Friday October 19, 2018
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Plight of the students: Modi govt needs to drastically reform education sector

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By Gaurav Sharma

Education is a multi-faceted process that encompasses a wide array of disciplines such as transfer of knowledge, learning values, ideas and other life enhancing skills. While these life-enhancing skills involve an inextricable element of survival, viz-a-viz creation of employable assets, this is not the only purpose that they should serve.

In this regard, Albert Einstein, the Nobel-prize winning physicist known for his intelligence acumen, realized something very profound: imagination is more powerful than knowledge.

Talking about India

Yet, the current education system in India is completely anti-imaginative, thoroughly infused with knowledge prioritizing rote-learning. It rewards memorizing of hard and bulky facts with little or no emphasis on critical analysis of the information that is given to students. The inadequacy of such a short-sighted education system, however, does not take much time to reveal its ugly face.

As the student cum prospective employee steps into the professional arena, he soon realizes how amateur he is and has to undergo the tedious process of ‘job-training’.

So, what is wrong with the Indian education system and the way it is run presently?

First and foremost, the education structure is highly rigid, both in terms of the curriculum and the manner of teaching.

Those possessing an independent, questioning and free-thinking mind are castigated as ‘out-of-touch-with-reality’ lunatics. Such presumptions inhibit the sprouting up of the natural artistic talent that might be embedded deep inside the heart of a sparkling child.

Critical inquiry, which is a crucial fulcrum of education in any field, is also looked down upon. This essentially means that logical and analytical thinking, which are essential aspects in the formation of a well-rounded personality, are entirely missing from the purview of our school set-up.

The consequence of such a warped system of educational ideals is reflected in the high dropout rates at the school level and low attendance record at the undergraduate plank.

Higher education in India

While institutes of higher education, such as IITs, IIMs, JNU etc routinely figure among the top places to study in the world, only a few manage to earn their place in such prestigious universities.

Six decades after gaining independence, barely 6-7 per cent of the Indian citizenry goes to centers for higher education or universities at the right age. The United States, on the other hand, boasts more than 60 per cent participation in the tertiary education segment.

To add to the educational woes, the abysmal shortage of higher education institutes is hardly given its due importance by the government. The lax attitude of our ministers is quite apparent when a miserly 3 per cent of the total budget is allocated towards education by the department under their wing.

School system in India

At the primary and secondary level, the government is the major provider of education with more than 70 per cent of the schools being run under its direction.

The facilities in the state run schools are in a dismal condition; lack of safe drinking water and unhygienic lavatory systems being the defining features of their infrastructural structure.

The shoddy state of affairs in the public schools is not just limited to infrastructure facilities. The teacher-pupil ratio stands at an awful ratio of 1:37. The general practice of citing health concerns to mark their leave of absence further amplifies the apathy with which the school children in public schools are treated.

Of Modi government and education

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an eye towards capturing a higher growth rate, is working on taking forward the UPA government’s plan of establishing 8 IITs, 7 IIMs and 30 Central Universities.

While such an ambitious target is certainly awe-inspiring, one wonders if such a strategy is an appropriate anodyne for lifting more than a billion poor people from the vicious circle of illiteracy and unemployment.

At a deeper level, the growth measure by Prime Minister Modi involves a basic yet serious flaw.

Advocating more Central Universities and making dramatic changes in the higher echelons of education by overlooking the quality of education at the school level is like building a grand castle on shifting sand. It is only a matter of time before the castle collapses.

First precipitate, now solution

A serious revamp of any system, including educational setup, should start with the foundation. If Modi honestly intends to overhaul the education system in India, he should first and foremost lay down a firm footing for the child, to smoothly and gradually traverse the rungs of higher education.

Equally important is the need to allocate a higher budget for establishing more schools, training teachers, introducing better facilities such as libraries and laboratories, along with the propagation of the benefits of education.

