The modern Higher Education system in India was built on the promise of Government Jobs and Social Prestige. A very colonial construct, this was sustained even after independence, and to this day, the students and their parents often approach Higher Education similarly. On the other hand, Indian economy is changing rapidly, with the expansion of the inner market, a result of a deliberate fiscal shift over the last decade towards the creation of rural demand: The Indian Higher Education, as it stands today, may not be fit for purpose in context of these rapid changes.
The discussions about ‘demographic dividend’, and the millions that must enter Higher Education, are omnipresent in policy-making. However, any serious discussion about Indian Higher Education must go beyond the headline numbers and take into account the complex realities of regional variations. The fact that Indian states are very different from one another, demographically, socially, economically, and that Higher Education has primarily been a state subject, funded and legislated on by different states differently, shaped the Higher Education system very differently in different parts of India. The expansion of the inner market, the rise in purchasing power of a large number of people without the necessary ‘social capital’ needed for mobility, brings these regional differences in rather sharp relief.
In the recent months, the structural difficulties of the Indian economy have been apparent. The fiscally supported expansion of rural demand has resulted in spiraling inflation because of the infrastructure bottlenecks and flailing productivity growth. The urban job creation has slowed or stagnated, salaries have decreased in real terms and middle class consumption has been squeezed by the rapidly rising interest rates. The rapid growth of urban prosperity that marked the first half of the new millennium has stalled, leaving a large and growing urban population in a limbo.
Higher Education reform assumes a renewed significance in the face of these changes. It appears to be key to driving the productivity growth that the Indian economy, and its manufacturing and service industries, so sorely need. At the time when differences in regional attainment become so prominent, a regionally focused Higher Education strategy would help ease social and geographical mobility. A responsive and flexible system of education is needed to reverse the middle class disenfranchisement, and with it, one hopes, stem the political decline and the threat of abandonment of secular and democratic ideals of modern India.
The regulatory system in India has been the biggest stumbling block towards any meaningful change. Constructed as an arm of a paternalist State, it was designed to maintain continuity and discourage experimentation. Based on bureaucratic rather than any academic culture, fragmented and overlapping, its penal culture and static outlook have rendered it obsolete in the face of rapid changes within the Indian economy and society and outside. No observer of Indian Higher Education fails to notice that the more extensive regulatory guidelines tend to become, the more ineffective they tend to appear. Some of the Indian regulators publish lists of not just the institutions they accredit, but those which they don’t: This un-accredited list contains some of the more successful and respected institutions in the country, calling in question the validity of the regulatory system very publicly.
However, the overarching focus on human capital, the urgency of realizing the demographic dividend, and the emergence of modern consumer culture in the wider society, make the direction of policy more significant than the regulatory structure as it exists. The stated policy intentions of creating a single coordinating body of all forms of Higher Education, overseeing all state and professional agencies, may be limited in ambition but based on an welcome recognition of the limitations of the current system. The increasing openness to private investment, the discussions about foreign institutions (the two are somewhat connected – as all foreign institutions will be ‘private’ once they enter India) signal a change of heart, haltingly may be, but irreversibly.
However, the biggest change in Indian Higher Education may be happening outside the ‘sector’. A number of innovative models are emerging, mainly through public-private coalition: These entrepreneurial models (see Appendix 3) are bringing deep changes while being outside the regulatory structure. Besides, the students themselves are disrupting the structure. One of the most enduring myths of Indian Higher Education is that the students don’t want to study themselves are being spectacularly broken by the students in distance education (a quarter of the total), the large numbers self-studying towards IT certifications and the thousands flocking to MOOCs (13% of 1.2 million EdX students are from India, second only to 30% from the US*). Use of Education Technology is reaching a fever-pitch, with Engineering Colleges setting up virtual classrooms to offset the limitations imposed by local availability of teaching staff. From this vantage point, Indian Higher Education seems very much to be a case of the ‘System’ catching up with ‘Education’ that is already happening on the ground.
Therefore, it would be fitting to conclude this report with an optimistic note. India needs to re-imagine its Higher Education system to suit the requirements of a modern economy, a system that would be intellectually open and locally grounded. The policy intentions are already there, the recent pronouncements in RUSA being a clear example (see Appendix 4). The change at the top may appear lethargic, given the immediacy of the requirement; but, at the same time, the innovative energy on the ground, within new start-ups, innovative educators and aspiring students, is abundantly in evidence. However, in India, top-down change may always come as a catch-up: The starting point of thinking about Indian Higher Education may therefore be the thousands of Indian students studying abroad, the businesses that compete and invest globally, and the worldwide academic community of Indians. These communities, its dynamic of aspiration, and that of millions of Indian students trying to achieve a life better than their parents, may define how Indian Higher Education is shaped in the coming years.
* Financial Express, September 23, 2013.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.