This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Kamlesh Atwal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

A JNU Doctorate Holder’s Take On The Quality Of College Education In India

More from Kamlesh Atwal

The admission process for the undergraduate programmes is almost in the last phase here in North-India. One can easily feel the excitement and fear, almost together, in the new college aspirants and their parents. There are a large number of fishes in this small pond that need to be accommodated. Amidst the many concerns, including, new atmosphere, accommodation, being away from the one’s comfort zone, the dilemma over the course and programme selection, there are very few reasons to celebrate for the students. Many of us believe that college and university life not only gives our career direction but shapes our world view. Nevertheless, the best part of structured learning i.e. grad student’s life is on the brink.

The simple reason for the hardship faced by the students is the common rule of the market – ‘demand and supply’. There are millions of school pass-out students in our country, but we have a very few numbers of colleges and universities that could claim to have a launching base – to cultivate the skill to survive in the contemporary world, to provide knowledge and the basic etiquette that is required to live as democratic citizens.

Those institutions who do have a quality learning atmosphere, up to date course-curriculum, infrastructure, well-equipped laboratory, library, well trained and qualified faculty with ideal teacher-student ratio can be easily counted on one’s fingers.

These kind of public funding institutions are becoming rare because of the fund cuts by subsequent governments and a lack of significant recruitment over the decades in the states as well as in the union. Therefore, there is this nail-biting competition within the student community to find a place in these public universities like DU, JNU and BHU.

The technical institutions like IITs, NITs and medical colleges require a different kind of preparation to secure admissions and this is hardly possible without special coaching institutions. Nowadays, students from class 9th onward are taking coaching for the same. A lot of private schools are more focused on their alliances with these coaching institutions. These school charge a hefty amount of fees for these services, therefore, the medical and engineering option is not feasible for average students with average parent’s income.

There are large numbers of other central and state universities and colleges which are running without professors, laboratories and libraries. Their curricula are too ancient and far away from the existing reality and demand of the industry. One example of the outdated curriculum is in the Nainital based Kumaun University that has nearly 90 affiliated government and private colleges where students of political science are still studying the cold – war and are kept away from the new world order.

The post-graduation social science course stands nowhere in front of the undergraduate courses of Delhi University. The surprising fact about higher education in Uttarakhand is that neither the bookseller sell nor the teacher recommends textbooks for undergraduate studies. In fact, the students believe and rely solely on the 50 pages kunji or ‘Question Bank’ that can be memorised before the last night of the exam. Amartya Sen,  Romila Thapar, Bipin Chandra, Rajni Kothari, Ashis Nandy, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Dipankar Gupta, Andre Beteille, Paul Krugman, George H. Sabine, Noam Chomsky, and the like scholars are actively out of classroom teaching and discussion.

Unfortunately for the larger part of college ‘registered’ students, a university means taking admission, conducting exams, declaring results and improving in exam performance. That is quite different from the notion of our first Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, who had said; and that is written in the entrance of JNU library “A university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of the truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives.”

In this way, public higher education in this part of the world is not cultivating the masses into demographic dividend as it claims under the rhetoric of ‘Vishwa Guru’. Without any doubt, our education system, particularly higher education, is outdated, non-innovative, and doesn’t inspire students to take a risk.

The irony of Indian education is that parents want kids to take admission in private schools up to class 12th, but after schooling, they move toward government institutions. Now, as the government is encouraging the corporatisation of education, some reputed names have emerged in a very short span in education.

In the absence of recruitment in government institutions, the private institutions are able to attract the best of professors across the country. But their fees structure gives them the elite tag. For instance, the fees for BA liberal arts of Ashoka University for a four-year degree course will cost over Rs 20 lakhs. So, due to financial constraints, the common Indian dream that education can change their destiny is not applicable here.

On the other hand, there are mushroomed private universities and colleges in small cities and rural India. Now, they are accommodating the financially well off section of society in the absence of quality public-funded institutions. Unlike government institutions, most of the private college’s operations are dependent upon the local teachers who don’t have the exposure and qualifications to satisfy the thirst of young minds. Their fee structure does not allow the students of lower economic strata to join them. These larger issues have established a huge profit-driven coaching industry in the country. Can these coaching and substandard institutions produce skilled human resources for the nation?

The grad student’s life is like raw clay that can be shaped and nurtured trough a vibrant campus life, where there is a balance of academic and extra-curricular activities. The campuses that have produced great leaders in different walks of life are known for academic excellence, debate-discussion culture and support and propagation of different art forms like theatre, cultural fests and constructive engagements with the community.

Unfortunately, we are witnessing this vacuum in most of the institutions in North India. It may be for the above – mentioned reasons that the output of these institutions has found itself in isolation and irrelevant when with respect to the real world. It is the right time for the society and its leadership to feel the anxiety of wandering students caused by our policies. Otherwise, any rebellion from this class will blow the existing structure.

(The writer is doctorate from JNU, New Delhi and has resided in the JNU campus for a decade. Now, he runs and teaches in a school in the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand.)

Youth Ki Awaaz is an open platform where anybody can publish. This post does not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions.

You must be to comment.
  1. Manorma Joshi

    Well explained ❤️

More from Kamlesh Atwal

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By aakash chaudhary

By Anna Sibley

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below