Just as the licence-quota raj created self-inflicted scarcities of telephones, scooters and cooking gas, our utterly authoritarian, cynical and intellectually bankrupt higher education policy has created humongous shortages. We all know the odds for a candidate to qualify for premier engineering, management and medical colleges. Those with means now pay their way to colleges in Australia, Singapore, Qatar, besides indeed the traditional “exporters” of education to India, the US and the UK ....Studies estimate that our education system churns out nearly 3.2million graduates of whom about a tenth or 350,000 are from engineering. But even a cursory examination of the graduates reveals that most of these graduates pay by the noose only to get a paper certification but no real addition to their skills. Most of the so called engineering colleges are blocks of apartments run without laboratories or even proper lecturers. In many cases, the students graduating out of these colleges are employed back as lecturers as they are unable to fit anywhere else in the industry, and the colleges unable to get worthy lecturers, leading into a vicious circle.
....Yet, do advertise for a security guard on naukri.com and see how many applications you get from MAs, MScs, even PhDs. These are young Indians who have invested the most valuable years of their lives collecting degrees but no knowledge, education but no skills. Unless this disaster is stemmed now, these numbers will multiply faster than you can imagine, and they will be angrier than you wish to imagine. But if you can fix it, the dividend you reap will be not merely demographic, but even economic and political.
The answer is not setting up namesake IITs in ordnance factories or forcing the existing IITs to increase reservations and acceptance rates. It involves giving more importance to autonomy of existing institutions and doing away with the redtape that deters from quality individuals and institutions from coming into the academia. I don't advocate for exclusivist policies with regards to IITs, IIMs, but setting up proxies sans the quality will lead to further devaluation of these last bastions of credibility in Indian higher education system. We need more IIT like institutions not just IITs, and in all spheres of higher education.
If cases of competitive intolerance like this and this don't wake us up to the need for liberalisation in education in general and higher education in particular, nothing ever will. In 2004, I thought that the only upside of NDA defeat was end of Mr.Joshi's hold on HRD but unfortunately he was followed by a catastrophic Arjun singh. Here's to hope that this term may turn out to be different from with Mr.Kapil Sibal as the HRD minister.