TISS online course to bridge practice-knowledge gap

From tackling drought in Maharashtra to fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa, students from across the globe will get practical experience in disaster management, as Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) starts a first-of-its-kind one-year online programme in April in association with International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies.

"What should be done in the event of a disaster is not taught in a structured manner anywhere. This programme will teach disaster management in a comprehensive manner, including preparedness and mitigation, rescue and relief and rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery. It will bridge the practice-knowledge gap," said TISS director S Parasuraman.

The programme also includes supervised and graded field internships. Students will have to devote approximately eight hours online per week for study.

There will be lectures, discussion boards, group work, online chat, question-answer sessions with tutors and "peer to peer feedback and assessment". Since it is the first year, 50 students will be selected from across the world. Parasuraman said in each country, students will have to come together every three months for two-week classroom learning. The dominant forms of disasters in each country will be part of field work.

"Both natural and man-made disasters will be part of practical work. But students will not have to leave home country for the practical training component. Students in India could be sent to deal with the ethnic conflict in Kokrajhar, Assam, or to drought-hit areas of Marathwada or learn how to deal with earthquakes in Gujarat. Similarly, in South Africa, students will get hands-on experience in dealing with HIV/AIDS," said Parasuraman.

TISS officials said 332 natural disasters were registered in 2011 globally, less than the annual average of 384 from 2001 to 2010. Human and economic impacts of the disasters in 2011, however, were massive. Further, natural disasters killed 30,773 people worldwide and caused an economic damage of $366.1 billion.

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