"Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own," said renowned linguist, philosopher, historian, and scientist, Noam Chomsky. For an educational system to enable its students to reach a stage where they can learn to learn, it is essential that their building blocks of fundamental knowledge and skills are in place. For the specialist professional courses such as pharmaceutical sciences, the situation gets more complex with the addition of another dimension: This dimension is "keeping pace with the time". Unlike a course in theoretical mathematics, where the algorithms discovered way back in the 1960s are still powering most of the machine learning, the pharmaceutical research has moved many ages in last decade. But, has our pharmacy education system adapted itself to change?
This is an important question, as the primary objective of any specialized course is to make the students "industry ready" and ensure a seamless transition from academics to industry. Academics have a very well defined structure of imparting knowledge, while the industry has no such boundaries and thrives on innovation and change. This presents a dichotomy and it is important for academics to realize this and structure the course curriculum in a way, which ensures that students are mentally agile and adaptable to change.
So, what does a pharmacy student of today needs to equip with, which will be useful to the industry? Pharmacy students of today need to equip themselves with knowledge that is more than pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, and dosage formulation. They need to have an understanding of biostatistics, principles of drug design, the know-how of algorithms and tools that are needed to work on the disruptive technologies which the industry is betting on to solve the problems of tomorrow and I am sure this list of additional items will continue to expand, as we move along. Importantly, this emphasizes the need for research-based learning, as industry will always move forward and academics will always play a catch-up game.
In order to bridge the gap, academics need to focus on research-based learning where the primary objective is to teach the student how to solve a problem rather than teaching few theoretical concepts. "Enquiry" into a concept is the best way to learn the concept and we should start focusing on that. Research-based learning will impact critical problem-solving skills, analytical reasoning and will help students in learning the art and science of problem-solving. Research-based learning will also support entrepreneurship, as this will enable students to look at various problems and then find creative ways to solve them. This will enhance the overall student experience and make them more confident and motivated.
Apart from students, this also will be beneficial for the teaching staff/faculty, as they will also need to retool themselves. This will be a collaborative process between the students and teachers. An imagination of research-based education that lays emphasis on adopting tools, techniques and the concepts that can put us ahead in creative curve is only a few steps away, if we take the step number one. I am positive we soon will.
Having 20 years of diverse experience within the pharmaceutical industry and management consulting focusing on establishing businesses, Strategic Planning, Business Development, Portfolio Management and Market Research / Competitive Intelligence, currently Rajaram Iyer handles the chair of Vice President at Mankind Pharma Ltd. He has demonstrated ability of preparing and executing business plan for new growth areas and have worked and executed go to market strategy for generic specialty areas in the EU and the US.