Has Higher Education System Failed India? – By A. Behl

The number of Indian students attending higher education institutions in the United States is the highest from a foreign country.

Likewise, the number of Indian students going to United Kingdom is increasing and so is the case with Canada, Australia and NewZealand. In monetary terms,Indians are burning millions of dollars to get quality ducation in these countries.
And mind you the boys and girls going to foreign shores are not only from the metropolitan cities but also from places like Patiala, Shimla, Karnal, Jammu, KoziKhode, Andamans, Aligarh, Gaziabad and little towns of moffusil India.
The reason behind this mass exodus of quality students, willing to shell ten times the amount which they need to spend to get similar education in India perhaps lies in the failure of our education system which has not been able to offer viable and creative solutions meeting emerging demands.

Indian universities were designed by erstwhile European rulers and they functioned on the principles laid by Lord Macaulay and the famous Woods Despatch tabled in 1854.

These institutions were basically fashioned to produce clerks, who were adept in bureaucratic work and could assist their colonial masters in their plunder.  Unfortunately the British legacy was not laid to rest as soon as we attained freedom.

Instead of taking on the gargantuan task of reforming the education system, the country under the leadership of a Cambridge educated Nehru decided to create islands of excellence choosing perhaps the easier way out.

As a result of this ham-handed socialist policy, we find ourselves in a mess as our educational institutions have failed to come to terms with the needs of a post-colonial country with a burgeoning population.

The Indian Universities particularly outside the Metros remained totally out of sync with the ground realities.

Mired in the processes and systems which served the British and the socialist Indian state they continue till date to churn Babus, who are of no use to the Indian industry, picularly, post-privatization, when the role of the Indian government as well as its size has shrinked in the public domain.

In the increasingly knowledge and skill based society slowly evolving amidst us, there was and still is, no need for the millions of graduates and postgraduates, who flaunt their degrees but have vastly underrated skills.

Perhaps the Indian system has failed to arm the youth with a skill-set which could empower the learners and enable them to perform their jobs in a better way.
In this way, these people have been unable to earn their livelihood and failed to become an asset to the economy.

Due to this failure, millions of educated youth in this country are facing stagnation and despite spending lakhs on education, they find themselves in the unemployed ranks.

And the reason for this failure is obvious-it lies in the way our higher education institutions function.

Instead of imparting skills, they have turned simply into examination centres, where students enter to pass exams and earn their degrees.
Learning, meanwhile, has no role to play in this entire process barring a few institutions.

Why this happened-again the answer is simple-education for the last fifty years and even earlier has been the last refuge of those, who were a failure in everything they tried their hands on.

Bored wives of politicians and bureaucrats, unsuccessful sons of eminent men and educationists and even the progeny of university clerks, officials and even peons managed to get highly paying teaching jobs in these institutions.

For these jobs guaranteed lifelong security of tenure, no responsibility and virtually zero accountability.

Naturally, the entry of these people, who had no inclination for teaching and research led to an unmitigated disaster which is hurting India more than any political or financial scandals.

The great Indian universities have become mafia rackets where the teachers are the great mafiosi holding the future of the youth and the country to ransom. The syllabus which is being taught here to the undergraduates and post-graduates is the same which was being taught to their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The so-called Professors do not know what is happening in their respective fields because they are busy in petty intrigues and politics.

Instead, of teaching they prefer to become administrators and like to hold posts such as Deans, Registrars and the much touted Controller of Examinations. Lack of accountability and responsibility has been witnessed highest in departments such as Managment and Computer Sciences, where the University run institutes have failed to compete with private sector, despite the fact that they are way ahead in terms of resources.

This is perhaps due to the fact that a University teacher has no stake in the future of the students. His job is secure, his promotions secure and his pension all the more secure-so where does teaching come in.

Naturally, wealthy Indian students are taking recourse to migrating to the West for higher education.

But, where does this leave us? Just take the example of Jammu University, the University is on an expansion spree, opening new campuses and affiliating numerous B Ed colleges run by politicians and businessmen in tandem.
The Graduates and Postgraduates being churned by this university are facing a universal dilemma-although they have degrees but they dont have the skills to be successful in the job market. But, for the ubiquitous state government jobs, these students have no where to go.

The problem is well known, but no one wants to bell the cat. This University is the last refuge of the mediocre teaching talent in the state verging on inferiority. The syllabus is stale and has not been changed for the last twenty years, except few cosmetic changes. Neither the teachers nor the administrations wants to take the pains of changing the rules of the game as every one is enjoying the power and the pelf.

The students, ignorant of the fact that they are being taken for a ride are happy with their degrees and life goes on smoothly. Till they face the harsh realities of the job market.

Similarly, the politics in this academic institution is so virulent that teachers are even in their departments are divided into camps as if they are India and Pakistan. You can imagine the affect it has on the quality of education.
As far as research and development is concerned, the university might have produced hundred of PhDs, but not a single world class work has come out of the science or social sciences labs.

However, the Indian universities take the lead in one sphere-that is for organizing seminars, lectures and symposiums which earn for the participants lot of TA/DA, earned leaves, visits to exotic locations on government expenses, lavish dinners and the chance to bask in glorious sea of mediocrity.

Except for the yearly or half-yearly ritual of conducting exams- most of the Indian universities do little concrete to justify the millions of rupees being spent on them yearly.

What is the benefit of a Managment Department or a Law Department or a Department of History, when the students passing out are simply not having the skills needed to be a successful manager, lawyer or a art historian. If by reading books one could become a doctor or an engineer or a historian than what is the need of the Universities and their highly paid teachers.

All this muddle has led to an acute disenchantment with the higher education system and soon the civil society and the government will have to find a way to clean this mess or else India again will lose the race to become a developed country.

We must realize that handful of IIMs and IITs will not make India a superpower and the sooner, we do so, the better it will be.

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