Dr. Komal Vig, is an Associate Professor at Amity Law School, Noida and has keen interest in the area of criminal laws and laws relating to women and children. She has a doctorate and master of laws degree from the Meerut University and additionally holds a MBA (HR) degree from the Punjab Technical University and a LLB degree from C.C.S University. She has also previously taught at the Kamkus College of Law, Royal College of Law and Intergraded School of Law.
In this edited interview to Bar and Bench she talks about the impact of COVID-19 on students, ways in which students can overcome the adversities of the pandemic, her thoughts on unpaid internships, and need for more positive steps to retain and promote more females in academia.
In the light of Covid-19 and the adverse effects it has had on the careers of graduating students who are currently struggling to get jobs, how do you see the future of the upcoming batches of students?
While the new e-learning platforms introduced at various colleges to help continue with classes amidst the disruptions caused by the pandemic has given students access to international speakers in the subject area of the students’ interest, it has adversely affected the field experience that students could have otherwise gained from in-person internships. As a result, present graduating students may lack the industry exposure that would have otherwise helped them secure a good job.
Given the global impact of the pandemic, I believe that it will take a while before we return to normal. However, students should creatively respond to these challenging times and know that adversities do not last forever. It would be good if students keep themselves abreast of the latest digital platforms of communication, e-learning and generally become accustomed to seamlessly working in a virtual set-up. So, while students may have to initially work hard to secure a job offer amidst the pandemic, it will not be long before they can excel at their chosen field of law.
The Indian Council of Medical Research has warned about an imminent third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that existing institutional structures are often rigid, how can we bring about structural changes in student evaluation methods to cope with the further disruption that is to caused by the pandemic?
The National Education Policy of 2020, now focusses on the overall performance and holistic growth of a student. Therefore, currently we are trying to assess the overall performance of each and every student throughout the year. So, in a way, we have already deviated from the conventional student evaluation mode.
With the threat of a looming third wave, there will definitely be challenges to assessing a student’s calibre, capability and efficiency exclusively via online tools, as artificial intelligence has its own limitations. E-assessments in the form of online tests and open book examinations also fail to stop cheating and plagiarism. Such problems can inturn adversely affect the validity and reliability of e-assessments. But, even if there are limitations to the process of online evaluation, we as teachers will definitely try our best to achieve the objectives of the National Education Policy and in this way try and make the best of what we can with the given difficult circumstances.
There has been a lot of talk about unpaid internships and how unpaid work is ethically unacceptable. However, many organizations endorse unpaid internships. What is your opinion on this?
It is really disheartening that most of the internships offered to students, including final year students are unpaid. Employers could definitely do better and pay some stipend amount to young interns who often work as hard as full time employees.
In fact, it would be good if the the Ministry of Education could frame schemes to at least help final year law students secure paid internships. Also I feel that there is a need to regulate the number of hours that a student can intern for in a week. Both, regulating the hours of work, as well as providing a reasonable stipend that would help interns cover their internship expenses, would go a long way in motivating interns to give their very best at their internship positions.
Given that during the pandemic many women academics have been forced to simultaneously balance their domestic responsibilities and their jobs with equal efficiency, do you think it is time for the academia to take more active steps in order to retain and promote women academicians?
While the pandemic has come with the boon of doing away with commutation time and has allowed for more flexibility and control over working hours, it places women at a much more disadvantageous position than their male peers. Working from home, women are now juggling their house-hold and parenting responsibilities as well as office work, all at once, often at the cost of their own physical and mental health.
I believe, that it is time that Human Resources department of various organizations devise suitable policies to retain their female employees, so that at least job loss fears amongst women in these uncertain times can be covered. Also it would help to have clearly devised schemes for promotion and salary increments and other awards for exceptionally performing female employees. Lastly, promoting gender sensitization and awareness programs amongst higher officials at an organization could also be helpful.
COVID-19 is becoming the “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Needless to say, vaccination of students and teachers will pave way for reopening educational institutions across the country. Do you believe vaccinated students are eager to return to the university for in-person classes?
I believe large scale vaccination drives will definitely help us return to what we previously knew as normal life. In the education sector, all schools and colleges, after having made vaccination mandatory for teachers and staff have started to re-open their premises for such persons. However, many government schools have opened up their educational institutions, including primary sections, when vaccines for children against COVID-19 are yet to be developed. This is a risky move.
I believe, mandatory vaccination can help in facilitating resuming of in-person classes and it is encouraging to see students above 18 years of age eagerly participating in the vaccination drive. This definitely shows students’ keenness to return to their normal in-person campus life.
This interview is conducted by Campus Ambassador, Ashwin Gupta.