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Indian Higher Education A Way Forward

Updated: January 15, 2016 1:28 pm

Privatization leading to commercialization in higher education sector is posing threat to entire education system in the country. India can no more enjoy the celebration of merely quantitative growth with the help of private sector alone ignoring the larger issues of degrading quality and also the increasing educated unemployment in the country

India has traversed through a long ways in the last six decades of independence. Post-independent era has witnessed several ups-downs in all the developmental sectors in the country including education in general and higher education in particular. Chronologically looking at the last six decades in Indian higher education sector, three different phases can be identified. The first phase of two decades of independence has witnessed the industrial development of Nehruvian period leading to formal establishment of Indian higher education sector. It can also be identified by formal structure of different statutory bodies of higher education along with several commissions and committees of education in order to provide philosophical basis to this sector at large. Whereas, the subsequent two decades can be considered as decades of transition, complexity and especially as the stage preparation for the modern world. Here it is important to note that little political instability has caused several threats to all the developmental sectors including education during these periods. The contemporary two decades (1990-91 to 2010-11) can be considered as the most volatile, progressive and exploited phase of education sector due to its basis on liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation leading to modern Indian higher education.

The huge success and transition from school education sector, increasing enrolment in higher education sector, achieving professional education sectors in majority of the states across to the level of saturation and the contemporary demographic dividend and its management have located Indian higher education sector at the most critical juncture. Now, the management and administration of such transformation is the immediate need of the hour with the new political shift in the country .

Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation in Higher Education

Change is inevitable in any society that comes routinely with timely interval. Such change may be pushed/influenced by many factors and one of the important factors in post-war period is due to politico-economic upsurge. 1991 can be considered as one such paradigm shift in Indian politico economy of that time. Indian higher education has experienced optimal growth and development especially in professional education sector in last two decades. Post 1991 has manifested several initiatives such as revival of AICTE, establishment of NCTE as a statutory body for teacher education, establishment of NAAC for quality assurance in higher education sectors and private institutions participation at large scale in this sector.

Nonetheless, last two decades have seen many ups and downs in higher education sector largely including quantitative growth and development along with quality deterioration in higher education. Mushrooming of higher education institutions led to accelerated growth in enrolment and has also shown a rosy picture of development in this sector along with other developing and developed countries of the world. Besides, low performing private institutions largely meant for profit purposes merely started by local initiatives without any vision further led to extreme deterioration of quality in such institutions. Such institutions are quite large in number which started posing threat to entire higher education sector in the country. Now tackling such institutions became a great challenge especially for the state government and their concerned bodies. Here it is important to note that the government might have dilemma about interfering such private sectors because, these private institutions have contributing towards increasing quantitative growth in enrolment and strengthening statistics in higher education.

Liberalisation as a policy and globalisation as a phenomenon in post modern world order manifested privatisation as the strongest policy for both; first for the maximum exploitation of available resources for economic development and second as to unify the scattered world as a global village. Unlike in any other sector in the country, education in general and higher education in particular has also been influenced optimally by privatisation and private initiatives.


RUSA and 12th FYP

Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyaan (RUSA) was a much awaited planning to rejuvenate entire sector of higher education in the country. Largely it is led by continuously increasing budgetary allocation of 1th and 12th Five Year Plan respectively 2007-201 2 and 2012-201 7. The huge financial outlays for higher education sector along with increasing demand of higher education also initiated programmes like RUSA. RUSA targets mainly at achieving 30 per cent GER in higher education sector by the end of 2020 which largely appears to be an achievable targets because by 201 4 India has already achieved 22 per cent GER in higher education. Looking at increasing GER, also due to large scale private sector participation, achieving 30 per cent GER is much deserved targets for India. On the other hand, RUSA also focuses on several aspects of private participation in higher education along with quality assurance through bodies such as NAAC and state specific NAAC .

Although growth in enrolment in Indian higher education sector has been steadily constant of an average one per cent per year especially since 11th five year plan, but the target of achieving 30 per cent by 2020 is still a difficult goal to reach. There are two different directions appear looking at Indian higher education; first is about the saturation point of professional/technical education sector shown in recent past and the second; transition from Success of Universal Elementary education leading to universal Secondary Education through Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan may lead to successful achievement of the Target of RUSA by 2020. And the recent political shift in the country started focusing on vocationalisation of education supplementing manufacturing sector of production rather than merely towards higher education sector leading to educated unemployment in the country.

Recent Shift in Higher Education towards Vocationalisation The world has taken major shift from financial economy to knowledge economy in last few decades. Earlier financial economy largely used to lead as well as impact on all the sectors of a nation whereas now, the knowledge has became wealth of nation. Knowledge economy has also potential of boosting financial economy is a well accepted concept in the contemporary world. When higher level of knowledge/education started impacting the world economy, it also created different layers of knowledge and its implications. Professional knowledge at higher level of achievements and vocational knowledge/skill based knowledge at direct industrial/productivity level is the need of the hour.

