Prof. Ramesh Raj Ayer Faculty, Mentor & Consultant Acharya Institute of Management & Sciences (AIMS)
THE three main pillars of a successful society in today’s world are education, industry and government. All three are interdependent and have a symbiotic relationship. However if the objectives are not aligned well things can go wrong as we have the classic problem of not enough opportunities for the right type of education, mismatch with industry requirements that leads to a large number of educated but unemployed youth. We need to look at the outcome of education and not go by traditional thinking. Distinct options should be available once a child completes PU or XII Std. Either choose to go for professional or university education for 3 to 6 years or for a shorter vocational education of 6 months to a year both leading to jobs.
Let us first look at professional or higher education sector. In the field of higher education in India today we have around 10 to 12000 institutions of which 4000 are B-Schools, 3500 are for Engineering, 1750 are in IT, 500 are Medical & Dental colleges, 250 Nursing and the remaining are in the fields of hotel management, Pharmacy and Architecture. While the numbers are impressive, according to industry the employability factor is less than 30%. Due to the problems with employability more and more students passing out of schools are not joining fields like management and engineering where colleges are closing down due to poor admissions.
The most important factors that should be considered to set right the supply side of higher education are as follows:
Stable economy: The national economy was severely affected since 2007 with spiraling inflation, monetary pressures, devaluation of rupee, and sliding growth in GDP. It is hoped that the new government at the centre will take firm steps to bring back the economy to a healthier state. Once the economy is back on a higher growth trajectory confidence will grow and employment will start picking up which will in turn drive the need for higher education.
Making prospective students employable: On the employment front, the government should ideally ask the industry associations to give a projection of its human resource requirements for the next decade based on the industrial policy it promotes. Depending on the requirements of the industry, government should create a framework policy to give direction to education institutions both in the public and private sector. The institutions of higher education especially should go to the industry to find out the types of skills and training they require the resource inputs to have. Based on the industry requirement the Universities and institutions should devise the curriculum and syllabus for the UG and PG programs.
The output from universities and institutes will get readily absorbed in the industry and there will be no employability problem. With gainful employment the middle class will grow and more people will be able to get out of the poverty cycle meeting the government’s objective of reducing poverty in the country.
New assessment model based on single regulatory body: A major problem in the higher education sector is the inadequate infrastructure and poor quality of education imparted in a large number of institutes.Today there are a multiple number of authorities and bodies set up by the government to monitor this. Both in the center and the states we have monitoring and assessment authorities with cross jurisdictional mandates which neither benefit the institutions nor improve the quality of education imparted. Since standards should be uniform throughout the country the government should have one authority at the centre who along with the planning commission, ministry of industry and the industry prepare guidelines and set benchmarks of quality. These can then be shared with the state governments who regulate and sanction the permission for setting up educational institutions in their state. The monitoring and assessment should be done by the central authority so that a uniform assessment can be made in each state which can bring about good improvement in standards.
Scrap multiple entrance exams: The other problem we have in higher education is the entire process of admission and seat allocations. Firstly the entire system of entrance examinations should have been scrapped. If the education imparted at each level and that includes the Pre University was of a uniform standard there would have been no need to have another examination. A panel interview of applicants would have sufficed to check suitability for a programme. However since we have to accept the quality differentials in school education which is controlled by the states there is a requirement for another measure to check the ability of the candidates. However here it is possible to make a change and have a national examination system for students who have finished Std XII from all over India. Instead of students having to sit for multiple entrance examinations it would be in the interest of both the students as well as institutions. The national examination could have branches of specialization as optional subjects and a few common core subjects. The marks in these examinations could be used as a measure to qualify which canbe followed by interview by the institute or university. Wherever the government has reservation policy for economically and socially backward people their applications could be treated separately using the same measure. The examinations could be conducted at many centers with online facility all over the country so students can go to the nearest center in their locality and appear for it.
Higher education is expensive: With both the need for infrastructure and good quality of faculty resources there is a need to ensure a good revenue model. Naturally the fees become unaffordable to many. This problem is not unique to India as University education is quite expensive world over. RBI must encourage banks to extend education loans at lower rates of interest to students who have received provisional admission. The loans should have a moratorium period till the completion of the degree and thereafter the student can start paying once employed.
If these actions are taken by the government there will be a total change in the higher education scenario and India’s demographic dividend will bring it to the forefront as an economic powerhouse.
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