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Third Largest In World:Sibal’s New Impetus, by Col. (Dr.) P. K. Vasudeva (Retd),20 October 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 20 October 2010

Third Largest In World

Sibal’s New Impetus

By Col. (Dr.) P. K. Vasudeva (Retd)


India's higher education system is the third largest in the world, after China and the United States. The main governing body at the tertiary level is the University Grant Commission (UGC), which enforces the standards, advises the Government, and helps coordinate between the Centre and the States.   


Significantly, as of 2009, India has 227 Government-recognised universities of which 20 are Central Universities, 109 deemed Universities, 11 Open Universities and 215 State Universities, under the State Act. According to the Union HRD Ministry’s Department of Higher Education there are 16,885 colleges, 99.54 lakh students and 4.57 lakh teachers in various higher education institutes all over the country.


Not only that. In addition, two years earlier in 2007 the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh imparted an impetus by announcing the establishment of eight Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and five Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research (IISERs) and 30 Central Universities in his speech to the nation on the 60th Independence Day on 15 August 2007.


Taking up from there, the Union HRD Ministry in March 2008 announced the setting up of four new IITs in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab. This was in addition to the four announced previously in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh. Along-with six IIMs would be launched in Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Haryana. And the new IIM in Shillong would begin operations by admitting students from June.


In May 2009, Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal added a new dimension to education during his visit to the US. He welcomed foreign universities to invest in India’s education sector but should not aim at making profits. In March 2010 Sibal introduced the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, in the Lok Sabha allowed foreign education institutions to set up institutions in the country.


Defending the proposed entry of foreign universities Sibal asserted that these would help create a talent pool for the country. As also help the recognition of Indian university courses in foreign countries. “We have a foolproof plan for the entry of foreign universities. Any foreign varsity entering India will have to create a $12-million corpus fund and profits will not be allowed to be expatriated to shareholders,' he added for good measure. 


However, when some MPs expressed misgivings about foreign education institutions having their own admission process and to fix fees, Sibal argued that the laws applicable to private institutions would be applicable to foreign universities aspiring to set up campuses in India. At present, the fee for private engineering and medical colleges is fixed by a State level committee headed by a private judge. There is no mechanism to finalise the fee structure in private universities.


Asserted the HRD Minister, “Foreign education providers will neither be discriminated against nor will be shown any favour. We are trying to go to a regulated regime from a de-regulated regime on foreign universities. The foreign institutions will come through registration.”


However, Sibal had to beat a hasty retreat when he failed to get the Rajya Sabha to pass the crucial Educational Tribunals Bill 2010 in August last. A determined Opposition and some Congress MPs ensured that the Bill’ was deferred to the winter session by expressing strong reservations.


The Bill proposes to set up a two-tier structure of educational tribunals at the national and State levels to adjudicate disputes that arise in the higher education system. The tribunals would act as forum for fast track and speedy resolution of issues in institutions in order to build an effective system of checks and balances in higher education.


While the State tribunals would deal with matters concerning teachers, employees and students of institutions in the respective States, the national tribunal would deal with matters concerning regulatory bodies in higher education. The HRD Ministry hopes to get this Bill passed in the forthcoming session beginning 9 November.  


The tragedy of India is that even after 63 years of Independence we are far away from the goal of universal literacy. Towards that end, the HRD Ministry needs to address three important issues immediately. One, presently, our education system tends to churn out people who are good at certain skills, but not necessarily efficient at problem solving or, doing out-of-the-box lateral thinking. The reforms should bring about a broad-based education that combines liberal arts with technology and science. 


Two, the regulatory system in education, employment and employability, encourages the production of dwarfs. But the need is to encourage the production of babies. One should be able to regulate the incompetence, which one observes sometimes in education or the lack of performance management that is observed in the public sector.


Last but not least, while India produces over six to eight lakh technical graduates annually. However, research studies show that only 25 per cent of them are career ready and employable by the industry. A vast majority of technical graduates are deficient in communication skills, analytical / problem-solving capabilities, learning abilities, process orientation and domain skills.  


Clearly, the lack of effective industry academia inter-action has been one of the failings of the Indian knowledge eco-system. An overwhelming majority of students go into the employment markets armed with only educational qualifications. Whereby they ensure that their employment is a responsibility, which industry and the academia need to address together.   Wherein faculty development and training programmes with a module for judging/testing the new recruits on their ability to impart the requisite skills become very critical. 


Simultaneously, Sibal intends raising important issues vis-à-vis education with US President Barack Obama during his forthcoming visit to Delhi and Mumbai early next month. One, recognition of Indian University degrees by the US and other points of mutual interest. 


All eyes are now on the ensuing winter session. Will Union HRD Minister Sibal succeed in imparting a new momentum to higher education given that it is the third largest in the world.  ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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