|Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss various issues in Indian higher education system. Suggest some measures to improve Indian higher education system. Conclusion. Way forward.|
India’s higher education has various structural issues. With no university among the ranks of world class universities, India’s higher education system is termed as poor, structurally flawed. The latest ‘India Skills Report’ suggests that only 47% of Indian graduates are employable.
Issues in Indian higher education system:
- Education quality: National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in its assessment report pointed out that 68% of institutions in India are of middle or poor quality. Recruitment of undergraduates as teachers, ad-hoc appointments and low pay scale, inadequate teacher training are all factors that have caused a deterioration in the quality of education.
- Vacancies: Nearly 35% of professor posts and 46% of assistant professor posts out of total sanctioned strength remain vacant across the country.
- Financing: India barely spends 2.5% of its budgetary allocations on education. This is far below the required amount needed to upgrade the infrastructure at public institutes. Nearly 65% of the University Grants Commission (UGC) budget is utilised by the central universities when the share of state universities in student enrolments is much higher.
- Inclusiveness and Equal Access: Inter-caste and tribal disparities are prominent in Indian higher education.For Scheduled Castes, Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is 19.9% and for Scheduled Tribes, it is 14.2% as compared to the national GER of 24.5%. Muslims have the lowest rate of enrolment in higher education. Caste-based discrimination in universities leading to suicides e.g. Rohit Vemula case.
- Privatisation and Regulation: Withdrawal of public sector has left the space open for private institutions that have turned education into a flourishing business. Most of the teachers in private colleges are underpaid and overworked.
- Curriculum: There is a wide gap between industry requirements and curriculum taught at colleges. This also renders graduates unemployable lacking in specific skill-sets.
- Autonomy:Over-regulation by regulators such as UGC, MCI, which decide on aspects of standards, appointments, fees structure and curriculum has further deterred new institutions from opening campuses.
- Academic research: India has barely 119 researchers per million of the population as compared to Japan which has 5300 and US which has 4500. Besides, in the US 4% of science graduates finish the doctorate, in Europe, this number is 7%, but in India barely 0.4% of graduates finish the doctorate.
- Faculty shortage: Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average. The problem lies in increased demand, and stagnant supply.
- Poor research: Indian universities persist in separating research and teaching activities. Monetary incentives for academia are practically non-existent, and Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies. Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching.
Measures to improve Indian higher education system:
- Filling up vacancies: Government must ensure filling up of vacancies through more autonomy to the institutions.
- Creating enabling atmosphere: Research cannot be improved merely by regulating universities, instead they need efforts to create enabling atmosphere for which it is imperative to grant more autonomy, better funding and new instruments to regulate work ethic.
- Implementing initiatives: New initiatives like Hackathon, curriculum reform, anytime, anywhere learning through SWAYAM, teacher training are all aimed at improving quality. These need to be effectively implemented.
- Permanent appointments: As India wants to transform its universities into world class institutions, it must safeguard the interests of young researchers and thousands of temporary faculty members by expediting the permanent appointments in a time-bound framework and transparent manner.
- Incentive: One of the fundamental changes India must institutionalise is a radically new compensation and incentive structure for faculty members. A flexibility to pay differential salaries based on market forces and merit must be part of this transformation.
- Investment: Adequate investment in the higher education sector is needed. Gap in investment to be filled by private sector
- Revamping curriculum: It is important to make curriculum industry-oriented, updated and practical focusing on skill development. More focus is needed on critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem-solving rather than memorizing and writing skills.
- Autonomy: UGC should act as a facilitator rather than a regulator. More autonomy to universities to be provided.
The government released a Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) in 2019, which proposed ambitious reforms. The DNEP aims to double education spending to 6% of GDP, and close the research-teaching divide in higher education. Experts, however, are doubtful about whether the dramatic increases will be politically feasible, and whether the implementation of such reforms will be implemented successfully or not.