Several researches, reports and government documents revealed that 75 per cent of Indian professional education graduates are not sufficiently equipped with knowledge and skills required for employment in their concerned sectors. The recent initiatives of vocationalisation of education may lead to harness the potential of Indian demography leading to productive population contributing directly to national development. Higher education sector need an immediate shift from merely mushrooming IT & Engineering related education to job oriented skill-based vocational and education.


Contemporary Politico-Economy of Higher Education

Indian politics have manifested durability with stability in the last decade along with political shift in 2014 from UPA regime to NDA regime which received a clear majority in government formation shows the similar political stability as in previous government. Such political stability of one complete decade has been realised after a long time in last three decades which also resulted in several policies related strong decisions in education in general and higher education in particular. Some of the significant policy initiatives can be seen in school education sector in terms of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (2008-09), Right to Education (2009), Mid-Day Meal programme apart from huge financial allocation for school education sector continuously in 10th, 11th , and 12th Five Year Plans. Whereas in higher education sector, the initiatives of private Deemed Universities, National Knowledge Commission (2005-06), Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyaan (2012-13) apart from huge financial allocation for higher edu­cation in 11th and 12th Five Year Plans can be termed as boosting initiatives in last one decade by government of India. India has so far achieved nearly 100 per cent GER in elementary education sector as well as 22 per cent GER in higher education sector through recent policies for growth and development by the government in last decade.

As we are aware that every political shift in the country comes with different socio-economic orientation in order to bring desirable changes. The Current government also seems to be oriented towards economic development as a prime motto leading to development of other sectors in general. The recent initiative of vocationalisation of education along with focus on manufacturing sector in India certainly leads the country towards higher development through productive manufacturing sector.


Privatisation of Education Sector

Privatisation in higher education can largely be traced in professional/technical education sector rather in general higher education sector in India. Here it is important to mention two sectors; Engineering education as well as teacher education sector, both of which have reached upto the level of saturation point. This can further be traced through several institutions of engineering and teacher education in the country laying vacant without admission as a resultant, several institutions has applied for closure in last few years or the authorities have banned establishment of the new institutions.

Unlike technical/engineering education sector along with the growth of professional education sector, teacher education in particular has been lately adopted to be studied as a discipline largely during last decades of twentieth century. Emergence of several professional areas of studies as a discipline including teacher education/teacher training or education as such was also manifested with market driven sectors leading to multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary education. In this context, even teacher education is not a unified area/single course of study because this subject/discipline itself has to be studied at different levels of understanding such as; early childhood care education (ECCE) which is also called pre-schooling teacher education, elementary teacher education, secondary teacher education and courses for teacher educators (M.Ed) again for different levels. Such a complex and vast area of studies is still not figured as a complete discipline due to its lack of full fledge curriculum, Jack of contribution of different discipline in teacher education and vice-versa, adequate research support from other discipline, duration itself which denotes for its professionalism and many others.

Apart from the above mentioned concerns in teacher education and lack of its identity in the arena of school education or higher education have also contributed much in shaky establishment of teacher education as a discipline unlike other professional education sectors. Although, private sectors have identified teacher education and especially secondary teacher education as a noticeable area of investment in last one decade. Privatisation in teacher education is not as spontaneous as privatisation in other professional education sector. Secondary teacher education got late attention due to its non-linkage with job sector in the, market until Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA, 2001). SSA has given rise to increasing enrolment in elementary schools for which teachers were also required in order to fulfill the norms of SSA throughout the states. So, SSA as the largest mission to achieve universal elementary education created the demand for teacher education in the country. Fulfilling such demand by government sector was not financially viable because of its project mode nature and also due to speculation of achieving a saturation point after few years. Further government opened up this sector for private players by easing the norms and standards to establish teacher education institutions. Therefore, decreasing norms and standards of teacher education institutions, increasing demand of trained teachers, direct linkage of teacher education with school teaching jobs, identification of teacher education as low investment and high profit by private sector and larger phenomenon of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation have established teacher education as an area of great concern of this decade.

Privatisation in teacher education has its linkage with supply and demand in school education as well as teacher education institutions (NCTE, 2009-10). Until recently, teacher education was not even identified as a sector rather included somewhere in elementary education-school education sector of MHRD. Since there was not a specific sector of teacher education so there is no specific financial data available for this sector. The understanding of teacher education can only be traced by its quantitative growth in last one and half decade and its resultant also reflected by several reports such as; Sudeep Banarjee Committee Report (2007-08) and Justice Verma Commission Report (2012) regarding degrading quality of teacher education due to extreme mushrooming privatisation leading to commercialisation in this sector.


Privatisation in secondary teacher education can also be traced by its accelerated quantitative growth in last one decade which results in 600 per cent increasing in number of teacher education institutions from 2002- 03 to 2010-11, The number of institutions of teacher education has grown from 1050 in 2000-01 to 8000 (appox) in 2010-11 with increasing share of private institutions upto 92 per cent or even more during 2011-12. The share of private teacher education institutions were somewhere around 40-45 per cent during 2000-01 which has reached more than 90 per cent in just less than 10 years of time. Whereas on the other hand, the overall higher education institutions has grown from nearly 5000 during 2000-0 I to nearly 21000 during 2010-11. Such a huge growth also shows a 400 per cent increase in higher education sector with around 80 per cent share from private sector alone in India. Now looking at such a comparative figure, privatisation in teacher education appears more intense as well as critical compared to privatisation in other sector of higher/professional education in India.

