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Improving quality of higher education

Last updated: 30 November, 2009
By Sudha Narasimhachar

There is a lot of a talk about the status of higher education in the country. Prof Yashpal Sharma committee’s report has created a churning in the minds of intellectuals, institutions, educationalists, government and students. I happened to attend one such conference.

The conference itself was a very educative and informative one and we got to hear the opinions of many eminent personalities either on behalf of their organisations, the government or institutions or on their own behalf. The repeated aspects were:
*The existing number of universities viz., around 400 and colleges viz., around 20,000 are definitely not able to cater to the increasing number of school pass-outs.
*Even if the number of universities is increased to 1,500 and the number of colleges doubled, we will be able to cater to just 15 per cent of the population.
*There is a lot to be done in the field of higher education in India to meet the global demands in terms of quality, reach and access.
*The quality of teaching faculty is a key aspect that has been suffering in India due to dilutions of selection standards.
*The curriculum, content, teaching methods, assessment standards and methods have all to be revamped and upgraded.
*In order to make higher education competitive and global, the credit system is to be introduced.
*Research facilities have to be improved and students attracted to take up research work more meaningfully without any hurdles.
*Multiple regulatory authorities should go, replaced by a single, friendly regulatory authority, giving more autonomy to the universities.
*The regulatory authority be least interfering, more supportive and follow well-defined assessment criteria for accreditation so that the universities are globally accepted.
*There is a wide gap between the industry expectations and the university standards, on account of which millions of people are unemployed/unemployable, while thousands of jobs are lying vacant for want of the right personnel.
*The role of private operators in the field of higher education has increased and a meaningful private-public partnership is a must to cater to the increasing number of users.

Of course, all these are the observations made about the state of higher education in India. But there were also issues raised about whether the government alone was responsible for reaching out to all nooks and corners of the country and all strata of the society in the field of higher education; whether higher education be oriented only towards employability of the students or has some higher goals; how to improve the standards of academics if the worst of the graduates opt for teaching and the cream are not interested in research or academics, etc.

Concern about teachers
There was also concern that teachers are forgetting that they have a noble duty of instilling in the students with the right kind of values like truthfulness, integrity, healthy habits, sincerity and so on.

Gone are the days when people used to be inspired by their teachers and remembered them for life. Today teachers working merely for money appear to be on the increase and the quality of teachers leaves much to be desired.  
It was encouraging to hear that these aspects have been well studied by the Yashpal Committee. It was relieving to hear the words of educators that the universities need not work with the only aim of feeding the industries with the right kind of candidates but should work to turn the raw students to mature, thinking and creative adults.

The importance of all aspects to our lives should be understood by the students so that besides getting good jobs, they also turn out to be useful citizens for the country and useful human beings for the world at large.


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