Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Oct 2018 12:09:29

BY STATING that huge gaps are visible in Indian higher education despite a vast nation-wide network of universities and colleges, depriving the nation of global standards in teaching-learning process, President Mr. Ram Nath Kovind has only verbalised a national concern. He has agreed that very few institutions of higher learning are of global standards, but has hoped that the governmental efforts to raise the standards of at least twenty universities as institutions of eminence would soon yield results. When the President expresses such optimism, there are reasons for the people to believe that the Government is serious about what it is trying to achieve. 

No matter the popular expectation and hope, we have serious doubts about the possibility of early success in this endeavour of the Government in the field of higher education. True, the Government may pump a lot of resources into the endeavour so that those twenty institutions may be able to claim some global standards in physical terms. But we have serious doubts about the ability of India’s educational system to raise the bar for itself beyond the global norms and bask in the glory of genuine excellence.

This has very much to do with absence of a clear idea of what educational excellence should mean at higher levels. And that is the reason why only a handful of Indian institutions of higher learning can stake claims to something really global in standards. Most unfortunately, the Indian idea of excellence in institutional performance is still limited only to physical resources, and not to the spiritual inputs that are so much necessary to raise the bar. In such an overall environment, raising the standards of only twenty institutions would mean only taking the pilot-project approach which actually does not mean anything more than just exhibitionism or symbolism.

When a shockingly high number of people in management of higher education still relate their success only to giving degrees, achieving higher standards of educational excellence is going to remain a pipe-dream. The problem gets doubly messy when even the larger Indian society, too, does not have any other dream. So, when the youngster acquires a degree of a so-called prestigious university, he or she feels satisfied that one of his or her early goals has been achieved. With such a mindset, no one seems to be bothered about the spiritual inputs that are so necessary to increase the standard of teaching and learning and research process.

This is the trouble with the Indian habit of thinking only in black-and-white and never in the grey areas of comprehension. The Indian psyche expects returns in money or material terms when a youngster enters the portals of higher learning. But when standards of education have to be raised, the most necessary input is the spiritual quotient of learning -- how the youngster is taught right values of a subject, how educational projects are built around seemingly abstract concepts and worked upon for seemingly endless time zones, how education is actually divorced from the quest of jobs as the culmination of the process.

If we talk to anybody engaged in management of higher education in India at any level about the spiritual quotient, we realise that he is staring at us incredulously -- What are you talking about?!!! And this is the actual lowest point in our higher education. We, as a nation -- the people and their Government -- are nearly completely unable to fathom the actual method and manner and metaphor of education. That is the reason why our institutions are not able to reach the global standards despite investment of huge resources into our universities and colleges. For when our thinking never travels into the spiritual zone, how can we raise the standards to truly global and higher levels?