 percent students had not thought which side to go. They had taken up psychology but had not thought will I be an entrepreneur, will I stay in India or abroad. They kept on asking which is a good area to choose. According to me a good area is one which matches you as a person. But children in India are made to believe that some fields are good and others are not.

Also, in colleges their extracurricular activities also go down. In private institutes things are handled better and children have to complete certain number of activities.

Careers360: So how are private universities delivering and making a difference?

Jitin Chawla: The old universities have been very slow in terms of changing themselves. Some action came but it was rolled back. DU started with CIC (Cluster innovation centre) under the meta-university concept. But there is no focus, no further talk. I would have expected them to add new courses. But apparently it’s just a forgotten case. So, big universities have not progressed much. For example, B.Com Hons course should definitely have digital marketing, data analytics and CRM. But sadly it’s still only at the stage of talks. Private universities have this as part of course since last three to four years.

Second issue is that of infrastructure. It’s old and outdated. People coming from private schools don’t want to sit on those benches. The toilets are bad.

Third thing is the quality of teachers. There should be a regular teacher training programme for professors also. The world is changing. For everything you have artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printers. They need to understand these things, only then can they mentor.

Old universities have a “fixed thali system”. You will get specified daal, sabzi, roti and you cannot repeat daal again. And you cannot take more. On the other hand, private institutes offer you a buffet. It’s like universities abroad. You choose what you want. Like in Chicago they have 4,300 courses. Here I can’t do Psychology and side by side take up Music.

Careers360: How do they manage so many courses logistically?

Jitin Chawla: It’s done in a modular format. The same class will happen three times in a semester and if you have missed the lecture once, you can attend it the next time. And one has to register. So even if you are part of the university the onus is on you to register. This is how students can mix and match.

Careers360: Coming to NIRF rankings, do you think these rankings are reflective of reality, and second, there has been a sort of upheaval in all such rankings in terms of old established colleges not being on the top and some new colleges being in the top league. How do you explain these shifts?

Jitin Chawla: Some relatively new colleges are performing very well. It is also how the system thinks. Abroad, everything is student-centric, whereas here everything is professor-centric. DU has been on strike. Outside if this happens professors will lose part of their salary. When I was in college for one whole year I could not study one subject because my lecturer did not come.

As society changes, institutions also need to change, but it’s difficult in conventional system.

Plus there are no international linkages. Private universities provide for that.

Careers360: But what are the options for a student from small-town India, who doesn’t have that wherewithal?

Jitin Chawla: Most of the private universities have scholarship. Of course you need to have proven yourself. Yes it’s a problem if the child hasn’t performed well. But as a society we have to come out of mindset that education can be free of cost. You are ready to pay 20,000 in school but not in college.

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