23 August 2015

Higher Education in India – A Critical Assessment

AUGUST 21, 2015

India is witnessing a transformation, considering the past, present and future trends in overall Higher Education sector; especially in the ever rapidly advancing Engineering domain, and is equally true in other domains as well.

Post-Independence, commendable Scientific/Technical Institutions like Indian Institutes of Technology, and subsequently Regional Engineering Colleges and select Government Institutions were set up. This resulted in creation of worthy Scientists/Engineers who subsequently contributed towards the National Development in diverse disciplines in Research Institutions and also in evolution of the Indian Industrial scenario. Towards National Security and Frontier Technologies evolution, as per the priorities of Government of India, a large chunk of engineering community were absorbed by Atomic Energy, Defence Research and Space Organisations. However, during this period, a majority of workforce mainly from IIT’s went abroad for better pastures.

Let us analyse the later and present trends. Over the last two and a half decades, suddenly a very large volume of Private Engineering Colleges and related Universities cropped up. Thanks to this gradually Quantity came up at the expense of Quality. Today, Engineers are contributing exceedingly well in the fields of Information Technology, Communications, Biotechnology and others. IT sector has been a boon for creating an enormous Software Knowledge power with global recognition and the Indian community has done exceedingly well in enhancing Indian Economy.

With the tremendous growth in Technology, Development and Innovation, Inter-disciplinary and Cross disciplinary Engineering Research is the order of the day globally and nationally; barriers are thinning down within Science and Technology. In the US particularly, and in many advanced Nations, Researchers from Technical Universities play a key Role in Inventions/Innovations. They are mainly leading the World and are closely associated with Industrial companies. But in India, though Educational and Research policies on paper have been in the right place as per Government of India norms, implementation by Indian Industries and other stake holders on Research front is pathetic, unlike in the US and other nations.

No Indian Institute/University figures in the top 200 rankings globally and this is a glaring testimony to the overall situation prevailing nationally.

It is high time, that locally, Engineering Institutions/Universities in collaboration with R&D Organisations and Industries create Advanced/Frontier Engineering branches. To explain further, the standard Electrical, Mechanical, Civil, Electronics branches etc are to be augmented by Energy, Environment, Medical, Biotechnology, Earthquake Engineering, not to mention about Mechatronics, Robotics, Aerospace, Aeronautics, Nano-Technology, Advanced Computing and Informatics, just to mention a few.

The present discourse very importantly is to also include the technical Diploma holders and Tradesmen, as an important workforce.

On one hand, though quantum of Manpower is very high, Employability is very low with no jobs for sub-standard graduates. Unless there are sustained efforts for raising the bar of the Education, Research Standards and Skilled Manpower to compete globally, Make in India concept will remain only on paper. Indian Government targets the creation of 500 million workforce by 2022, while Real Estate alone needs five crore skilled workers over ten years. This skilled Technical Manpower is immediately called for in Core/Hardware Engineering, Construction, Real Estate and Manufacturing sectors towards creating Shining India with the dreams of Smart Cities, Industrial Corridors, Highways, Railways Modernisation, State Of Art Ports and Airports etc; but where is the dedicated force, this ground reality must be accepted by the Governmental Authorities. Self Reliance and Indigenous Strength are two pillars, do not expect foreign powers to support us.

Honourable Prime Minister’s dream to ‘Make in India’ means making from scratch and not just assembling in India. Proper mindset with sincere Professionals/Intellectuals and interested Stakeholders are to seriously revamp the situation.

Further, in my personal point of view, [please correct me if wrong], the point of concern is the prevailing atmosphere of complacency and lack of dedication/determination/self motivation in students and youth in general to work hard with their own hands in their respective professions. This complacency is being reflected in the Secondary Education results and it directly impacts on the Admission Standards in Higher Education as is being witnessed today, with lowering of cut off marks in IIT’s. Let us put all efforts to support Government in realising the targets for a better India.

(Author: A K Sinha, former Senior Scientist ISRO)

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