Educating India

PM announced a dream plan to educate and train India on Independence Day from the rampart of historical Red Fort. I wrote about it. He promised 6,000 new high quality schools – one in every block of the country, new colleges in 370 districts where enrolment levels are low, thirty new Central Universities, one in every state that does not have a central university, five new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology, seven new Indian Institutes of Management, twenty new Indian Institutes of Information Technology, 1600 new industrial training institutes (ITIs) and polytechnics, 10,000 new vocational schools and 50,000 new Skill Development Centres to ensure over 100 lakh students to get vocational training annually – which is a four-fold increase from today’s level.

At the time of Independence, there were 20 universities and 500 colleges in India. In India after 60 years, there are 369 universities and 18,064 colleges now. According to NKC, at least 1,500 new universities would be needed to increase the gross enrolment rate from 10 per cent to 15 per cent by 2015. In number, only 1.05 crore of India’s youth in the age group of 17 to 23 are enrolled in higher education institutes. The planning commission is working on an ambitious programme, involving Rs 2,77,837 crore during the Eleventh Plan (2007-12), for the education sector.

Recently, I received a mail from Murlidhar from USA. He is of my own batch from IIT, Kharagpur and was in HM (Hindustan Motors) also. He was our neighbour too for some years. He wrote:

For a man who attended a prestigious English school, his “gift” of more IITs, IIMs and IISCs in his Independance Day address (to override Supreme Court’s rejection of OBC quota), is a disgrace. Can you imagine England creating several Oxford’s and Cambridge’s, or US creating several “Ivy League” colleges?

IIT, IIM have established themselves as top class institutions. Why would Manmohan Singh want to degrade these? Is winning the election and allowing his coalition partners make money more important than India’s prestige?

I thought of writing to him in support of Manmohan Singh mission. But then when I think back a little, I find myself with few questions. Why have Britishers not created several Cambridges, Americans several Stanford or MIT? Why are we multiplying IITs and IIMs, and for that matter other institutes too? Are these announcements political? Are all IITs having a similar standard? Are not some who remain inferior also getting the advantage of the brand IIT or IIM? Is it not unethically deceiving? Can all the NITs (the former regional engineering colleges) be of the same standard? We are sure that many are no better than an average college of engineering. It is simply unbelievable that with an IIT and IIM in every state and who knows in every district, we are not harming the brand images of the institutes that has been so painfully created.

In good old days, BE College, Sibpur (Calcutta), Jadavpur University, BHU College of Engineering, BITS (Pilani), and Roorkee University were equally or more reputed institutions. Some even remain till date. Why did some of those fail to come up to the standard of IITs? HRD ministry must facilitate the institutes to become world class by removing all hurdles instead of controlling them. It is unfortunate aspect of education sector that it still remains under the license raj.

It is shocking that hardly four institutes/universities of India are in the top 100 best universities of the world. If each of these prestigious institutes mentioned above become a world class institutes by itself, the number of institutes from India in the list of best 100 educational institutes of the world would be more. India must set a target to bring in at least 20 universities/ institutes in the list of best 100 globally.

Many feel that the quality of higher education will improve by allowing foreign universities to come in the country, as it shall bring competition. But politicians are against it. Surprisingly, only two universities from the UK and one from the US have registered their partnerships with homegrown institutions. But that is the official number. The All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) claims that as many as 104 FEIs are actually collaborating with our universities and affiliated colleges but without its approval. Why should it not be free and transparent?

Shockingly, according to the Commerce Ministry estimates, 1,60,000 Indian students leave the country every year for foreign university/college education. In money terms it means an annual outgo of $4 billion or Rs 16,220 crore.

Is not the government control in education and reservation policies responsible for the immigration of so huge a number of Indian students to foreign universities, and not all of them to the best universities? Can’t India become a hub for educating the students from all over the world? Will the English not help here too like IT sector? Will it not help India to become a world power through this route, as a person retains his weakness for the institute and country where he gets education?

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