The Status of Higher Education in India



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Pratiksha

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Since ancient times, education has held great value in the Indian culture. Ancient universities in India were globally renowned centers of learning. The earliest of the universities was Takshshila, which attained great fame as a university in the 7th century B.C. Institutions such as this had a fairly comprehensive syllabus spanning over subjects, including the study of holy scriptures, grammar, astronomy, medicine, logic and philosophy, among others. Currently though, the education scenario in India isn’t exactly world-class. The system is plagued with various problems that are holding it back from achieving the greatness it once held. But how do we bring about a change in a country like India which is so adamant against adapting to such changes? If we look closely, the solutions lie in the problems themselves.

1.     Creating a research culture: India spends only about 0.7% of GDP on research. Consequently, a great concern is the low research output of Indian universities. Statistics show that the combined research output of 39 federally funded Indian universities, as measured in journal publications between 1990 and 2014, was less than that of either Cambridge or Stanford University alone — a weakness that points to the fact that many education institutions are run like businesses and place little emphasis on research. Even in our labs, a lot of the instrumentation isn’t in working condition. This might also contribute to dimming the interest of students wanting to pursue research.

2.     Introduction of flexibility of courses: Students should be able to take courses of their choice, instead of being forced to take a limited number of subjects. They should have the flexibility of learning at their own pace or undergo additional courses. There should be room to adopt an interdisciplinary approach and let students explore all their possibilities because no course is too insignificant and knowledge of anything never goes wasted.

3.     Personal rapport between students and teachers: While conducting classes in big universities, we often don’t find the level of personal interaction that teachers share with students the way it is in schools. Students sometimes don’t even know the names of the professors teaching them and teachers don’t take the effort to interact more with their students either. This definitely affects the learning environment in colleges. Students aren’t all that comfortable in such an environment where the professors don’t come across as approachable. Instead of clarifying their doubts with professors in person, they become dependent on Google and YouTube videos to fulfill their academic queries.

4.     Dimming quality of institutes: Inadequate funding and infrastructure, absenteeism among faculty members, high student-to-teacher ratios, academic corruption- such issues raise doubts about the relevance of the overburdened Indian education system. Many academic institutions are opening up like mushrooms and are of lackluster quality, diluting the quality of education and making a degree from a reputable foreign university seem more valuable. India has seen a surge in the outflow of international students from India due to this very reason. The number of Indian students enrolled in degree programs abroad has grown almost five-fold since 1998. And the brightest of these students who go abroad to pursue higher education end up taking comfortable and high-paying jobs abroad, instead of returning to India and getting into the rat race of finding a suitable job amidst increasing unemployment rates. Eventually, they end up contributing to the process more commonly known as “brain drain”.

5.     Dominance of rote-learning culture: The process familiarly known as “ratafication” is quite commonly observed among college students. The current higher education system in India rewards students for blindly copying assignments and lab files, because in fact, trivial matters like these are given more importance than whether you’re actually taking back anything from performing your lab experiments. Instead of imparting skills, we’re made to follow a mind-numbing routine of attending classes to maintain 75% attendance while sleeping with our eyes open in these classes while the teacher rants on, in a hurry to complete the syllabus. This is why 80% engineering graduates turn out to be unemployable, not even unemployed, because companies obviously don’t need these graduates to be wrapping their documents in brown paper. A solution to this rote-learning problem is the practice of daily quizzes at the beginning of every lecture, lasting for not more than ten minutes. True, they consume part of the class time but the pros to the teacher and the taught outweigh the cons. Also, introduction of open book examination would be a good idea as it would inculcate a routine of applying the theoretical knowledge we receive from books to solve realistic situations.

These are just a handful of problems that we face in our higher education sector. Clearly, here is a need to implement an innovative and transformational approach from primary to higher education level to make the Indian higher educational system more relevant and competitive globally.

-From a student stuck in the midst of the higher education scenario in India

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