Crisis in our Higher Education System
Higher education is the stage of learning at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries and institutes offering advanced learning in various subjects and streams. Even though so much is said and discussed regarding bringing about improvements in the quality of education through various reforms and policies, there are still many issues and areas that need to be redressed to make the students employable apart from attending to various other nuances. Higher education in India has shown rise both in terms of expansion as well as the students opting to go for higher education due to saturation and non-employability at secondary levels, but the recent rankings in this regard published in ‘Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ have shown decline from the previously assigned rankings which is indeed worrisome. The intellectual class, academicians and policy makers need to do serious deliberations keeping in view some of the reforms to improve the standard of institutions and quality of education and to find out a sync to reduce the gap between demand from job markets and the relevance of the youth. Some of the issues that are staring straight into our face are:
1- Inbreeding: Inbreeding means Ph.D candidates appointed by the university have graduated or done PG or research from the same university and remain there throughout their career on the basis of favouritism and nepotism. Inbreeding is very much prevalent in this part of the country and one can find several examples.
2- Hourglass Structure of human resource: The structure of our human resources is in the form of an hourglass. There aren’t enough number of professionally trained, semi-skilled people such as electricians, plumbers and mechanics to fulfill the society’s requirements and yet there are professionals such as doctors, engineers and lawyers that the society cannot accommodate or put to productive use. So-called professional institutions are producing graduates who do not have the kind of skills that can make them employable and wealth creators, resulting in a that leads to lack of opportunity and lack of employment.
3- Defective and Archaic Examination System: One size fits for all kind of an examination system does not leave any room for either continuous appraisal during the term of the course or for testing the student’s creativity, application of knowledge and problem solving skills. Our examination system focuses on rote learning and students are more concerned with percentage rather than broadening their horizon of knowledge in their respective disciplines. This is more disgraceful when a postgraduate in humanities refuses to teach EVS of primary level citing the reason that ‘I have not studied the subject at postgraduate level’ .In the current higher education setup, except for elite institutions such as IITs and IIMs, the teacher doesn’t have any role in evaluating the student’s performance in real sense rather evaluation is done as per prescribed norms and as such thinking out of box isn’t really possible.
4- Unplanned and de-facto privatization: Governments at different levels opened the gates for private provision of higher education without any serious debate or preparation. These institutions have not only become money minting agencies but extremely exclusivist in their acceptance of students. There is no space for the middle classes and the poor in such institutions. I am not against the privatization of education at tertiary level but if we go by several surveys and the analysis of experts, barring few private institutions they lack both infrastructure as well as the faculty and are given recognition based on political influences rather than actual merit. In addition to this all family members holding plum positions accommodate their kith and kin regardless of their qualifications.
Poor quality higher education is producing many graduates who often lack conceptual clarity and the capacity to apply knowledge for finding creative solutions. Youngsters are graduating from schools without the basic knowledge and understanding of subjects.
Considering the nature of the crisis afflicting higher education in India, several critical structural reforms seem to be the need of the hour to increase the employability and applicability of the same. Ever since the nation recognized the value of higher education for promoting economic growth and social development, the pressure for reforms has been escalating. These are formally embodied in two eminent reports brought out in recent years- one by the National Knowledge Commission headed by Sam Pitroda and the other by the Committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education headed by Prof.Yashpal.
5- Creative Examination System, Continuous Evaluation: Almost all examinations conducted for entry for any profession or university course in India are usually the same barring few courses in which around 60% questions are of similar nature. The prescribed evaluation procedure should test the:
a- Depth of student’s knowledge, not breadth.
b- Analytical skills, application of knowledge and problem solving capacity.
c- Challenge the student’s ability to be creative and innovative.
6- Faculty Recruitment and Appraisal: Faculty recruitment at the University level is mostly on the basis of favoritism and nepotism. The research conducted within and outside state has proved that teachers in the colleges perform better and are more competent than their counterparts in the universities, the main reason being the mode of recruitment as the college teachers are appointed by a recruiting agency were chances of favoritism are less compared to universities where most of the panel members are of the same university and give preference to their own students and scholars. So the need of hour is that an agency be formed that will recruit teachers in all the universities.
7- Encourage Humanities: No doubt the need for science and technology, and vocational and other specialized forms of skill-based education is well-recognized and appreciated, especially in a developing economies, the importance of broad, liberal education is much less appreciated. Any society needs a mix of specialists and generalists to fulfill its unique requirements. Highly industrialized and developed nations are a testimony to developing societies like ours where the bulk of its university graduates do their Majors in liberal arts and humanities because true liberal education will go a long way in producing the kind of leaders and enlightened citizens needed by the developing world.
8- Encourage intellectual discourse: Institutional structure to ensure mandatory accreditation needs a legal basis for it to have the force of law because presently accreditation is not mandatory and there is no law to govern the process of accreditation. There are two Central bodies involved in accreditation of institutions; the National Accreditation Assessment Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA).
Despite good enough budget allocation and resource availability in our institutions of higher learning, the rankings at the International levels are not satisfactory and we are not able to make our educated lot employable which discourages the younger generation to opt for higher education. The fact of the matter is that until these issues are rectified at the gross root level and proper implementation of different policies we should not expect educated unemployment showing any signs of decline.