Higher Education in India
Higher education for the elite mind, the professional, and the intellectual is a must. A postgraduate or a doctoral qualification enables the individual to search for the unknown and makes him more useful in his profession. A graduate degree is not proof of specialization and in this competitive world, specialization is the key to success in any field.
Take, for example, the case of a doctor with MBBS degree. He is a respected figure in society. He has taken a hypocritic oath to serve humanity He would do everything to save the life of a patient.
However, nobody would like him to operate open his kith or kin if a doctor with an MS degree is available (at a higher price and from a far-off place) for treatment. Why? Because MS is a specialization nobody can ignore for the sake of his near and dear ones. This brings us to the main issue of higher education. We do not need higher education for the sake of degrees and glossy academic awards. We need higher education for solving the riddles of AIDS, surgery, engineering, architecture, sciences, and other branches of knowledge. We need higher education so that our posterity could grapple with the problems that would face them tomorrow. We need the same for building a better society
We need more knowledge about this universe in order to solve our material and spiritual problems. Education is the only way for getting over the ocean of problems we are in. Higher education in India is being imparted by many colleges and universities.
The State understood the need for professional and higher education and has taken vital steps for imparting higher education of high quality. However, it is sad to note that all the regions and pockets of the country do not impart high-quality education to Indian students and professionals.
Therefore, the students are tempted to go abroad and study. Some even settle down in the country of learning. The real loss is for the country that spends a lot on these talented young people. After independence, a need for quality education was felt by our national leaders. A University Education Commission was set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Radha Krishnan in 1948.
The commission observed that a central authority for allocating recurring and capital grants to the universities from the center was necessary. On the recommendations of the Commission in 1953, University Grants Commission (UGC) was set up. UGC funds universities and colleges in the fields of arts, sciences, and humanities. The states were also supposed to look after higher education.
However, the educational needs of a vast country like those of India are diverse as well as complex. Partnership and financial contribution of center, states, and private educational management are inevitable. Until 1976, education was a State subject.
However, coordination, determination of standards of the institutions for higher education and research, etc were under the purview of the central government. After 1976, the requirements of funds of educational entities connected to the central government, state governments, and the private players become more prominent. Privatization of higher education has always been an issue of serious debate.
As of date, 80 percent of all enrolments in the institutions are financed and governed by the state governments or by the center. However, with the advent of professional training institutions in the early eighties and also, with the mushrooming of new private educational players from India and abroad, the trends are pointing towards the possible privatization of higher education.
Let us discuss some of the benefits of this concept. Firstly, the educational system would become more competent and efficient. Only good students would be able to make it to professional postgraduate, doctoral and post-doctoral courses. Ph.D. theses would not be merely typed materials churned out for the sake of degrees. They would be research-oriented. Doctors would be awarded degrees only if they are capable of saving the lives of patients.
The entire educational setup would be sans bureaucratic delays. The best would come to the fore and the rest would be discarded. Secondly, private sector participation in the educational sector would lead to more campus recruitments. Unemployment would be reduced. The corporate firms would be keen to take candidates from those institutions that they support.
The candidates, groomed for professional jobs in the postgraduate educational curricula, would get better salaries and would have a bright future. Thirdly, if the students are offered good educational and career opportunities, they would not be tempted to go abroad.
As a result, brain drain would be minimized.
Finally, the privatization of education has already brought foreign universities into the educational scenario of India. An Indian student can get the best degrees and knowledge from these institutions. He has only to spend a year or two in a foreign country. The rest of the curriculum would be completed by the branch of the foreign educational institution in India.
Money is also saved and the latest concepts are also imparted to our students.
The negative points of privatization of higher education would have far-reaching effects on our economy and society
Let us analyze this aspect in detail. The situation, as on date, is quite fluid. The states give grant-in-aid to private affiliated colleges. They also supply funds to many universities. So, a large number of students are able to get professional and higher education at low costs.
Parents have to pay a minimal fee which is reasonable. The pay-scales of the teachers have also been hiked wef July 1998, as was promised by Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi, the Minister of Education in the center. If the states withdraw these funds and subsidies, the students would have to pay more.
Today, 85 percent of the students are pursuing higher education in the country. Further 80 percent of the affiliated colleges are private institutions. Thus the needy students would be deprived of higher education. Further, the privatization of higher education would lead to dirty competition in the educational sector of India.
The corporate players would pump funds into the reputed institutions, leaving the ordinary ones. That is because they would seek benefits and favors (either in cash or in-kind) from these institutions. The divide between the ‘haves’ and “have note would be widened. A financially strong educational institution would command better resources, get better teaching faculty and demand more fees from the students. A financially weak institution would not be able to command a good price in the market.
The free market winds would ultimately take the poor and needy students for a ride. Privatization of higher educations would eliminate corruption bureaucracy and red-tape, a phenomenon associated with the functioning of all the systems promoted and managed by the State. But this efficient system would be full of snobbery. Rich students would sneer at the poor ones.
The gap between the rich and the poor students, which is not visible now, would be prominent. This could lead to large-scale violence, riots, strikes, and arson. The students would be actively involved in dirty politics, which would be supported and funded by the private sector and corrupt politicians.
In sum, the privatization of higher education is inevitable. However, we would not recommend complete privatization in the interest of the poor and the needy students. India is an illiterate nation and lacks resources for uplifting its masses from the lowest levels of poverty; economic backwardness and social chaos.
Privatization of higher education should be done in such a manner as would ensure that poor but talented students do not suffer. On the other hand, private sector participation would generate more employment opportunities and participation with the industrial sector.
Human resource is the most precious asset for a society or a nation. Higher education develops the human resource of a country. Indian educational scenario can get a big boost if the private sector participates in the activities of funding, equipment, technology, training, and manpower absorption. The private sector would naturally have its own axe to grind. However, the overall impact on our education (and on our economy) would be healthy. The private sector players could send generous donations through taxes and not directly. The rich students should be told to pay more fees. Secondly, they should not ask for scholarships or research grants. The funds saved due to this measure could be channelized for meeting the educational needs of the poor students.
No new colleges or educational institutions should be set up. Only engineering colleges, medical colleges, and vocational institutions for imparting technical education should be started wherever these are required. The educational institutions should be able to generate their own revenues through engineering consultancy, vocational jobs, and management consultancy assignments. The students of the respective educational institutions should be allowed to work on such projects. The culture of “earn while you learn” should be made a part and parcel of our higher education policy.
International financial institutions could extend a helping hand on easy terms for educational reforms in India. There is no harm in accepting the educational norms of the world and there should be no problem in accepting their financial support for the sake of our educational upgradation. A well-trained student, graduating from a professional or higher educational institute, would contribute more effectively to the Indian economy.
He would either work in a firm or for a PSU or would set up an enterprise that would generate more jobs. The global financial community should be made aware of this fact. We can conclude that the higher education scenario in India has changed for a better future for students of this country. However, the. State and the educational institutes must join hands for a student-oriented system of higher education. Participation of the corporate sector, reputed educationists, NGOs, and individuals are welcome as this step would support our commitment to a free-market world.