Reforming & Rejuvenating India’s Higher Education

Speaking at a National Conference “Reforming & Rejuvenating India’s Higher Education” organized by the Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI) in the capital, the minister urged the private institutions to participate in government’s Unnat Bharat programme of under which premier educational institutions such as IIMs & IITs are adopting neighboring villages and rejuvenating their educational system.

“Considering the spread of mobile technology that has reached even the hitherto unexplored areas of the country, we would be launching Bharat Vani App on May 25 that would provide the students with higher education study material in 22 different languages. However, within next year, we would provide access to the same content in 100 non-scheduled and tribal languages, for greater reach and accessibility. We are also coming up with innovative mobile app and portal, IIT Pal that would provide the engineering aspirants with IIT question papers of last 50 years to all the students across the country. The portal and app would also have video lectures by top notch faculty and audio aid in 13 different languages,” said the Minister.

The minister also urged the organization to help in identifying elements which are compromising with students’ interest for the sake of commercial benefits, thus, bringing disrepute to the entire sector.

“When we talk about stakeholders, it is important to see which of all stakeholders get predominance. For me, I believe, it is the students who are the main stakeholders and every policy and reform should revolve in the interest of the students. Currently, Indian higher education is facing many ripples. However, I feel looking at an issue as a challenge brings negative connotation, but viewing at it as an opportunity will bring new perspective and inspiration. We need to leverage technology to benefit the education sector.” added the Minister.

Further, asking for participation of private institutions she talked about expansion of the MOOC (massive open online course) platform named SWAYAM that has 500 courses to begin with. “SWAYAM would be a unique and first platform in the country to give proper credits and disseminate the knowledge across a wide cross section,” suggested the Minister keeping in mind the high dropout rates from 8th standard onwards.

The conference provided a unique interface between the academia of the country and the policymakers on issues crucial to India’s higher education reform. Pertinent questions such as ‘How to balance Autonomy (of education institutes) with Nation Building?’; ‘How to Streamline Quality Assurance, Accreditation & Ranking’; and ‘How to Make Higher Education, a source of Skill Development & Success of Make-in-India’ were some of the key issues discussed at the forum.

“A number of issues bedevil India’s higher education system. Among them are issues pertaining to regulation, ranking and quality assurance, which are being taken seriously by the government through bodies like NAAC. With the growth of a large number of private institutions and universities, there is also increased demand for improved regularization and supervision. Yet, at the same time, institutions have sometimes complained about politicization and lack of autonomy. While there are no two minds on the need for a major overhaul in India’s higher education system, there are differences that need to be ironed out. Through this platform our aim is to provide such an interface between policymakers and education providers to arrive at a common minimum agenda for reform,” says Dr. G Viswanathan, President, EPSI.

Dr Vishwanathan also on behalf of EPSI assured the minister that all members of EPSI will extend full support to the ministry in all their initiatives and suggestions made by her during the conference. He also said that EPSI is committed towards improving the accessibility, transparency and quality of higher education in India and will be leaving no stone unturned to ensure the same.

“A vital issue before our higher education system is its inability to produce what we call ‘industry-ready’ graduates. Industry bodies have often complained of the lack of employable graduates and the need for bringing the higher education system in sync with the industry and its needs. As we launch ambitious programs such as ‘Make in India’, we need greater focus on ensuring that our education system produces more skilled and equipped human resource,” says Dr. H Chaturvedi, Alternate President, EPSI.  

Union Urban development Minister Vainkaiah Naidu expressed concern about the high commercialization of education sector and appealed all the stakeholders to join hands in making it more productive, merit driven and student centric.

“Our ancient institutions of learning focused more on preparation of ‘wholesome individuals’. However, with the passage of time and changing values, education has come to be a trade off for employment and more particularly, higher education has come to be seen more as a means of getting more lucrative jobs. So, education in effect has come to be just a means for a good material living and not ‘complete living in all its dimensions’’, Naidu said

“Educational institutions in the country should take an active lead in resetting education landscape to make it more relevant and contemporary. Every graduate, post-graduate or a research scholar passing out of the places of higher learning should be a complete individual capable of handling himself, his life and furthering larger societal need,” he said.

He also expressed hope that the upcoming National Education Policy, expected to be released before May 26, will help addressing varied challenges being faced by the Indian education system.

“I am sure the policy will become the vehicle that will serve the aspirations of a resurgent nation” he added.

Earlier in the valedictory session, Dr Prashant Bhalla, Treasurer, EPSI and President, Manav Rachna Educational Institutions in his welcome address said, “Education holds the key to economic development in the country and it is the job of academia to provide quality education. The primary task of educational institutions is to create honorable citizens of the nation. Higher education system to that effect needs to be remodeled for resurgence and rejuvenation.”

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