Towards quality education

A system overhaul is needed

UPGRADATION BY A MAJID CHALKOO

Higher education sector in India is likely to receive a major boost by getting a major chunk of grant worth Rs. 80,000 crore in order to improve access to colleges and universities. The aim is to double the gross enrolment ratio (GER), from present around 17% to 30% by the year 2020. For this, there would be a need of several new universities and colleges across the country.
In addition to new institutions, many of the existing colleges will be upgraded either into universities or autonomous colleges having powers to award degrees. But the establishment of new colleges should be made purely on merit, requirement and not on vote bank politics. Of late our state has witnessed establishment of colleges in the vicinity of already existing colleges. Some institutions are running in middle schools and some in senior secondary schools, with a Principal and a helper as staff. This step negates the concept of providing quality education as envisaged in NAAC guidelines. This messy situation needs an overhaul.
The budget for boosting the higher education will be Rs. 80,000 crore, the biggest ever allocation for higher education. But the efficient and skilful approach needs to be taken by authorities of higher Education Department. Providing adequate staff, teaching and non teaching, doing away with adhocism or contractualism, empowerment to heads of Institutions, accountability of system and time bound placement of faculty members are some of the measures that need to be taken. While setting up of new colleges, thrust should be laid on background of that particular area, whether it is a horticulture rich zone, industrial area tourist zone, or some other area. And accordingly relevant subjects should be introduced besides other compulsory subjects. The entrepreneurial skills of young students should be explored through incorporation of relevant subjects on which UGC is laying emphasis.
Driven by market opportunities and entrepreneurial zeal, many institutions are taking advantage of the lax regulatory environment to offer 'degrees' that are not approved by Indian authorities. And many institutions are functioning as pseudo non-profit organizations, developing sophisticated financial methods to siphon off the 'profits'. Regulatory authorities like UGC and AICTE have been trying very hard to tackle the menace of private universities which are running courses without any affiliation or recognition. Students from rural and semi urban background often fall prey to these institutes and colleges.
The quality of teaching depends on the quality of the teacher. Where quality faculty is lacking, (probably in the vast majority of the colleges in our country), quality teaching cannot happen. However, even when good quality faculty is available, the quality of teaching depends significantly on the environment created by the students.
India's main competitors — especially China, but also Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea — are investing in large and differentiated higher education systems. They are providing access to large number of students at the bottom of the academic system, while at the same time building some research-based universities that are able to compete with the world's best institutions. The recent London Times Higher Education Supplement ranking of the world's top 200 universities included three in China, three in Hong Kong, three in South Korea, one in Taiwan, and one in India (an Indian Institute of Technology at number 41— the specific campus was not specified). These countries are positioning themselves for leadership in the knowledge-based economies of the coming era. There was a time when countries could achieve economic success with cheap labour and low-tech manufacturing. Low wages still help, but contemporary large-scale development requires a sophisticated and at least partly knowledge-based economy. India has chosen that path, but will have to come over some stumbling blocks in its university system.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 3 May 2012 00:00:00 IST




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