Is augmentation of education sector imperative for nations’s growth?

As per the common belief, people are more thoughtful and
sophisticated in an educated society. Education helps them appreciate and
respect the way of living and culture of other people. It is not only necessary
for the self-development of an individual, but it is equally favourable for the
growth of his country. When people are educated, there will be more innovations
and discoveries that can bring positive changes and can fuel the growth of the

Education is very important for nation building because it
reduces differences and brings people together to build the nation. Another
important aspect of education is that it creates a large middle-class
(professionals, teachers, doctors, engineers, etc) and this class is very
important to nation-building as they provide the necessary expertise. Education
correlates with nation-build and both of them complement and supplement each
other and it is difficult for nation to grown without education sector

India Education Review discussed the issues with some of the
top level educationists and researchers in the country who have been associated
with the sector for quite some time now.

Is growth of
education sector and nation interdependent?

Prof. M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman IIT Kanpur, said, “Higher
education is an important element to fuel the growth of the nation as it will
produce qualified products which will fulfill the requirement of economic and
social sector in our country. Higher education system will generate new
knowledge and translate it into products and processes. Higher education can
enable global competency, it will enable and maintain competency developed
across the world and it will get inserted in the Indian education system.

Meanwhile, Professor CNR Rao, Honorary President, Jawaharlal
Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) believes that nations
that lead the world are often knowledge based socyiteies.

“It is believed that
the countries that lead the world are those who are knowledge-based and are at
the forefront of science, technology and innovation. In recent years, all the
emerging countries are trying to be leaders in science, technology and
innovation. Leadership in science, technology and innovation will be possible
only when we have highly skilled manpower, some of whom work at the cutting
edge of their fields,” he explains.

The importance of education is not only for economic and
industrial advancement but also for well-being of the society as a whole.

Dr. R Natarajan, Former Chairman AICTE and Former Director
IIT Madras said, “There is worldwide recognition that education at all levels
in particular, higher education have a very important role to play in the
economic and social development of a country. Especially in the emerging
knowledge economy and society which are expected to dominate the world of the
future, our competitiveness, progress and prosperity are crucially dependent on
our educated and skilled population. The demographic dividend we possess now
can only yield the anticipated outcomes if our youth are provided world-class

Dr T Ramasami,
Secretary to Government of India, Department of Science and Technology (DST),
said, “The growth of nation does not
require large volume it has a different parameter. Growth of a country is not
dependent on just one sector but the benefits of growth should reach as many
people as possible and that is more important than growth itself. Education
should spread and that may not necessarily lead to growth, growth is process
which can happen without education so that is not one of the same objectives.”

“Development of a country is development of people and when
people get educated they take stalk of their own life and they are in a
position to secure their future and growth has to happen from the bottom and
when the people are educated therefore education is crucial. Education should
reach as many people as possible and as early as possible and that is what
happening today. You have got number of institutions and the number of students
entering higher education has also increased several folds in past decade,” he
further added.

Challenges for the
higher education sector

Though development and growth is dependent on the education
sector but there are several challenges for the sector itself. A vital challenge facing universities,
research institutions and corporations in India is an educational system
established during the pre-liberalization era which emphasizes learning through
memorization rather than factual understanding, teamwork and creative thinking.

Prof. Anandakrishnan, Chairman IIT Kanpur, said, “There are
several challenges and the first one is lack of funding, now this problem has
been solved to a greater extent in centrally funded institutions with central
government providing good amount of fund, private institutions have also come
up. But, unfortunately the state governments are not able to do the same for
state universities and state colleges as 60 per cent of our population still
studies in state universities. These state universities do not have any vision,
do not have any mission, lack funding and are politically controlled and this
is the biggest challenge in the growth of higher education sector in our
country. Another major challenge with the distance education, there has been
enormous expansion of distance education in India but there is no control on
quality of education offered by them, there are glaring malpractices,
regulatory mechanism has failed. In different parts of the world it has helped
the higher education sector while in India it has become a difficulty.”

Prof. Anandkirshnan further added by saying, “The other
major challenge is the employability of graduates coming out of the higher
education institutions. The higher education system has never considered the
employability factor, we are just offering degrees. It has to change;
institutions need to take into account the employability skills, there is need
for rethink on qualification framework, we need to bring in flexibility in
curriculum so that the employability factor is addressed. The other problem is
regional imbalances; some states are over producing graduates while others are
doing nothing. There should be balance between them; it should be proportional
to skill demand.

Talking about the challenges, Professor CNR Rao said,
“The challenges are, by and large, more related to the quality of education.
Even the best of our education institutions do not compare favourably with
their counterparts in the advanced countries. We have not paid enough attention
to teaching and teachers at school and college levels. Education is oriented to
exams rather than for gaining knowledge and wisdom. Our investment in education
is much too low.”

Dr. R Natarajan said, “Some of the prerequisites for
imparting high-quality higher education are: well- qualified, competent,
committed and dedicated faculty members; enlightened leadership; good
infrastructure; linkages with all stakeholders; policies and practices ensuring
access, equity, affordability and quality; and since Higher Education is on the
concurrent list, synergistic policies of the Central and the State governments.
Research is as important as teaching, and faculty members must excel in both.”

Corridor to trounce those challenges

Prof. M Anandakrishnan laments the lack of a national policy
on higher education. Stressing on the fact he opined, “We do not have a
national policy on higher education and this the biggest challenge, only
planning commission comes up with its plan document for the overall education
sector and this is small part of the requirement. We need to evolve a national
policy on higher education and it should address these challenges and should
suggest remedial measures. It should be able to bring in the changes that are
required by the sector.”

However, Dr. T. Ramaswami fears that it is very difficult to
combine expansion and excellence for any social sector at the same time because
expansion requires keeping people in while excellence requires keeping people
out. “Education sector is growing anyway, the GER in tertiary education has
moved from eight per cent to sixteen per cent in last seven to eight years and
we would reach to 25 per cent by next ten to 12 years. But it is very difficult
to combine expansion and excellence this is a major challenge which people are
talking about but in long term we will be able to correct it.”

Highlighting the fact that India has to become a global
leader in some areas of knowledge providing proper support is given to higher
education, CNR Rao moots a society where sense prevails in everything we do.

“We need a high percentage of citizens who are objective and
at the same time forward-looking. For this, people need to have the necessary
background to deal with complex situations and take appropriate decisions. In
this competitive world, this cannot be done without higher education. India has
to become a global leader in some areas of knowledge and this can only happen
with proper support for higher education. If India has to contribute to the
world as a whole in the next few decades, our young people have to be provided
the best of education. India can then dominate the world through its young
people who will contribute to the development of all the nations of the world,”
he said.

“It is important that we not only create good institutions
but also make sure that we provide the highest quality of education. More than
anything else, getting educated has been the aspiration of Indians from
centuries. Today, the younger generation dominates the Indian scene, and in the
next two three decades, several millions of additional children will be coming
for higher studies. We have to make sure that they contribute to the
development of the nation and to the society as a whole,” Prof. Rao added

Dr. Ramamurthy Natarajan said, “Honest and sincere
commitment to the implementation of the major policies which have been put in
place are required. Three of the major inputs required are; human resources,
physical resources and financial resources. Benchmarking with world- class
institutions worldwide would enable adoption of Best Practices.”

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