Sunday, December 26, 2004

Higher education in India

The status of higher education in India has always remained a debatable issue, an issue that has always intrigued some of the best policy makers and administrators in the country.

Ancient India had been a world renowned centre of learning. Universities at Nalanda and Takshashila had students who came from across the continents to come and study. But somewhere down the line, perhaps with changing social and economical aspects in the country, the quality of education in the country deteriorated. It is true that present day India can boast of some elite institutions in the field of technology, art and design. But if we were to see the country as a whole, the situation emerges out bleak.

Some of the countries best universities today face a crisis. A crisis that involves funding, faculty shortage, bureaucratic issues and ever so inexplicably, political interventions. Immediately after independence, the Government of India decided to establish certain institutions that would impart specialized education in the field of technology and promote research. It is this that lead to the birth of the Indian Institutes of Technology and later the Indian Institutes of Management, two brand names, two revered institutions. But then with this, where we faltered was our unilateral approach to education that came up with establishments of such institutions. The indifference towards the Universities in the country ultimately was to pay a heavy price. So while these institutions received all the autonomy and funding, other multi-disciplinary universities in the country struggled to maintain their high standards, with the burden of an ever increasing population, decreasing funds and an evident neglect from the government.

The perils are quite evident. One can witness a huge gap in the standards of education that people receive. Today everyone is of the opinion that India is lagging way behind when it comes to research. Now, what people do not realize that research is fostered in an environment where people with multidisciplinary interests meet and set about the task of creation. All of which is only possible in a University setup with faculties in various departments such as art, economics, technology, science, literature, law etc. It is only in such an environ that free exchange of ideas mitigates, a sense of dynamism drives the students, and a multilateral approach is developed not just towards problem solving but also problem creation.

The picture is not all rosy, but still situation isn't yet out of control. Things can still be rectified, only that we'll have to see if the Government still believes in its role as a regulator or as a promoter, because if every other day a bureaucrat goes about teaching an academician what should be taught and what not, then all this comes to nothing. Give more autonomy to the Universities, let them hike their fees, promote the members of the faculty as consultants to the industry, and spruce up the infrasture for most Universities presently cite outdated infrastructure as one major shortcoming. In my opinion, even if every state in the country decided to have one University that could truly proclaim to be out their with the nation's best, we would definitely be witness to the emergence of a stronger nation, powered by youth with multilateral approach, better equipped, driven by the motivation to earn a name for them and their country.

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