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Purposeful education

Purposeful education

Given that higher education is a priority area for long-term development, catering to this sector so that it thrives better cannot be a pursuit in isolation. In order to sustain the structure of higher education, the series of interconnected aspects of which higher education is a very conspicuous link must be developed and strengthened for there to be any substantial and qualitative impact of these investments. Development of higher education without upgrading and enhancing primary and secondary education will not bear optimum fruits. Higher education, as a result, will suffer from problems such as falling standards and quality, poor infrastructure and maintenance services, inadequate support systems, capacity overload, and inadequate manpower and good faculty—all of which happen to be the reality of India's higher education sector. Further, with substandard products of a weakened system, the job market will have little room for them in a larger perspective. In order to be able to absorb fresh graduates of impactful professional courses like engineering, a suitable domestic market is also a basic necessity. With the guarantee of a job at the end of the course, professional courses as a possible means of employment remained highly popular, but as unemployment tightens its grip on the economy and the neglect the education sector has been bearing for a long time, a symptom of the deteriorating situation comes to light with a major decline in the enrolment of students in professional courses, particularly with reference to B. Tech and M. Tech. It can be gauged how alarming the situation is with enrolment in professional courses hitting a four-year low. Since the 2015-16 academic year, the number of students pursuing professional courses at the undergraduate level has decreased by 7,21,506—that is nearly 9 per cent, and enrolment in postgraduate professional programmes dropped by almost 32 per cent from 18,07,646 in 2015-16 to 12,36,404 in 2018-19. As per the latest All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) released on Saturday, enrolments for B.Tech and M.Tech programmes have seen a dramatic fall. With the decline in enrolment in these courses, the overall enrolment in professional courses sees a massive dip hitting a four-year low. Students pursuing a Master's degree in technology have decreased by more than half in the last five years alone, from 2,89,311 in 2014-15 to 1,35,500 in 2018-19, according to AISHE 2018-19. B.Tech enrolment fell by 11 per cent in the same period, from 42,54,919 to 37,70,949. However, some professional programmes like MBA, MBBS, B.Ed and LLB continue to attract more students, for instance, the number of students pursuing MBA grew from 4,09,432 in 2014-15 to 4,62,853 in 2018-19, and enrolment in B.Ed. jumped by almost 80 per cent, from 6,57,194 in 2014-15 to 11,75,517 last year. Clearly, this change in trend reflects the job-guaranteeing capacity of a course. As per the government, professional education comprises higher education programmes that are meant for students to acquire knowledge, skills, and competencies for a specific profession or a class of occupations. What is interesting is that his drastic dip comes at a time when student enrolment in higher education is at an all-time high. The survey reveals that total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 3.74 crore as opposed to 3.66 crore the year before. The waning popularity of professional degrees could be interpreted to have renewed interest in academics, which has benefited with a steady increase of almost 16 lakh students in the last four years at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. With reference to academics, it was not too long ago that a formal check was conducted on universities for the quality of PhDs researches that were being allowed and pursued, the relevance of the topics being the main concern. It remains an unanswered question how these aspiring academics will be absorbed with the prevalence of fewer universities in proportion. Yet another major revelation is that The Gender Parity Index (GPI)—the female to male ratio in higher education and a measure of progress towards gender equity—has increased over the last five years, from 0.92 in 2014-15 to 1 in 2018-19. Out of a total of 3.74 crore students in higher education in 2018-19, 1.92 crore are men, and 1.82 crore are women. The survey also brought to light that there are 993 universities, 39,931 colleges and 10,725 standalone institutions in the country at present while there were 903 universities the previous year, and 864 in 2017-18. Despite the increase in the number of institutions catering to higher education, more than 50 per cent of the seats in engineering colleges go vacant, Odisha being the state with the worst record of 80 per cent vacant seats in state engineering colleges.

While the debate on education can continue indefinitely, there is a need for deeper understanding that education, notwithstanding its intrinsic value, is a primary step for job eligibility on a larger scale. If expensive and rigorous education cannot ensure a means of livelihood, decline in the popularity of courses is but obvious. What the government must understand is that courses in medical and engineering are not simply for an individual's growth and well-being but a lot depends on the quality of doctors and engineers a country has as they are instrumental in taking a country to heights of development and prosperity.

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