Sunday, May 31, 2009

Education in India

Shekhar Gupta at Indian Express writes about the need for reform and revamping of Higher education in India:
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 ....
....Yet, do advertise for a security guard on 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.
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.

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.


insanityincorporated said...

Nice post.
There is a college in every nook and corner of any city. The parents are so desperate to get engineering degrees for their kids that they are ready to spend any amount of money to get engineering degrees. And the results are disastrous.
The stress should be on the quality of education not quantity of education. Alas, I see the standards of education depleting fast. My mother still remembers some of her poems taught to her in a very early age, whereas I don't remember anything. The emphasis these days is to pass an exam by hook or crook. Thereby the students end up resorting to techniques like cramming the text, instead of understanding it. The fault lies with the parents as well as teachers. Parental and peer pressures put force on students to perform, by any means whatsoever.

freespirit said...

I fail to see how an engineering degree, and only an engineering degree, is imperative for any, and every, individual to succeed in life.

The fault is not only in the manner in which kids are being educated, but also in the stream of education that they are forced to take up. Many students with absolutely no aptitude or interest in math or science are forced to pursue engineering and medical degrees simply because their parents believe this is the path to success. Imagine what the rate of unemployment would be if we had a nation that comprised of a billion doctors or engineers? And the cultural deprivation that nation would undergo?

"Education is an admirable thing, but nothing that is worth knowing can be taught."

fishermanofatacama said...

It is all very good to exude wisdom and quote but the commonplace reality puts things in a different light. Love for the subject does not really hold much prospects for an individual with so-called average marks (say, about 55%-60%)who chooses to study something other than engineering. A child choosing to take up an engineering education and getting into the IT field, will, in all probability earn more, have better financial and social prospects than another who chooses to study, say, English and wants to stick to it.Culture is not only a homogenous entity or an idea. It is an industry which needs to sustain itself and generate enough income.

"Love does not suffice when you have an empty stomach."