Is India heading for a big educational recession – a ticking bomb that signals the collapse of higher education in India? A problem so multi-faced and mismanaged for so many decades that it seems to be heading towards a slow death. But, how many TV news shows debate this issue that effectively concerns more than 50% of the Indian population? By now, we should have media screaming about this education Tsunami heading towards us. But, for a nation that is excessively obsessed with politics, and is in a continuous election mode, where is the time to deal with other issues.
As of February 2017, there were 789 Universities, over 37,000 colleges, and over 11,000 stand-alone institutions in India. These numbers would have only increased by now. Although these figures might sound impressive and embolden our importance of education, we should focus on the quality of education, employability, and the achievements of students.
Firstly, how many Indian research institutes have developed a path-breaking methodology or an innovative approach – probably just a few. One would think those numbers would be higher with hundreds of institutes and crores of students. Do colleges and universities provide the environment for freedom of creative thinking?
Secondly, to further understand the underlying causes, there are many recommendations from various committees on how to improve NIT’s, IIT’s, and the IIM’s – the elite institutions of India. But who is looking after over 11,000 stand-alone institutes in India? How many times do they get audited to make sure their labs, IT support centres, and the qualification of the teaching staff are in line with the changing demands of the world. How competitive or employable are the students of these institutes? How many of our PhD students can actually write papers that contribute to advancement in their respective fields?
Thirdly, according to McKinsey report, only a quarter of Indian engineers are employable, other studies put it at a much lower value. So, what are the rest 75% going to do? The percentage is even lower for the non-engineering graduates.
As per the World Bank, India must create 8.1 million jobs a year to maintain its employment rate.
Fourthly, to avoid the lack of funds affecting the university/college facilities, Indian institutes like the ones in the Western countries should promote funding from alumni. Universities should hold alumni meets, and use the social networking platform. The academics and teachers should have their certifications updated and evaluated once every decade, to make sure they are in tune with the changes around the world. We should have some performance monitoring systems to ensure better learning outcomes.
Lastly, although it might be too late already, we must separate education institutes from politics. The student body heads should be concerned with the welfare of students, proper facilities for students and not use the post as a stepping stone to join politics. Indian college youth have to shun the politics of “bandh” and dharna”, and instead use that energy to demand better amenities, raise funds, invite global think-tanks that would help to shine their future. The politics in the education sector has to end if we want to keep up with the ever demanding and ever-changing world.
We all know that Indian students do great in academic and research fields in western countries – so it has to be the poor educational environment, outdated labs as research facilities, lack of eminent academia, and an out-paced syllabus that is leading to this collapse in India.
As India is still thinking of how to address this issue, we are losing our future to foreign universities which are luring the students with scholarships, new programmes in English, and options of great employability. The number of Indian students moving out to foreign countries is higher than ever before. As per a UNESCO data, the number of Indian students studying abroad has rapidly increased by 163% between 1999 and 2006 to reach 145,539 as compared to slower growth of 25% between 2006 and 2013 to reach 181,872.
With so many students lost to foreign universities every year, India needs some imminent and high-paced changes in the education sector if we want to stand any chance in the world. Indian institutes should publish the data for research facilities and employment, update the syllabus regularly to accommodate the changing demand in skills, allow some freedom for new ideas and innovative approaches, collaborate with foreign universities on exchange programs, employ more qualified teachers and separate academia from politics.
To protect the higher education from collapsing, India must wake up and address the challenges looming over the education sector.