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Approach:

  1. Intro – Briefly write on state of higher education, with data.
  2. Highlight the policy contradictions and their impact on state of higher education.
  3. Point out the Governance issues plaguing higher education sector.
  4. Conclusion

Higher education in India has recorded impressive growth since independence, however current GER in higher education being 19.3% in 2020-21, according to the latest edition of the All India Higher Education Survey (AIHES) reflects on the abysmal state of education mainly due to policy contradictions and governance structure.

Policy Contradictions: The policy for growth of higher education system in India has undesirably led to its chaotic and unplanned expansion. The drive to make higher education socially inclusive has led to a sudden and dramatic increase in numbers of institutions without a proportionate increase in material and intellectual resources.

  • This has led to inadequate infrastructure and facilities, large vacancies in faculty positions and poor faculty, outmoded teaching methods, declining research standards, unmotivated students, overcrowded classrooms and widespread geographic, income, gender, and ethnic imbalances.
  • There is an increasing gap between education and employability. NITI Aayog in its Three Year Action Agenda acknowledges that that only 18% of engineers were employable in the software services sector. The deemed unemployability of a large section of such graduates in fact points to the production of a graduate underclass that is undereducated.
  • Estimates suggest that only 2.3% of India’s workforce has undergone formal skill training, compared to United Kingdom’s 68%, Germany’s 75%, USA’s 52%, Japan’s 80% and South Korea’s 96%.
  • There is a massive mismatch in the supply-demand, of proportions access to education beyond higher secondary schooling is a mere 10% among the university-age population in India according “Intergenerational and Regional Differentials in Higher Education in India” report.
  • Though there are many schemes for providing financial aid to the poor students, the amount given is awfully low and procedures to secure loans are cumbersome.
  • While much emphasis lies on the fact that primary and secondary school teachers require formal professional qualification, there are hardly any pre-service courses for teachers at tertiary level.
  • India’s spending on R&D (about 0.6% of GDP) is well below that in major nations such as the US (2.8), China (2.1), Israel (4.3) and Korea (4.2).

Governance Issues:

  • The UGC is a recommendatory body and has jurisdiction over university education over all disciplines for maintaining standards. The professional councils also fund and maintain standards as well as grant recognition to institutions. There is thus overlap and confusion in different sectors of education in the country. Thus the regulatory mechanism for Indian higher education system is highly fragmented, dispersed and dysfunctional.
  • The level of public funding is small and allocation too is skewed. IITs, IIMs, NITs have just 3% of total students but get 50% of government funds (MHRD data 2018). Other institutions have either no government funding or have a much lower level of funding per institution and per student than the privileged few central institutions. This has led to a kind of hierarchy within the education system.
  • Institutes of higher learning lack autonomy of designing of curriculum with a focus on innovation and experimentation, undertaking innovations for periodic revision of curriculum making the process of revision simplified, less cumbersome and less time consuming.
  • The report of the National Knowledge Commission recognises that, “the autonomy of universities is eroded by interventions from government and intrusions from political processes”. Political interference in the functioning of institutions of higher learning takes place at different levels in different spheres such as admissions, recruitment, examinations, civil works, etc.
  • Over assertive bureaucracy tend to impose their line of thinking on the leadership of institutions of higher education. Consequently, they start interfering in the day-to-day functioning of the institutions of higher learning which demoralising environment.

Thus a complete revamp is needed to meet the present demand and address the future challenge. To reap the demographic dividend and to maintain peace and social harmony, quality education with values are the necessary area to focus.

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