Higher education in recent times has witnessed tremendous growth in many aspects such as its institutional capacity, enrollment, teacher-student ratio, but that’s not enough for the progress of the country.
India has a low rate of Gross Enrolment Ratio. Students from Scheduled Caste communities constitute 14.9% and students from Scheduled Tribes 5.5% of the total enrollment. 36.3% of students belong to Other Backward Classes. Whereas, 5.2% students belong to the Muslim community and 2.3% to other minority communities (AISHE 2018-19) which is comparatively low in comparison to other developing countries like Brazil.
Lack of quality research work, institutions and resources too lead to the scarce numbers. There is lack of funding for the top Indian Institutions like IITs, IIMs and other institutes of national importance. However, the budget for research is underspent due to insufficient and bad quality research work.
Due to the limited focus on research and globalisation, very few Indian higher educational institutes are globally recognised. Indian higher education is facing the problem of poor quality of the curriculum. In most of the higher educational institutes, the curriculum is outdated and irrelevant. High shortage of pupil-faculty ratio and low employability of graduates is one of the major problems.
Only a small proportion of graduates are considered employable. Placement outcomes also drop significantly as we move away from the top institutes. The First Education Policy 1986, led to the privatisation of education in the state in which governments abdicate their responsibility and allowed private individuals and institutions to execute things and do the job for money. Further development of this system resulted in a market-oriented system and education became a service to profit-making ideas which progressed rapidly in the entire country.
We have come a long way since a gurukul system where education was a charity and religion to education. Then some were excluded due to caste hierarchy now some are excluded due to lack of resources. An institution like TISS or BITS Pilani remains unaffordable due to unavailability of resources which denies social justice and theory of equal opportunity too. We have some committees and education policies to justify the education system but they are not inclusive, whether it is Radhakrishnan Committee 1948 or Kothari Education Commission 1964, or 1986 Education Policy.
Representation of the oppressed community is denied in the committee for all higher education systems and policies. We can also say that in that period there were no such educationists representing the oppressed community but today, there are enough for reorientation in academics. But they are not part of the policy making process, thus making it a non-inclusive education system.
Recently, a committee led by Mr Kasturirangan presented a report to the MHRD in the context of NEP-2019 which mentions Vivekananda, Charak, Aryabhatta, Chanakya, Panini but no recognition of Bahujan or Dalit heroes as if it is not a part of India. Even the saint-poets of the Nirguna branch of the 14th-15th century have not been taken cognizance, while all these saints have uplifted millions of people with their knowledge. Unfortunately, about 85% of the oppressed community has been disposed of in a maximum of 4 pages.
Many problems have been mentioned in this policy, but there is no mention of what kind of discrimination exists in higher education with the oppressed community. The new policy targets that by 2025, 50% of the students will be linked to vocational education, which is extremely hypothetical as only 5% of people have been able to get vocational education in the 72 years of independence.
The question here is, who would want to take up vocational education? In my opinion, the answer would be marginalised students from oppressed communities.