Education- Can India Compete China?

“Universities in China are coming up faster than hotels in Dubai,” Watson Wyatt says. By 2010, 23 million students will be attending Chinese universities, one million of whom will be highly skilled graduate students. Even Nandan Nilekani of Infosys says, “Having just a few Indian Institutes of Technology or Indian Institutes of Management is no panacea. You need to have hundreds of them, like they have in China.” How is India in comparison to China? What all are happening in the education sector?

When I travel by road, I see a large number of professional colleges that have come up in last few years. Every Monday, I find a special pullout on education in the national newspapers full with features, full-page ads, and career planning. As a routine, Outlook, Business Today, India Today, Business World and some more come out with surveys and rankings of colleges of all over the country at this time of the year. It all says, education sector is booming and people, parents and young generation are eager to know more about the institutions. Private entrepreneurs have invaded the sector. I don’t know how many of the entrepreneurs, particularly the petty ones are genuinely interested in imparting education. As I know from a nearer distance, many don’t have any remote interest in it. The other day, I came across an ad of a so-called Institute of Space Science and Technology at Naiad offering career degrees of graduate and postgraduate level in Avionics, Space Science and Aerospace. I doubt, if the institute can do justice with the students it would admit. I wish the educationists and senior teachers could become the entrepreneurs. However, the big houses such as Ambani, Vedanta and many are also setting up institutes of professional education and also universities. Some unique projects such as Nalanda University are being pursued. India has become a hot destination for the heads of foreign universities and educational institutes too. Many collaborations of different kind from exchange programmes to joint researches are underway, though the politicians have not agreed to allow setting up of educational institutes by foreign countries. Perhaps India is now moving from the darkness of illiteracy to the brightness of knowledge.

Looking in some statistics, the education in India has come a long way. Here are some data.

1.The government plans to set up 30 new central universities, seven IITs and IIMs, 10 National Institutes of Technology, five research institutes to be called Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research, 20 IIITs, two schools of architecture and 330 colleges in educationally backward districts. India wishes to attract 15% of students passing out of class XII (from the current 10%) into higher education by 2012, and 22% by 2017. Hatyana plans to have 1,00,000 engineers graduated every year. Andhra Pradesh is further adding into its already excessive number of engineering colleges.

2.India has at present 400 universities in the country, up from 240 in 2006. National Knowledge Commission recommended 1500 universities for India.

3.The number of private universities has risen from seven in 2006 to over 50 at present. At the end of the 10th Plan, of the total 101 deemed universities – 63 were private universities.

4.Of 17,625 colleges in the country in 2006 – 7,650 were unaided colleges and 5,750 were private-aided (private colleges receiving government grants).

5.Of 104 lakh students in higher education, over 67 lakh were enrolled in private institutions.

6.The number of engineering colleges rose to 1,478 in 2006 from 669 in 1999-2000 with an estimated 88% as private. In the same period, pharmacy institutions grew from 204 to 629 and the private sector was responsible for 94% of it. In management education, private players enjoyed a share of 64%. And the number is growing more and more every day.

7.In the period between 2000-2006, the overall share of the private sector in the growth of professional higher education institutions was 78%, while the professional education sector itself witnessed a 167% growth.

Looking at the enrolment, it has increased tremendously over the year for all levels of education, though still far behind the developed countries.

School Education: The number of students enrolled in elementary education (classes 1 to 8) is now estimated at over 13 crore, about seven times more. It was about 1.9 crore in 1951. For classes 9 to 12, the enrollment has increased from about 15 lakh in 1951 to over 3.7 crore, an over 25-fold increase.

Higher education: In higher education, there has been a 70-fold increase in enrollment. In 1951 there were only 1.7 lakh students pursuing education beyond class 12. Now the number is touching 1.2 crore.

India’s education system has two drawbacks. While the country must aim to attain universal education for all Indians, the education sector must improve its quality and create socio-economic conditions so that the number of dropouts is reduced. While quality of education will improve employability, the reduction in dropouts will mean better availability even with the present facilities.

Can one day at least 5 crores of those joining the school will have higher education before starting a career for living? Can one day the recruiters from inside the country or abroad certify the quality by declaring at least 70% students out of the higher educational institutes as employable?

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