From higher to hire education

News: Higher education policy envisions giving shape to the digital university. Though the digital university is not functioning, the university is expected to offer any number, kind, and type of course without limits on intake, in a hybrid or ‘physical plus digital’ mode. But before opening up such a venture, India should focus more on higher education reforms.

What are the challenges associated with higher education?

Floodgates for private universities: The University Grants Commission has relaxed the norms and standards for setting up open universities. For example, the land requirement has been reduced from 40 acres to just five acres. This is likely to open the floodgates for private open universities.

Higher education getting metamorphosed into ‘hire education’: More universities are being enabled to offer courses in the distance, open and online mode. Many such universities have already outsourced the delivery of their courses to EdTech startups and unicorns.

Further, Students can also accumulate credits at will and deposit them in their Academic Bank of Credit to be exchanged for a degree. This shows that higher education is now getting delivered by for-profit entities. This is in contravention of the long-held belief that education at all levels must be provided on a not-for-profit basis.

Challenges with technology: The mode and medium of remote learning have been changing to keep pace with technological advancement. Technology-enabled and mediated digital learning is supposed to end face-to-face formal education.

But, the digital divide and inherent limitations of the technology are creating massive learning losses.

Challenges with getting Jobs: EdTechs are raising resources and enhancing capacities to capitalise on the opportunities that market-friendly reforms created. But, most recruiters prefer to hire those who have graduated in face-to-face mode.

What should be done?

Higher education must indeed embrace and keep pace with the advancements in technology. Technology can be effectively leveraged as a quality-enhancement tool.

Become the producer of knowledge: India’s higher education at present is focused a lot on borrowing content and delivering them online or outsourcing content. This would render India a consumer of knowledge. India must, instead, be focused on exploiting its full potential to emerge as a producer of knowledge and providers of the global workforce.

Stricter oversight and tighter regulations for digital education: The quality of higher education is inversely proportional to the intensity of regulation. Even though experts of online and virtual education feel that such programmes should be subjected to stricter oversight, tighter regulations, and rigorous processes to ensure high standards and robust quality control.

Source: The post is based on the article “From higher to hire education” published in “The Hindu” on 28th June 2022.

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