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A fashion teacher talks about educating new age designers

Shalini Gupta, faculty at school of fashion, Pearl Academy, opens up about the challenges of teaching fashion in India

Nivi Shrivastava @msjunebug_nivi 13 June 2018, 12:20 PM
An inspiring and engaging teacher can teach students to look at more inclusive design ideologies

An inspiring and engaging teacher can teach students to look at more inclusive design ideologies Image: THINKSTOCK

If the recent edition of the Graduate Fashion Week in London is any measure, Indian colleges showcased alongside international universities from the UK and around the world, and won accolades not only for the level of student output but also the mentorship and support provided by Indian colleges to allow for students to grow and exceed their potential.

Fashion studies in India

The traditional Indian education system is still very outcome-driven whereas design education is most effective when the process is given more importance than the end product. Although most design colleges stress on this, Indian students take a while to adapt to this methodology and in the interim, they lose out on essential learning. It is essential to understand that once a student graduates, their final outcome will be relevant only for the immediate future whereas a strong self-defined process will stay with them throughout their careers. Students are also habituated to a tutor-led education system, and this becomes a problem when they go abroad as most design colleges expect them to be independent and autonomous learners. 

Shalini Gupta believes that curious students will find out ways to gather the information they need in order to perform tasks

Shalini Gupta believes that curious students will find out ways to gather the information they need in order to perform tasks Image: Pearl Academy

In India and across the world, fashion teachers face similar problems — the problem of dealing with a generation that is hyper-digital and hyper-connected, unlike the way things were when they were students. Those that don’t find ways to adapt and connect with this generation struggle with making a mark.

Adapting to changing times

Although times have changed and teachers have had to adapt, access to media and endless information means that the classroom becomes a space for exciting discussion and dialogue. One no longer has the burden to teach but only to inspire curiosity in students.

An inspiring and engaging teacher can ignite in students a fire to look beyond themselves and towards more inclusive design ideologies. The idea is to take people along towards supportive communities. A better future starts with conversations in the classroom. India now holds its own in terms of design education in the world. 

The way ahead

To improve fashion education in India, the education system itself needs updating. It needs to promote individuality over uniformity. There is no dearth of good design colleges and good design teachers. Fashion education requires one to be able to move freely between the outside world, where inspiration usually lies, and the classroom, where ideas are assimilated and realised. Classroom teaching is an essential part of the process but so is equal exposure to the outside world. Students in school need to be introduced to the idea of empathy and an outward approach which is where all great designers find inspiration.

(As told to Nivi Shrivastava) 

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