NEED FOR A QUALITATIVE THRUST
Millions have pinned their hopes on the new government, at the centre, which has come to power with the strongest mandate in over a quarter of a century. The new ground rules for governance, policy making and bias for action articulated by the government indicate its resolve to step up economic growth.
The government’s immediate concern and focus, as it should be, will be to address urgent issues at hand – reviving the sluggish economy, fixing law and order, securing India’s borders, strengthening relations with its neighbours as well as the economic super powers. However, the huge mandate also puts the onus of ensuring long-term growth momentum, on them. This can be only achieved only through a dramatic shift in approach, transforming its youth into a talent pool comparable with best, coming out of haloed portals of learning, in Europe and the Americas.
People are India’s meta resource, one which can drive the growth of every other sector. And clearly education has a huge role in shaping the future of India by firing a new quest for knowledge on all fronts – liberal arts, science, technology, engineering and management.
The Union Minister for Human Resource Development has a daunting task – of developing a talent pool that will fire up the Indian economy, literally, on all cylinders. From its role in creating a skilled manpower pool that can fit the 100 million jobs, to enabling researchers and scientists create technology, that India can proudly call its own, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has one of the most challenging roles in the government.
Vision 2030 for Indian Higher Education to my mind will have a quantitative and a qualitative component. It will reverse the system where our schools, colleges and universities churn out graduates with poor employability. Millions of degree holders – ranging from unemployed to under employed – need re-orientation so that the industry gets manpower that is trained, creative and matches the best productivity levels. On the quantitative side can we get one-half of Indian population between 18-24 years enrolled in colleges and universities to achieve a Gross Enrolment Ratio of 50 per cent? If yes, it would mean that by 2030 the enrollments will more than double to 71 million from the current 31 million.
Can we improve India’s human development index rank to 90 from 136 by improving education, health, gender equality, life expectancy and opportunities? By 2030 if we reach 90 per cent employability, we will make India the single largest provider of global talent.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development needs to enhance its focus on the qualitative front. Today, only four Indian universities feature in the top 400 universities of the world and none in the top 200 universities. Is it too much, to expect global recognition for Indian universities and research institutions by improving their overall standards? Can India aspire to be one of the top five countries in terms of research papers, citations and number of PhDs? Is it too much to expect half a dozen researchers from Indian university system get a Nobel each year?
Vision 2030 can be achieved by doing away with debilitating regulations that inhibit Indian higher education sector. There is a need to restore the autonomy of the institutions of higher education. In the past, institutions of higher learning had to contest many of these stifling regulations and seek justice from the courts.
Here are some suggestions, for consideration of the new government and the Minister for Human Resource Development, which will reform governance of higher education. The current rigid and bureaucratic control in higher education can be replaced by an indirect form of control based on accreditation and performance-linked funding. Regulatory bodies should redefine and reinvent their roles as ‘nurturing the quality’ and ‘promoting autonomy and accountability’ which will ultimately lead to ‘self-regulation’ and ‘introspection’ among the higher education institutions.
As suggested by the Narayana Murthy Committee, both private and public universities should learn from each other and collaborate in a healthy spirit. It means that private universities should pay attention to their responsibility towards ‘public’ (society) and public universities should generate funding from industry based on the strength of the knowledge that they create as if they are ‘private university’.
Regulatory bodies should regulate the broad outcomes of an institution or a university rather than monitoring inputs like number of teachers, books, computers etc. Each institution should be allowed to frame its vision and mission under the broad national vision of higher education.
Instead of making the accreditation compulsory, there should be visible and concrete incentives to those institutions which opt for accreditation. Making it compulsory will create worst kind of bureaucratic problems. Secondly, there should be multiple independent accreditation agencies rather than a few controlled by the government (i.e. NAAC and NBA). Engaging industry bodies like CII, Ficci, Nasscom, AIMA, NHRDN, EPSI, AIMS by assigning them specific responsibility for accreditation, may be a step in this direction.
Further, foreign universities should be allowed without any preferential treatment vis-à-vis the Indian institutions. There are some fears about entry of the foreign universities among certain quarters. But by applying principle of ‘level playing field’, these fears can be allayed. Healthy competition in the market for higher education and providing more choices to the students will be good for the health of Indian higher education.
All the top universities and institutions, both public and private, should be encouraged to internationalize their academic and administrative working by recruiting more and more foreign students and faculty. They should also send their students and faculty to join partner universities abroad. Leadership of these top institutions needs to be encouraged to join global networks of higher education so as to be connected with global trends.
The new Union Government headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has generated lot of expectations in all spheres, including education. Revitalising the MHRD will mean several big initiatives in primary education, school education and in tertiary or higher education. For reforming the education sector, the policy makers may need to shed their ‘we know all’ attitude and look at garnering wisdom available among academicians of the country. Aiming for radical improvements
in higher education will require setting up much higher goals and work towards achieving in next 2-3 Five
Year Plans. IPA