Improve standards

Two global university rankings announced recently – the QS and Times higher education rankings – show that no Indian university or place of specialised learning figures in a respectable position  among  the world’s best institutions. This is when India has the third largest number of students in the world in the higher education sector.

At least 15 lakh enter the sector every year, new colleges are set up and universities formed under different labels. Still even the country’s top notch institutions like the IITs  are not among the top 200 institutions.  One surprise entry into the rankings this year was Panjab University which is placed  in the 226-250 bracket  but that is poor consolation. Other institutions have actually slipped in their rankings from last year. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted by the OECD, had also placed India at the bottom rung.

The usual response to the findings of such surveys is that they are not credible evaluations. This has happened this year also. It is true that different  agencies employ different criteria to arrive at the rankings of institutions. They generally take into consideration teaching standards, teacher-student ratios, teachers’ qualifications, research output, citations, spending per student etc, though the weightage may change from survey to survey. These are all relevant considerations, though commercial elements may sometimes enter into the assessment. It should be noted that other countries like China have steadily improved their rankings over the years, and can now boast of some institutions which  are among  the top in the world. When the world goes by these rankings India cannot say that they are faulty.

Instead of criticising the rankings, efforts should be made to improve the standards of education. The endemic shortage of teachers should be addressed, more qualified teachers should be attracted to the profession and infrastructure and research facilities should be improved. Political interference and mismanagement are pervasive in universities and other institutions. If Indian students and teachers can perform well when they go for higher education abroad there is no reason why they cannot do so in the country. The Nobel prize in medicine, which was announced on Monday, was shared by three professors of American universities. With its student strength and talent pool, India has the potential to be among the world leaders in education. It should strive to realise it.

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