Why does Indian Higher Education need Foreign Investment?
Seen thus, India's higher education just does not suffer from a demand or delivery problem, but a proposition problem. The prestige end of the education, older public sector or publicly supported colleges nd universities, are doing fine: Some would demand a perfect score in intermediate examinations as the basic eligibility for application. Seen from their vantage point, there is no demand problem. Besides, they are now enjoying the attention from the big Indian employers, who, rather fed up with mediocre technical colleges, are now recruiting English Lit students from good colleges.
At one level, demography is indeed destiny and pressure of population will keep feeding the demand for Higher Education. But, inherent in this statement is an irony: India's young population does not want an education their parents wanted. The hidden message of demography is not just the number, but the fact that India's Higher Education is still a largely urban affair, and India's urban youngsters are far more aware, agile and ambitious than they are given credit for. The Higher Education offering laid out before them is typically unambitious and poorly designed: These are utterly disconnected from the ambitions of people born at a time of plenty and shrouded in rhetoric that comes from their parents' times.
So, it is not about money that foreign involvement in Indian education will bring: It is about the imagination and creative proposition that will come with it. The contrast with China is interesting here: China's government is pursuing a deliberate shift from 'Made in China' to 'Designed in China' and therefore pushing the educational institutions to innovate. In India's case, as always, it is the Government which is the problem, the overzealous but corrupt and inefficient regulation being the stumbling block, and it is the students themselves who are voting with their feet and pointing to the direction they wish it to go. So far, the Government and the investors in education has read the signals wrongly and invoked the catch-all 'quality' excuse, but one would hope that the foreign participation in India's education will both shake the regulatory structure and reshape the Higher Education proposition.