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AICTE, Mumbai University announce online workshop from 13 May to 17 May on 'Universal Human Values in Education'

The University of Mumbai in collaboration with AICTE (Western Region) will be organising an online workshop on 'Universal Human Values in Education' for institutions offering technical education.The workshop will commence on 13 May and end on 17 May. According to University of Mumbai, the workshop is of paramount significance to continue learning process amid COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.The workshop will be conducted in Hindi and English. The morning session will be from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and the evening session will be from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.File image of Mumbai University. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons “To understand the basics of value education an online workshop is being organized exclusively for the Vice Chancellors of Technical Universities and University Coordinators appointed for coordinating the activities related to FDPs on Student Induction Programme,” the circular said.The workshop is specifically designed for sharing All India Council for Technical Edu…

After eventual lifting of lockdown, behavioural science must form key part of India's COVID-19 response

As India gears up to gradually lift the lockdown, its massive population will have to build and exercise crucial new habits such as physical distancing, wearing masks, and maintaining hand and face hygiene. How much the virus spreads will, to a large extent, depend on how effectively we bring about and sustain these behavioural shifts. We propose the 'MINDSPACE' framework and the need for behavioural science to be embedded within policymaking as the lockdown comes to an end.

What will happen to people's behaviour after a few weeks? Some may not see any harm in going back to normal by engaging in 'risky' behaviour after the arduous lockdown. This ties into 'fatigue', ie the boredom that comes with adhering to a newly-imposed behaviour and the consequent likelihood of people giving it up. Behaviours such as 'just one night out with friends', 'I don't feel like wearing a mask today' or 'I'll skip washing my hands this time' could be perceived as innocuous. Yet, this voice in our head becomes emboldened every time we justify that 'nothing will happen to me'. Additionally, as individuals, we severely underestimate how our behaviour affects the collective.

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Broadly, there are two angles from which we can think of behavioural change. First, by influencing what individuals consciously think about based on information available ('System 2' thinking). Second, by focusing on how we can influence the automatic judgments people make ('System 1' thinking) by changing the context within which they take action. Here, we explore the applicability of the MINDSPACE framework, a handy playbook developed  by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), in the Indian context. It was developed to help policymakers in the UK incorporate behavioural science into public policy decisions. MINDSPACE is a simple mnemonic: Messenger, Incentives, Norms, Defaults, Salience, Priming, Affect, Commitment and Ego.

Representational image. AP

The Messenger effect explains how people are influenced based on who communicates the information. India, with its large and diverse population, needs prominent influencers to voice the importance of preventive behaviours in a way that resonates with people across socio-economic groups. A pertinent example is the video created by the BCCI where cricket players call themselves 'Team Mask Force'. Information, when conveyed by such personalities as politicians, sports persons or film actors can help in stirring cultural and patriotic sentiments, rallying people for a cause greater than themselves.

The latter involves another technique highlighted in the mnemonic, namely Affect. This encompasses stirring action by using emotional associations, as we witnessed on 22 March when citizens all over the country clapped for front-line professionals. Further, Ego explains that humans behave in ways that make them feel good about themselves. Messaging that advocates responsible behaviour, not just for oneself but for the welfare of one's kin, ticks both these boxes. For instance, taking care of elders in our homes and being considerate to domestic workers by not cutting their salaries speaks to the Ego element.

When it comes to designing messages, attention is captured by what is novel and relevant, ie Salience. 'Namaste over handshake' is a catchphrase that can stick; the police in Haridwar used an actor dressed as 'Yamraj' to spread awareness and urge people to adopt necessary behaviours. Such key messages could be circulated and reinforced through various channels — television, radio and other media — as a public safety announcement. It is imperative for everyone to understand that the end of the lockdown is not a signal that COVID-19 has been eradicated.

People's behaviour is altered if they are exposed to certain sights, words or sensations. This is called Priming. Since choices are made by people in an environment where noticeable and unnoticeable features influence their decisions, policymakers can be 'choice architects' and insert cues in the environments to nudge people towards a favourable 'Default behaviour. Examples include installing public sinks and liquid soap next to bus stops in Kerala, which made people automatically wash their hands once they disembarked. Drawing circles at intervals of one metre on the road near counters of vegetable and grocery shops has made people adopt physical distancing. Such measures should be adopted across India to influence people’s behaviour positively.

Over the past few weeks, we have all invested in the fight against COVID-19. Once the lockdown lifts, it is important to instil in the minds of people how far we've come and describe the path ahead. This will ensure a Commitment on the part of people to maintain social distancing, avoid unnecessary nights out, and so on. As more people adopt precautionary behaviours, they will provide a visible cue that social Norms have shifted.  For instance, states have made wearing masks mandatory. This is a prominent gateway behaviour which will self-perpetuate since human beings tend to mimic others around them, and induce people to adopt the other precautionary measures since masks, as a highly visible symbol of new norms, increase risk perception.

Further, we are programmed to reduce our losses. Hence, the enforcement of fines against non-compliance could act as an Incentive to ensure compliance with the circuit breaking measures. An example of this is the $300 fine for those who don't abide by government rules such as maintaining a six-foot distance in Singapore.

Given the central role of human behaviour in the fight against COVID-19, it is critical to embed behavioural science in our response to this pandemic. This will require appreciating the fact that humans are fundamentally irrational and inconsistent in their choices. Utilising a checklist like MINDSPACE can greatly help in embedding this aspect of human behaviour into our public response against the pandemic.

Priya Vedavalli and Kadambari Shah are associate and senior associate respectively, at IDFC Institute, a Mumbai-based think tank. Shilpa Rao, Tinaz Mistry and Biju Dominic contributed inputs.



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