Education is one of the important topics in the polity section of the UPSC syllabus. It is important also from a social issues point of view for the civil services exam. This particular article talks about education in India, its issues and challenges.
The major issues and challenges of education sector and the concerned issues has been dealt under the following sub-heads- 1. Expenditure on education 2. Gross enrolment pattern 3. Capacity utilisation 4. Infrastructure facilities 5. PPP model 6. Student-teacher ratio 7. Accreditation and branding – quality standards 8. Students studying abroad A brief description of the above has been laid down in the forthcoming paragraphs.
6. Student-teacher ratio Another challenge for improving the Indian education system is to improve the student teacher ratio. In India, this ratio is very high as compared to certain comparable countries in the world. For example, while in developed countries this ratio stands at 11.4, in case of India, it is as high as 22.0. It is even low in CIS (10.9), Western Asia (15.3), and Latin America (16.6). This brings the necessity to recruit quality teachers and strengthen the teachers required to handle classes. I also feel that like in developed countries where students are given part-time teaching assignments, we can also explore such possibilities in technical/higher education to handle lower level classes. It is also expected to help the students in meeting their education expenses partially.
7. Accreditation and branding – quality standards In order to improve the skills and talent of our large populace, there is a need for raising the quality and standards of our education system. It is well-known that many of our professionals (engineers/doctors/management professionals) remain unemployed despite lot of opportunities being open in the globalised world. One of the major factors is the lack of quality education resulting in qualified but not employable category. We need to introduce/activate the mechanism for rating and ranking universities/colleges. At present, there is no compulsion for institutions/colleges to get accreditation in India. Government has already mooted a proposal to introduce accreditation. We, therefore, require standard rating agencies to give accreditation to universities/colleges/schools. In a recent ranking of Business Schools by Financial Times at global level, in the top fifteen, only two of the Indian premier Business Schools appeared at rank no. 11 and 13 for the year 2011. Most of the top ranking business schools were from the U.S. In this ranking, even China was ahead of India. In the same reporting, in respect of value for money of these two Schools, it is observed that it is not that high when compared with some of the best U.S. Schools. However, a positive development is that these high ranked Indian Schools possess faculties with doctoral qualifications and of global standards who can deliver quality education to the students. In the world ranking of universities by Quacquarelli Symonds in 2010, out of 200 world renowned universities, only one Indian educational institution appears in the list, while 53 institutions are in the U.S. According to Webometrics ranking for 2011, while no Indian university appears in the list, there are 99 U.S. universities included. This essentially shows that we need to develop Centre for excellence of global standards. Given the increasing role of private sector in the recent years in the development of higher education standards, we need more such institutions that meet certain global rating standards to come up in those areas where low GER prevails. I understand that the JRE School of Management has been established in collaboration with the largest private education group in Asia-Pacific and, hence, striving for quality education of global standards would be its principal aim.
8. Students studying abroad As mentioned in the beginning, India has the largest number of higher education institutions. Despite that, we find the number of students interested in pursuing higher studies abroad is on the rise. In the year 2006, according to a Wikipedia report, 1.23 lakh students opted for higher education abroad, of which about 76,000 chose the U.S. as their destination, followed by U.K., Canada and Australia. However, in 2010–11, about 1.03 lakh students got admission to study in the U.S. In regard to Australia also, the number is on the rise. During 2004 to 2009, the number of students joining different courses rose from 30,000 to 97,000. Likewise, in the other sought after destination of U.K. for higher education, students studying abroad doubled between 1999 and 2009. In 2009, about 19,205 students were studying in U.K. Various factors encourage Indian students to seek admission abroad by taking loans from financial institutions including (a) quality of education, (b) increasing prosperity and aspirations and (c) social prestige and also exposure and experiences gained. We have to recognize these short-comings while building our educational institutions for reversal of trend.
A NOTE ON ‘PRATHAM’
Pratham is the largest non governmental organisation working to provide quality education to the underprivileged children of India. Pratham was established in 1994 to provide education to the children in the slums of Mumbai city. Since then, the organization has grown both in scope and geographical coverage. Today it reach out to millions of children living both in rural and urban areas through a range of interventions. The Pratham team comprises of educationists, development professionals, media personnel, corporates, workers, activists, PhDs, MBAs, CAs, civil servants, bankers, corporate professionals, consultants, who all bring their experiences and perspectives to the organsiation and are unified by the common vision of improving the future ofour children.
Indian Education System Problems and Solutions
The initiatives to evolve must be centered around the following- 1. Innovations required 2. Quality of education 3. Making education affordable Description of the above has been laid down below.
1. Innovations required The challenge of educating millions of young people implies that we need to scale up our educational efforts multi-fold despite having the largest number of higher education institutes in the world. Scaling up is not possible unless the students become successful, create value in the society and contribute back to their alma-mater or, better still, start new institutes of global standards themselves. The curriculum of some of the colleges/universities is more or less obsolete and do not equip students with the necessary skills or impart latest knowledge. If a student passes out of a chosen course, he or she should be employable as a work force. Unfortunately, given the phenomenal share of lack of technical knowledge in the courses of education, students are found wanting in the desired skills and technical soundness. To address this issue, we may think of strengthening the vocational streams in schools/colleges. It is urged to the universities/schools/colleges to regularly revisit their curriculum by involving experts from different fields so that the curriculum can lead to knowledge development. Further, why can we not use the available infrastructure more intensely? For instance, why cannot a second stream of courses, say vocational, be run in the evening/night so that the available /created infrastructure is better utilized.
As education has to be made affordable to all deserving and poor students, there is a strong need for educational institutions not to over-commercialize education but to uphold ethics in the business of education as well. It is not anyone’s case that the business has to be run unprofitably but the business must be carried out with ethical values for the sustenance of educational institutions. Overexploitation should be avoided. Profit cannot be the sole motive for undertaking this business. It must be driven by an unflinching commitment to society which in turn will benefit the business in the long run.
Teachers are the most important factors for any innovative society because teachers’ knowledge and skills not only enhance quality and efficacy of education, but also improve the potential for research and innovation. Given the higher level of GER to be achieved by 2020, a large number of teachers would be required to educate the growing young population. Maybe, students could be used as teachers, especially good students coming from lower income groups so that they can be partly be compensated. Further, barring some leading schools/universities/autonomous educational institutions, many of the teachers of colleges/universities need to hone their skills/talent. There is a need to encourage teachers to participate by presenting research papers in seminars/workshops/conferences and receive periodic trainings for updation of knowledge/skills. It is equally important that a feedback mechanism from students is introduced in universities/colleges to assess and evaluate teachers’ role in the institutional developmental process.