Higher education in India: Quality vs. Quantity

Higher education in India is like a rat race. Parents wish their children to get enrolled in the premier institutes of the sub-continent post twelfth and for that to happen right from class as low as eighth get them enrolled in the most popular and successful coaching classes. One he/she gets the desired branch in the college of their choice, they feel satisfied, sanguine of the fact that future will be bright. But where is the learning man ?? All this time, it gets compromised. In college also, the thrust is on the CGPA, and the system is like that, that one has to cram and vomit in the exam.I remember I find it so frustrating at times, that I just leave it, because I cannot do it and would rather go with an empty mind but with a prepared brain. Thus, we generate a pool of engineers every year, from all private colleges, public institutions, diploma-holders and a medley of students.

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Indian higher education is highly concentrated at the undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) level. In fact, with 1.98 crore students, it is the largest system in the world in ther terms of undergraduate enrollment as compared to 1.27 crore in China and 1.04 crore in US. As a proportion of the total student enrollments in higher education, India has nearly 75% of all its students pursuing a bachelor’s degree as compared to 43% for China and half for the US. This concentration at the undergraduate level is quite unique to India not only due to its three-year degree in Arts, Science and Commerce, which form more than 85% of all undergraduate enrollment, but also due to its socio-cultural environment which has positioned bachelor’s degree as a more successful pathway forupward mobility.

However, availability of too many bachelor’s degree holders for a smaller economy as compared to China or the US has created credential inflation, which cimply means, devaluation of a degree with time due to oversupply of graduates. This is evident from many unemployed and underemployed college graduates. It also reflects poor quality of education and skills imparted at many institutions. Due to employability challenges, many continue to aspire for master’s education in a hope for finally getting their dream jobs and career mobility resulting in over-representation at the postgraduate level.

At the vocational education level, India with young and ambitious population is missing the opportunity of engaging them as a part of the mainstream economic growth through manufacturing. This is where China leaped forwards and engaged the masses through low-cost, volume-based manufacturing. However, China did not achieve this by chance, instead it expanded vocational system to develop a skilled manpower base for manufacturing related activities. China enrolls nearly 96 lakhs students in vocational education as compared to 40 lakhs in India.

Thus, there is a serious need of reforms in education. In top 100 research institutes in world only IISc, Bangalore features and at 100th position. India’s education till class 12th is the most reputed in the whole world, but higher education has been reduced to just as a means to land up in a high paying job; learning is hiding under the veil of CGPA. More skill based education should come up in our alma maters. The spirit of competition and comparision in Indian society is another factor that fumes this race of procuring a high pay package. But times are changing a little bit, a number of formidable enterpreneurship ventures have come in the past decade or so. Lack of faculty further aggragavates the problem, who are disgruntled at their own reasons. There is a collective need to understand that education is the only tool to redeem India from its existing plaquing problems. The education system somewhere is diminshing in children the curosity to ask a “WHY” while burdening him with spectre of package.

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