The State of Indian Higher Education

The state of Indian higher education has always been in question, more specifically for its quality. When it is compared with the required skill set and with the higher education system of other developed countries, our higher education system seems to fall short of quality, up to date course structure and the way education is imparted. India still lacks in terms of right faculty, right infrastructure, meaningful research and development projects and equitable reach and equal access to higher education. The President of India Pranab Mukherjee has also shown a concern over the quality of higher education in India during his speech at the 10th convocation of the National Institute of Technology (NIT). He said that though India is witnessing growth in terms of the number of institutes, the quality of education is still a problem that must be addressed.

India has the largest number of higher education institutes in the world and its higher education system is the third highest in terms of enrollment. Growth of private institutes has played a major role in this development. Out of the total number of institutes in India, 64% are private. And out of total number of students enrolled, 59% of them are in these private institutes in India.

No doubt that India has made a considerable progress in the number of higher institutes and students’ enrollment, but still the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of India stands at 15%, much lower compared to the world average of about 26%. Apart from this, there is a gap between enrollment figures in different states and between rural and urban regions of India. By the year 2020, the pressure of enrollment and need of higher education in India will further increase, as the number of eligible students is going to double by that year.

Employability is also questionable in India. Many graduates as well as post graduates do not get jobs in their respective fields even after spending so many years in acquiring higher education. But in spite of so many unemployed youth, the market is facing a shortage of skilled manpower. This is a clear-cut indication that there exits a gap between the quality of education given and the actual skills required. Therefore, an ever mounting demand for a skilled workforce requires regulatory changes in higher education in India. If the new and better policies come in place, then we can expect to tackle the issues such as skill gaps, as well as skill shortages.

Quality of research and development in Indian institutes also needs attention. This is especially so as the present standard is far below the international standards. This can be proved from the fact that not even a single university in India is part of the list of top 200 universities across the world. The President of India while addressing the convocation had also shown concern over poor innovation in India by presenting a fact that there are only three Indian companies that have been listed in a Forbes survey about the world’s most innovative companies. Also if our innovation sector is compared to China and the U.S., then we are far behind them. In 2011, only 42,000 applications of patent had been filed in India whereas there were 5 lakhs such applications each in the U.S. and China

In order to address the issue of imparting education, India must encourage a reverse brain drain and attract overseas scholars to transmit ideas. They will help the higher education system of India by explaining and implementing new techniques of teaching and research. This will not only solve the problem of brain drain but help to conquer our gloomy performance in the innovation sector. Also there is a great need to give due recognition to outstanding teachers who have contributed in education and inspired young minds. This is to be done to encourage holistic learning.

Some facts
Private institutes providing higher education in India are ahead of others in terms of number (63.9%) and student enrollment (58.9%) during the year 2011-12. Whereas percentage of State institutions is 35.6% and that of Central institutes is 0.5%. On the other hand, enrollment in these is 38.6% and 2.6% respectively.

Enrollment in general courses (2012) is more than in professional courses. General courses include Arts, Science, Commerce and Education whereas professional courses include Engineering, Medical, Management, Law and vocation-based courses. But professional courses are displaying higher growth as compared to general ones.

Distance education is emerging as a cost-effective means of providing higher education in India. Though enrollment in this is less than classroom teaching, the number of institutes providing distance education and enrollment in these institutes is increasing in India.
Students prefer degree courses over diploma courses. Percentage of students opting degree courses in 2012 is 84.9% whereas for diploma it is 15.1%. Maximum enrollment is found in under graduate courses.

Problems faced by the Indian higher education system have been noticed by the government and the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017) has proposed many schemes in this regard with its core focus on ‘excellence and quality of education’. To address the issues related to access, quality and equity, many initiatives have been designed and implemented. These consist of equity, expansion, more funding for disadvantaged groups, use of latest technology, faculty development programmes, superior governance structures, availability of funds for research and development.

So, the focus of higher education in India should be towards providing equal access to all as well as on providing quality education. After achieving the said goal we can compete at global level and our youth will then have jobs in their area of expertise.