Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Dec 2017 11:37:34










It is not just about the spread and penetration of education that is so important, because what really matters is improving the quality of our education so that the products of the institutes we have are world class intellectuals. 

VICE-PRESIDENT M Venkaiah Naidu recently said that the universities in the country should become centres of excellence and produce multi-skilled students of tomorrow.  Ruing that none of the universities in the country was world-class in terms of excellence, Naidu said India had good varsities but she needed excellent ones. “It is very painful to note that not one of our 760 universities is world-class with that excellence.

There are good universities in the country but we need excellent universities,” Naidu said addressing a meeting after inaugurating the Andhra Pradesh campus of the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) at Inavolu village. He appealed to the universities to focus on enhancing skills, knowledge and raising the standards and then compete at the world-level.

“There is every need for institutes of higher learning to raise standards, improve pedagogy, enhance research activities and form greater linkages with the industry so that students are well-equipped to face the challenges of a globalised world,” he added. Focus should not only be on education for all but quality education, the Vice-President said.

The Vice-President also touched upon the GDP sore point saying the 6 per cent spending on education was ideal and should be targeted but due to competing priorities like healthcare and infrastructure, it was not being achieved. It has often been complained by economists and education experts that India’s spending of GDP on education is dismally low, which is one of the reasons for her abysmal education scenario.

But as Naidu rightly said, it is not just about the spread and penetration of education that is so important, because what really matters is improving the quality of our education so that the products of the institutes we have are world class intellectuals. We may have thousands of universities and institutes to flaunt, but if they run without teachers per say and the students who pass out of these are low on skills, then our purpose is defeated. On the other hand, we may have just a handful of universities but if we are able to produce the best of research papers in them, then this handful have more worth than a hundred mediocre establishments strewn around like weeds.

We have rampantly opened universities, colleges and institutes to cater to a growing population’s chimerical aspirations but today most of them are struggling to find good faculty members to drive the engine. Most of the students passing out of these centres of education are struggling to land a job and suit industry needs. The strength of any human resource bank is its intellectual capital.

Our aim is not and should not be to produce labourers, technicians and clerks, which our traditional education system is geared to do. Innovative introductions in the education field are still not a trend that has picked up in the sector in any widespread or encouraging way. Individual efforts of institutes are seen but there is no collective consciousness towards changing or improving the education system. We have been handed down a 19th-century British education pattern that aimed at producing a band of menial workers who could assist the British Government in running the country.

We haven’t yet got out of the mould, which is one big reason why we cannot think independently and better than what we are doing. We still hanker after a well paying slogging job; our students don’t learn to walk the extra mile to do different, think different, take risks, innovate and improvise. Everyone wants to play safe and that psychology is drilled into them by their parents, straight thinking teachers and an obsolete education format we so heavily rely upon. This is why we falter when it comes to making seminal contributions to world philosophy, scientific advancement et al.

Exceptions are certainly there but they are more despite the education they have got here than due to it. They have mostly excelled in their individual struggles. Education, in the right sense, is a powerful tool for bringing about social and economic transformation. Unless our education system decidedly helps in doing that, we need to revisit what we are doing and bring in the necessary changes urgently. India’s development roadmap largely depends on what
lies underneath.

If we continue producing good clerks, engineers and mechanics in hordes, then we are certainly not going to make a cut in any field in the global arena. We may end up ably running multi-national companies with our unending supply of human resources, and gloat in that achievement but the ultimate gain will be reaped by those who are getting an opportunity to use their brain. Had our education system fostered independent thinking and promoted innovative research through the right ecosystem, we would not have to depend on Russia or Israel or France for our fighter jets and aircraft carriers. By this time, we should have progressed much more in the science and technology domain.

Pure science today is a neglected field, simply because it doesn’t ensure quick money and needs years of patient slogging which no one wants to go through. Everyone is interested in the annual package; no one thinks in terms of his actual contribution towards his people and immediate society.  This is highly indicative of the trend and philosophy of our education system and must raise questions in the mind of any thinking individual. In pursuit of quantity, we are certainly compromising on quality. There are perhaps lakhs of Government schools running all across the country, but we all know the condition of teaching in these schools.

We celebrate our literacy figures as a yardstick of development but literacy in itself means little if it cannot help in social regeneration or improving the condition of life. Many of those who are literate today can barely go beyond signing their names and after a period of time, due to disuse of the basic intellectual faculties, even this is forgotten. What practical purposes so much push and fad about literacy drives achieve? Again this is a case of quantity over quality. We are so stuck with stacking numbers of the literate that we don’t look beyond that and does nothing to improve the quality of even basic primary education. Maths students cannot write two sums correctly, in English class, not a student can write spellings correctly.

This is the base on which our student community is formed and when they enter the colleges and universities, this is the same standard they carry with them. University education cannot be tackled in isolation if we do not simultaneously improve our primary and secondary education standards, especially in the Government schools where majority students still go. By the way, the Government must take a comprehensive stock of things and do all it can to make our education system a cutting-edge learning ecosystem. That is the only key to development. All else is secondary.