THE IMPERATIVES OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA PRABHAT KUMAR RAI

 

There is sombreness about the outcome of QS (Quacquaralli Symondds) World University’s this year’s rankings of top 400 Universities in so far as the Indian Universities are concerned. Quality of research, academic reputation, excellence, credibility, international faculty, inbound and outbound exchanges etc. are the Key Performance Indicators for determining rankings. The first five positions have been bagged by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, University of Cambridge, University College London and Imperial College London. In fact, the top ten Universities of the world are either from US or UK. In India, five IITs remain the countries only representation in the top 400 Universities of the world: IIT, Delhi (222), IIT, Bombay (233), IIT, Kanpur (295), IIT, Madras (313) and IIT, Kharagpur (346). However, they occupy respectable position in the list of top 200 Universities in Asia. Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Japan are placed in predominant positions in the league table. It is small consolation as sixty years back, China, Korea and India were almost at par in the domain of higher education. Apparently, we have not been able to keep pace with the emerging trend.

Higher education is very important for national economies, both as a significant enterprise at its own right and also as a source of trained and educated personnel for the rest of the country. How

to make high proportion of population enter higher education at some point of time in their lives?  is a moot point. There are major challenges in the areas of higher education. There is formidable challenge of efficiency to develop the Universities’ practices of governance and make them real actors of development. There is technical challenge to help rationalise theirs means and realise the missions. Then, there is strategic challenge to pool the tools and the exchange of good practices.

There is compelling need to broaden the scope of technical achievement and develop lagging areas of economy. Synergies among frontiers of the technologies are to be exploited fully. New technological advances are to be harnessed quickly once they appear on the horizon. All streams of knowledge tend to converge. Degree of similitude and synergy are to be identified and exploited to the hilt. For achieving this, broad basing and collaborative efforts among the universities is essential. A narrowly focussed research institute may not succeed in its mission. There is interdependence on evolution of knowledge in various streams and they may supplement one another. For example, continued evolution of microprocessors may depend in branches of chemistry or quantum physics. The Universities should not only burrow deep into the disciplinary silos but also become fertile grounds of interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary research to create new knowledge and applications in macro universe. Conduct of research now requires cooperative research sharing and networking of local, national and global resources. Universities and colleges shall have to share the resources and change their mindset of depending exclusively on their own limited resources.

‘Knowledge is power’ goes the old aphorism. Later, ‘information is power’ became the slogan triggered by IT revolution. Innovation is deemed to be currency of the 21st century. Unfortunately, India’s world ranking on innovation is rather low. According to a survey by INSEAD, Comell University and the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 2013, among 140 countries, India ranks 66 in the Global Innovation Index. Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Netherlands and USA are the first five most-innovative nations. Innovation is considered as milestone for the knowledge economy. Innovation has the potential to convert knowledge into wealth. It can be effectively used to avoid loss of money from GDP. It can also open new vistas in higher education. Thus, we have to incentivise innovations to derive attendant benefits in the field of higher education. Pursuit to excellence in education is endless yet rewarding journey – not a destination. Quality of higher education can only be built on the firm foundation of quality of education in all prior stages.

Autonomy, intellectual freedom and accountability are the prerequisites of the qualitative higher education. There should be no intervention by the Government in the internal governance of the institutions of higher education when they are functioning in accordance with the State and federal law. Conserving the autonomy of these institutions is of paramount importance for protecting academic freedom, the advancement of knowledge and the pursuit of truth. Governance in higher education refers to means by which higher educational institutions are formally organised and managed, though often there is fine distinction between definition of management and governance. ‘One-size-fits-all’ system could not effectively suit institutional needs in contradistinction to the corporate trends. Shared governance appears necessary given the organisational dynamics and complexities of university system. Affirmation of goals, objectives and purpose of shared governance in higher education is important.

The role of transmitting fundamental values in current times of diversity, economic turmoil and challenges brought about by globalisation has assumed salience. How to promote ethical behaviour in higher education and among higher education graduates through value-based teaching and research in all disciplines? is a nagging question. Intellectual integrity involves using sound and ethical methods in the pursuits of knowledge as well as embracing honesty in dissemination of knowledge.  Same ethical standards apply to the members of the academic community in their relationship and interfaces with the wider society. The result of research should reflect on honest endeavours by the researchers and the scientists to describe the world accurately and without any prejudice. Academic achievements are certainly prized but broader ethical values are equally important. Teachers need to set standards and serve as ethical models for the students in a variety of ways. Role modelling calls for visible action and perceptual and reputational aspects of ethical didacticism. It requires mental and personal discipline that is not easy to come by. Didacticism must be well grounded to a set of values and beliefs that would be viewed as ethical. It calls for overt action on the part of teachers to serve as role models for ethical behaviour in highly visible ways. Oscar Wilde has nicely mentioned:  “one can survive everything nowadays except death, and live down anything except a good reputation.”

The government has ambitious plan to set up multitude of world class universities but a national policy which can address to the imperatives of autonomy, transparency, decentralisation, accountability and world vision like values in the domain of higher education is urgently required. The higher education should aim at building bridges of understanding and appreciation of ‘others’ in contradistinction to one’s own self. It should become a veritable tool for social and individual development not just a commercial gain. Noted American historian, Richard Hofstatatder, has rightly observed: “The higher education has developed pre-eminently business-like culture. It is viewed as a means to attending other ends, making a business or professional career and rarely viewed as a tool that is good for humankind.”

To attract and retain best Indian scientists, academicians and researchers, significant improvement in their pay and perquisites are needed. It is equally important to make them feel respected and appreciated in the society. A robust framework synthesising the best practices the world over and amalgamating with our innovative input is the need of hour to attract Indians working in top most universities of the world to come to India. It will prove efficacious and help India march sure-footedly to regain its glorious status of world power in knowledge.

Participation of the private sector would be able to cure many maladies afflicting the higher education. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in higher education can prove to be a boon if the regulatory frameworks to monitor and regulate the quality of Foreign Education Providers (FEP) are properly designed. The need for FEPs should be judiciously counterpoised with dominant national interest. It could be a win-win situation for all the stake-holders.

 

(Author is M.Tech from IIT Kharagpur & Energy Adviser to Chief Minister, Bihar  M. Tech. (Reliability Engineering), I.I.T., Kharagpur M. Tech. (Reliability Engineering), I.I.T., Kharagpur)

 

 

In fact, the top ten Universities of the world are either from US or UK. In India, five IITs remain the countries only representation in the top 400 Universities of the world: IIT, Delhi (222), IIT, Bombay (233), IIT, Kanpur (295), IIT, Madras (313) and IIT, Kharagpur (346). However, they occupy respectable position in the list of top 200 Universities in Asia.

 

 

 

To attract and retain best Indian scientists, academicians and researchers, significant improvement in their pay and perquisites are needed. It is equally important to make them feel respected and appreciated in the society.