Another problem that needs to be nipped in the bud is the seething number of private unaccredited institutions offering dubious degrees that have arisen due to the slack regulatory environment prevailing within the country. This can be arrested by ensuring transparency through the introduction of strict data disclosure policies for the institutions to adhere to.

It is high time that the HRD ministry under the aegis of the Modi government takes a long, hard look at the pathetic state of affairs in the education sector and initiates concrete and long-lasting steps to reverse the awry trend.

 

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The Critique Of The Indian Education System

The country's higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed.

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India, education
India needs a world-class higher educational system Pixabay

India has the third-largest higher educational system in the world. In 2016, there were 799 universities and 39,071 colleges spread across the country. These numbers are staggering. The growth of higher education in India over a little more than half a century has been even more staggering.

Between 1950 and 2014, the number of universities in India increased by 34 times. And, between 1950 and 2013, colleges increased by 74 times.

This quantitative explosion in higher education institutions has not been matched by the quality of the education they provide. In fact, the gap between quantity and quality is so large that it stands as one of the major obstacles in the way of India being a world leader. To become such a leader, India needs to develop a world class higher education system.

India
School Children in India. Pixabay

Two years ago, the Narendra Modi administration attempted to put some focus on quality in higher education with its introduction of draft regulations for a new initiative called the “UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as World Class Institutions) Guidelines, 2016.” By 2018, when the first six institutions were named under this initiative, they were designated as “Institutions of Eminence” as opposed to “world class institutions”.

Although the label has been changed, the intent remains the same. That is to give considerable discretion to and elevate the status of these institutions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But, it will do little to address the underlying problems of higher education in India.

This is true because the focus is completely wrong. These universities are the tip of the higher educational iceberg. Enhancing the capacity of a few institutions, thus possibly enabling them to be rated a little higher in the world rankings of higher education institutions, does nothing for the many.

India, education
Smart boards projectors used in government schools enhancing the quality of education. AP Janmabhoomi

That’s not to say that India does not need world class institutions of higher education. It is to say that more, importantly India, needs a world class higher education system.

A world class higher education system is one that is student- or customer-centred rather than institution-centred. It comprises certified and caring institutions that have the resources required and the core mission of ensuring that students/customers acquire the knowledge/skills/abilities and dispositions that they need to achieve their individual goals and to maximise their contribution to society.

India’s current system has been almost exactly the opposite of that. The emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals rather than embracing and addressing the needs of the whole.

There are many steps that must be taken to change this and to make the Indian higher education system world class. They include:

India, education
The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees.

– Increase public financing. The federal and state governments currently provide limited funding for higher education. As a result, over 70 percent of the higher education institutions are operated by the private sector. These institutions are not well regulated and are of highly variable quality. Public sector financing could be used to support existing public institutions and to establish new ones in regions in which there are limited higher educational opportunities.

– Enhance the infrastructure. Colleges and universities throughout India have inadequate physical settings, lack equipment, and suffer from a shortage of competent teachers. Ensuring that each higher educational institution is infrastructurally sound, establishes the proper environment for learning and growth.

– Expand access to and participation in higher education. The enrollment in higher education is approximately 15 per cent of the eligible population. This percentage needs to be much higher for India to be considered and to become a developed or developing country. It also needs to be representative of the entire population, including females, those from the weaker sectors, and rural areas.

India, education
he emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals

– Enforce standards and requirements appropriately. The announced replacement of the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) created considerable debate within and outside of the educational community. The essential question regardless of whether there is an UGC, HECI or some other agency with an acronym. must be: Is the proper data being collected and used to monitor performance and ensure accountability for each institution in the higher education system?

– Place an emphasis on vocational education. The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees. Currently, there is a mismatch. The higher educational system must equip itself to be the provider of first resort and give the country the skilled workforce it requires.

Also Read: The Biggest Casualty in Yemen’s War- Education

There are many other steps that must be taken, such as addressing politicians controlling many educational institutions, to make India’s higher education system world class. But there must be only one mindset. That mindset must be that the country’s higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed in a way that benefits all of India and all Indians. (IANS)