The GIS education in the country is not organized. The major constraints of GIS education are inadequate number of educators with adequate exposure of GIS and lack of a comprehensive syllabi identified for this purpose.
I V Muralikrishna
Prof. and Head, Centre for Spatial Information Technology, JNT University, Hyderabad, India
- What are the major constraints in GIS education?
The GIS education in the country is not organized. The major constraints of GIS education are inadequate number of educators with adequate exposure of GIS and lack of a comprehensive syllabi identified for this purpose. GIS educators are often faced with the challenge of ensuring students are adequately equipped to deal with problems encountered in the professional field. GIS Students come out of university with very little knowledge of the real world issues they are going to have to face. This holds true regardless of whether the student graduates from undergraduate or post graduate level. The issues topical in the current GIS community may be introduced in lectures, tutorials and even practical sessions but it has no utility unless the significance is fully recognised by students. The university systems have not fully understood the relevance of the technology.
- HowOn seeing the demand and supply situation in GIS education, where do you project GIS education in India in near future?
The GIS education is not at all oriented to the needs of industry today. May be a few institutions are identified for GIS and do good business. But it is only skill development and not education. The education and training facilities need to be accredited and quality is maintained. We need to work more in this direction. We are working on this now.
- Existing GIS course are very expensive and are not affordable for a student from a middle class family. Please comment on this.
The courses are expensive if you think of the ones offered by industry. As I already said they will only develop skills and the education component is totally lacking in view of immediate short terms gain they are expensive. But the GIS courses offered by universities, Department of Space, etc. are within the reach of many people.
- When we talk about careers in GIS then there comes the problem of industry-institution interface. What do you think about it?
I agree. In India this interface has never been active. The industry never asked the institutions about the type of manpower requirement. The industry has not identified the importance of education and they just get some body trained and get the work done. It is only skill development. We need improved interface.
In this background we have formed an Indian University Consortium for Geographic Information – It is necessary to have a common forum in order to ensure emergence of perspective and homogeneous view and plan a network of Indian Universities and professional associations is being attempted to form Indian University Consortium for Geographic Information. It is expected to expand and strengthen Geographic Information Science and Technology education at all levels and provide the organisational infrastructure to foster collaborative inter disciplinary research in Spatial IT in a broad sense. Many universities have shown interest to become part of the network. The actual framework is being evolved in consultation with friends working in other universities in India and abroad.
- What are your suggestions for the development and betterment of GIS education infrastructure
There is a need to introduce more quantitative methods in to the GIS Curriculum. There is need to have course and units involving GIS at all levels particularly at tertiary level.
A clear distinction can be made both for pre-tertiary level and tertiary level GIS. The emphasis on pre-tertiary level is on the use of GIS as a tool and integration with other fields of study like the social sciences. The tertiary level GIS is mainly centred around technology, infrastructure management and environmental and natural resources management. A general observation and interaction with the participants of GIS courses revealed that access to data, data quality, meta data, data availability and spatial data business are the major obstacles. The GIS educators should prepare the students for the real world issues they will face beyond the university surroundings. The university level educators should focus on meeting industry demands for skill based professionals. The students also must learn skills that will increase their ability to find jobs and build a career.
Modern education system should apply all advanced teaching techniques and methods including CAL, network and involvement of field/real life projects.
- What are the major GIS education programmes at your institute?
The major education programmes at Centre for Spatial Information Technology, JNT University, Hyderabad deal with GIS Science and GIS Application and GIS Technology.
A new educational system is being attempted now in our course with reference to GIS Course structure. The course content is advanced in both thoughts and methods and domain specific development is encouraged. It is systematic as well as comprehensive.
- What are the future plans of your institute? What are the upcoming programmes?
GIS Educators are dealing with a complicated situation like the IT educators due to the rapid changes in technology. Any conventional education systems requires few years to change the curriculum whereas the technology is progressing very fast. Then, how the growth or changes is technology can be absorbed in to the education. Many educators say that they are concerned with teachning of concepts and fundamentals only and as such not bothered about developments in technology. This is a very dangerous and short sighted perception of many of the educators who cannot think beyond next day. This is where we are focusing to fill the gap through our GIS education programme.
The GIS is clearly getting sharpened into two distinct domains/schools with a little overlap. One is application GIS with little emphasis on data bases and IT materials and a comp- letely IT driven/aligned GIS. The former category produces GIS users/analysts and the later category produces developers/programmers.
- There are emerging trends of e-learning. Where do you palce GIS education in this context?
GIS through e-learning and GIS in e-learning are the two issues now slowly emerge in the context of computer based education and distance education through internet.
The GIS content and scope is clearly getting sharpened through our education programs at CSIT. Now with mobile mapping internet technologies coming we are having an entirely new perception of GIS. Internet has changed everything including GIS. Now the GIS education becomes much more relevant because it is no longer a data conversion technology. Now we identify a new discipline called spatial information technology interfacing GIS, computer science, communication technology, surveying and mapping, remote sensing and softcopy photogrammetry. The GIS education is no longer relevant unless it gets IT enablement