Quality of education is another critical concern of entire education in general and teacher education in particular; Privatisation has increased commercialisation and negatively impacted on majority of self-financing teacher education institutions (Pritam, 2009). There are several empirical instances in higher education which reveals that privatisation leading to commercialisation further leads to degradation of quality in education sector. Self-financing model of institutional management has become the most popular mode of privatisation in education sector. Here investment by the private providers needs an extensive examination in order to probe its profit or non-profit nature. Although all private institutions are established under Society Act 1860 which means a non-profit charitable nature of the organisation/institution, but it is important to note here that majority of these institutions are a for-profit institution at practice level. What makes privatisation in teacher education more lucrative investment for private providers compared with other higher education sector is the Sh011 duration of the course and direct linkage of the degree with teaching jobs at school level? Here it is significant to note that some of the stand alone self-financing teacher education institutions are performing much better in terms of providing quality education in the country.


Quality Concerns in Higher Education

Quality as an exclusive phenomenon appears to be the contribution of post-modern society. Few decades ago, quality used to be the integral part of any phenomenon/activity and without which there was a sense of incompleteness. In this globalised world, value degradation from all living and non-living things have became the most routine and visible occurrences. Today we discuss about issues like quality separately, for example, quality education, and quality parenting itself, and so on. When we think of education or parenting, it has to be good education and careful parenting; there cannot be an issue of the word “good” or “quality” in it. These days such attributes are used in order to compete in the market driven world and simultaneously, education and higher education also has became a valuable good for the market in this contemporary world especially after LPG of 1991.

There are more than twenty statutory bodies to regulate professional education sector apart from large bodies such as UGC and NAAC to ensure quality education across the institutions and states. Even though, quality of education in seventy percent of the Universities in India and almost ninety per cent colleges in India is at poor state of affairs as opined by NAAC in its report of assessment and accreditation of Indian institution of higher learning. Prime Minister of India (2007) in his remark expressed the concerns that not only quality of education is degrading in Indian Universities and colleges but also it is infected by with widespread corruption in appointments of Vice Chancellors in state Universities which caters more than 90 per cent enrolment in this sector.

President of India in his Vice-Chancellors’ conference on 4-5th February 2015 also expressed his concerns for quality issues in higher education along with consistence laying vacancies in institutions of higher learning as a matter of great concerns. While only a handful of Universities in India are maintaining standard of education, others kept routine education without worrying about development of students in particular and entire education in general.

Conclusion: A Way Forward

Higher education in India has been facing multifaceted challenges especially for last two decades in post-199 1 era. At one hand, increasing demographic profile and challenges to manage such demography by trans­ forming them into human capital in order to make them contribute in national development, whereas on the other hand universalisation of school education leading to increase in higher education enrolment are some of the major concerns in this area.

The gradual increase in educational achievement through DPEP (1994) for universal primary education, SSA (2001) & RTE (2009) for universal elementary education, RMSA (2008-09) for increase in enrolment of secondary education led to establish policies such as Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) 2013 are among critical area of concerns of educational management.

India is witnessing demographic dividend with having more than 60 per cent of its population of young age below 35 years. Such a huge young age population itself is a national asset who has optimal potential to contribute in national development further making India into the league of developed nations. Country needs to channelize such potential population into human capital by intervening through education in general and vocational/professional education in particular. Nonetheless in the last two decades, India has successfully achieved universal primary and elementary education by launching programmes like DPEP, SSA and RTE. It further opened the scope of secondary education for which RMSA programme was launched in order to increase enrolment in secondary education. Finally in the year 2013 RUSA was launched to achieve GER of30 per cent by the year 2020. Keeping these developments in mind, the issues of quantitative achievements are largely met by the government of India but problem remains in the area of quality which is alarming these days by both national demand as well as international pressures.

Apart from this, privatization leading to commercialization in higher education sector is posing threat to entire education system in the country. India can no more enjoy the celebration of merely quantitative growth with the help of private sector alone ignoring the larger issues of degrading quality and also the increasing educated unemployment in the country. RUSA also proposed for the larger role of private sector in higher education in order to achieve the goal of 30 per cent GER in this sector. Government has to revisit the entire policies of approving/affiliating private institutions to offers programmes/courses with provision of terminal inspection/supervision to check the delivery of education with quality. The false infrastructure and manpower in private institutions are to be strictly checked by the governmental agencies. Nonetheless, merely government alone cannot check such problems unless all the concerned stake­ holders are involved in reforming entire education system in the country. Therefore, ensuring quality in such educational institutions can largely be a shared responsibility rather on government alone. Let us represent the ethos of Indian democracy through shared responsibility in order to restore the quality of higher education.

(From the book, Indian Higher Education At A Crossroads, by the authors, published by Gyan Books Pvt. Ltd.)

By Prof (Dr) Khwaja M Shahid Bhanu Pratap Pritam

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