Higher and Technical Education in India

India’s Higher Education and Technical education sector has witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of Universities/University level Institutions & Colleges since independence. India’s higher education system is the world’s third-largest in terms of students, next to China and the United States.

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Technical & Higher Education in India – Overview

  1. Higher education contributes vastly not only in national development but also in developing critical abilities of people to face challenges.
  2. The unprecedented explosion of knowledge warrants higher education to become more dynamic as never before, constantly entering into unchartered domains. 
  3. During the period 2011-12, the Government initiated programmes for providing greater opportunities of access to quality higher education through greater investment in infrastructure and recruitment of adequate and good quality faculty, promoting academic reforms, improving governance and institutional restructuring with aims of improving quality and inclusion of hitherto deprived communities.
  4. Technical education in the country has also expanded significantly. Since the Central Government is responsible for major policy formulation, to maintain uniformity in Higher Education all over the country and also to take care of unserved areas, a number of centrally funded Institutions have been set up. 
  5. There are 81 Central Government funded institutions along with State government funded and Self financing Institutions. These institutions, supported by the government, play an important role in the technical education system of the country. 
  6. The National Policy on Education (NPE) speaks about Open University and Distance Learning in order to augment opportunities for higher education and to make it a life-long process. The institutional arrangements in place include: Open Universities (IGNOU and State Open Universities), Distance Education Institutions, Commonwealth of Learning (COL). 
  7. Distance Education Council has launched many initiatives for determination of standards in the system and provided financial, academic and technical support to the 13 State Open Universities and 186 Distance Education Institutes of conventional universities. The Open Universities offer all kinds of programmes ranging from vocational to general to professional and technical, barring those which are not allowed by the respective statutory councils.

Issues in India’s Technical & Higher Education

  1. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of India in higher education is only 25.2% which is quite low as compared to the developed and other major developing countries.
  2. The quality of higher and technical education in India is low due to lack of employability and skill development. 
  3. Most of premier universities and colleges are centred in a metropolitan and urban city, thereby leading to the regional disparity in access to higher education.
  4. Faculty shortages and the inability of the state educational system to attract and retain well-qualified teachers is another issue posed. The Pupil-to-teacher ratio has been stable in the country (30:1) though, however, it needs to be improved to make it comparable to the USA (12.5:1), China (19.5:1) and Brazil (19:1).
  5. Due to the budget deficit, corruption and lobbying by the vested interest group, public sector universities in India lack the necessary infrastructure. Even the Private sector is not up to the mark as per the global standard.
  6. Outdated and irrelevant curriculum – There is a wide gap between industry requirements and universities’ curriculum that is the main reason for the low employability of graduates in India.
  7. Low level of research ecosystem –  Poor fund allocation in research, Low levels of industry engagement and PhD enrolment, fewer opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, etc. affect the higher and technical education in India.
  8. Education in India also faces the problem of regularity. The challenges of over-centralization, lack of accountability and transparency, and bureaucratic structures. This has increased the burden of administrative functions of universities and the core focus on academics and research is diluted.

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State of School Education in India Mentor India Campaign – To Promote Innovation in India Atal Tinkering Labs – ATL
Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan ASER – Annual Status of Education Report 2020 School Education Quality Index – SEQI

The Indian Constitution related to Education

  1. Under Article 45 in DPSP, it was mentioned that the government should provide free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years within 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution. As this was not achieved, Article 21A was introduced by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002, making elementary education a fundamental right rather than a directive principle. And Article 45 was amended to provide for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
  2. To implement Article 21A, the government legislated the RTE Act. The Right to Education Act is completely titled “the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act”. It was passed by the Parliament in August 2009. Read more about the Right to education Act (RTE) on the given link.
  3. Under the RTE act, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) got a further impetus. It aims to provide Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time-bound manner. SSA has been operational since 2000-2001. Its roots go back to 1993-1994 when the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) was launched. However, under the RTE Act, it got legal backing.
  4. The 86th Constitutional Amendment (2002) inserted Article 21A in the Indian Constitution which states that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State, may by law determine.” As per this, the right to education was made a fundamental right and removed from the list of Directive Principles of State Policy.
  5. Moreover, Education is in the ‘Concurrent List’ of the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution which gives legislative power to the Central Government for coordination and determination of standards in institutions of higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions. 

Government Initiatives for Education in India

  1. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) established in November 1945 as an advisory body for promoting development in India in a coordinated and integrated manner. AICTE also conducted surveys on the facilities that were available for technical education. The purview of AICTE (the Council) covers programmes of technical education including training and research in Engineering and Technology, Architecture & Town Planning, Management, Pharmacy, Applied Arts and Crafts, Hotel Management and Catering Technology etc. at different levels. 
  2. Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) aims to increase investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions. The initiative will be funded by a restructured Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA). 
  3. Sustainable Development Goals related to education (Goal 4 of SDG) ensures equitable, inclusive and quality education along with the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.
  4. RUSA – Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), financial support is provided to improve infrastructure availability in the State Higher Educational Institutions and also to promote research and innovation.
  5. IMPRINT India is a joint initiative of IITs and IISc to address major and science and technology challenges in India. Aims to boost original scientific and technological research in 10 fields: (1) Health care technology, (2) Energy security, (3) Rural urban housing design, (4) Nano technology, (5) Water/river system, (6) Advanced materials, (7) Computer science and ICT, (8) Manufacturing technology, (9) Advanced security and (10) Environment/climate change.
  6. Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) Scheme: Aims to enhance the quality of technical research. Scholarship to 1,000 best B.Tech students each year from premier institutions to do PhD in IITs and IISc
  7. E-education platform SWAYAM stands for Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds. Under the programme there are 32 Direct To Home (DTH) channels operationalised for telecasting education content free of charge. For more information visit the linked page.
  8. Global Initiative for Academics Network (GIAN): The scheme facilitates partnership between Higher Educational Institutions of the country and other countries in order to tap the international talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs.
  9. Saksham scholarship scheme: Scholarship provided to disabled by AICTE to pursue technical education. Read in detail about the Saksham Scheme on the linked page.
  10. Unnat Bharat Abhiyan is to enable Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) to work with the rural people and identify the challenges they face and come up with solutions for their sustainable development. You can read in detail about the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan on the article link provided.
  11. Ucchtar Aavishkar Abhiyaan: To promote industry-specific need-based research.
  12. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF): to rank institutions of higher education in India. NIRF ranks education institutions under 10 different categories. Read in detail about the National Institutional Ranking Framework on the linked page.
  13. Swayam Prabha: telecasting educational programmes in higher education domain.
  14. Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP).

Way Forward

  1. The scope of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) and Open & Distance Learning (ODL) and online education to provide access to quality education beyond geographical boundaries should be broadened.
  2. Increased focus on vocational and profession led education by including these subjects in mainstream universities to allow for greater acceptance and utility.
  3. Changes in regulatory and governance reforms such as restructuring or merging different higher education regulators (UGC, AICTE, NCTE etc.) so as to ensure effective coordination, Allowing foreign institutions to operate joint degree programmes with Indian institutions, etc.
  4. All higher education institutions must be accredited compulsorily & regularly, by agencies, empanelled through a transparent, high-quality process.
  5. Creating ‘world-class universities’ to help students attain world-class standards of teaching and research. 

UPSC Preparation related links:

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