Monday, 28 July 2014

A VISION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM IN INDIA

           
                                                                                                                -Dr. S. Vijay Kumar 

                       India is the largest contributor to the global workforce, its working age population surpassing 950 million. India has emerged as the world’s third largest economy. Despite many new national missions/programs and reforms agenda, by both the central and state governments with private sector intervention, the higher education sector is in a state of complete flux. While we have tremendously enhanced capacity, we lag in quality, given inadequate autonomy to our Universities. Centralized control and a standardized approach remain at the heart of regulations. We are in the 21st century with a mid we have seen countries like China, Korea and Singapore, transform from developing to advanced economies in a decade due to strategic planning and a larger vision that correlated economic development to transformation in the education sector, in particular higher education and research, to become globally competitive.

                      The Vision is aspirational and futuristic, looking at India as a globally dominant economy, with a high quality higher education sector that leads and fulfills the needs of society. We have sought to get away from current constraints and challenges looking a new at what we could be by 2030, focusing on the genius and capability of our people and our civilization ethos, and meeting our rightful destiny as a global leader. The Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017) for higher education provides a good policy foundation for India’s higher education future. The implementation framework suggests the student at the center stage to foster innovation and choice, an ICT architecture that will increase access, equity and quality, and a transparent governance framework that will enable autonomy and self framework for governance has been detailed in the addendum document which proposes a mechanism based on outcomes and strong institutional accountability, clearly delineating the role and responsibilities of the government as well as public and private higher education institutions. A lot of work in terms of detailing is needed to move forward. Over the last two decades, India has remarkably transformed its higher education landscape. It has created widespread access to low-cost high-quality university education for students of all levels. With well and a student-centric learning-driven model of education, India has not only bettered its enrolment numbers but has dramatically enhanced its learning outcomes. Further, with the effective use of technology, India has been able to resolve the longstanding tension between excellence and equity. India has made teaching an attractive career path, expanding capacity for doctoral students at research universities and delinking educational qualifications from teaching eligibility.

                          Despite these strides of progress, India’s higher education institutions are not yet the best in the world. Indian has fewer than 25 universities in the top 200. Yet, India’s post – secondary education system is increasingly recognized as being the best for the world. The promise of excellence and equity has made the Indian higher education system worthy of emulating, certainly in the developing world that faces the same challenges as India did in the decades prior to its higher education reforms, but less obviously in pockets of the developed world which is under tremendous pressure to provide higher education in cost-effective ways. However, India has emerged as a regional hub of education and attracts global learners from all over the world. Students, faculty and employers now flock to India to learn, teach and recruit as India dons the mantle of a higher education leader and emerges the role model for delivering high quality education to vast numbers at low cost.

                          India has undertaken massive structural and systemic changes that have started to yield encouraging results. A stratified three tiered system – First is the top-tier research Institutes/Universities ( For e.g. IITs, NITs & Central Universities) are centers of excellence for the creation of new knowledge, set up with the vision to emerge as national and international leaders in   research output and intellectual property. They enroll a selective set of talented, research-oriented students to be taught by stellar faculty. Faculty and students at the university attract handsome research grants and exhibit the greatest international diversity. Going beyond traditional scientific and applied research, these universities have phenomenally broadened the scope of India’s research capabilities to new interdisciplinary areas of scholarship that present the greatest opportunity for the creation of new knowledge and hold most relevance for India in the new world. For example, Indian universities are at the forefront of research in bioscience, environment and climate change, inclusive development and leadership. Leveraging their cost and competitive advantage, Indian research universities have pioneered the model of blended research where they collaboratively produce cutting-edge research with other top directly educating only a small group of elite students, these universities have emerged as the indirect wellspring of content and curriculum for millions of other students who have seamless access to high universities through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) model.

                        The second tier of industry-aligned professional education (AIIMS, IIBM, and IIBSs) institutions has seen the greatest growth over the last two decades. Focused on quality teaching and producing highly employable graduates, these institutions are a passport to white-collar jobs in a knowledge economy. They impart knowledge and technical know broad-based critical thinking and problem-solving skills on the other to produce well Student learning outcomes are centre stage to this model. The ‘liberal’ component in this model of education is designed to correct for traditionally strict disciplinary boundaries, rigid departmental silos and narrow specializations once characteristic of Indian higher education. In effect, when a civil engineer educated thus sets out to build a bridge he would not only approach it from an engineering angle, but would also assess the environmental impact of building the bridge, the socio-economic impact of improved infrastructure, the financing of the bridge and possibly all the related regulatory hurdles to be overcome to get the plans approved. The curricular focus in these institutions is on content delivery than on content creation, where faculty borrow from the best open courseware and customize it to the needs of their students. While a section of the faculty are academic researchers, these universities also draw faculty from experienced practitioners and industry professionals who are subject matter experts and can act as mentors to students in the early stages of their professional careers.

                           The last cluster (3rd tier, for e.g. State, Deemed & Open Universities) of broad-based highly-accessible universities is designed to expand the reach of higher education to all eligible and deserving students in the country. They offer a wide range of courses aimed at providing a holistic education to India’s masses, and play a major role in promoting equity and access. Their distinguishing characteristic is a varied student population with significant regional and linguistic diversity and a balanced gender profile. They rely heavily on online methods of teaching and learning, enroll a sizeable number of mature students and offer both part time and full-time options.

                          The Indian higher education system has undergone massive expansion to become the largest in the world enrolling over 70 million students. Such expansion would have been unimaginable without the extensive use of ICT tools. To illustrate, if India were to create this additional capacity through increase in institutions alone, it would have had to build six universities and 270 colleges each and every month in the last 20 years have been impossible to achieve with India’s limited resources. Instead, India chose to go the MOOCs way. The MOOCs model made it possible for the country to provide a quality education to the masses despite poor faculty student ratios. Students today increasingly learn from leading faculty at elite institutions beyond the four walls of their classrooms as top-tier institutions have donned the mantle of being content generators. Professors collaborate across universities to collectively create and distribute for-credit curriculum for an online semester. Technology has been nothing short of disruptive for Indian higher education, solving for three of India’s pressing problems – access, equity and quality at once.

VISION:
Good governance: Good governance in higher education involves ensuring quality, instituting accountability, enabling private participation, promoting internationalization.

Diminishing role of government in governance: Self-regulation and self-critique has now become the norm. The government’s role as a provider of funding has also seen some shifts.  In coming 13th and 14th plan periods, the funding model has to move from funding for institutions to funding for individuals (including faculty, students and researchers). As a result, institutions can no longer solely on government monies for operations and expansion, but are increasingly taking greater responsibility for sourcing funding, further increasing their autonomy to plan their own futures.

Moving from monitoring inputs to regulating outcomes: Traditionally, regulatory bodies in Indian higher education have been focused on monitoring inputs. Universities were assessed on the money spent on computers and so on instead of on student learning outcomes, their employment readiness or performance in standardized tests. A conscious effort to reverse this anomaly has to be made over the years by linking public funding with performance variables. Attempt has also to be made to shift the thrust from consumption of allocated funds to outcomes from utilized funds, effecting, at the same time, greater autonomy in the use of allocated funds as well as greater institutional responsibility towards their effective utilization.

Compulsory accreditation: Accreditation should be made must for all higher education in the country. Recognition and funds should be withdrawn for those Institutions which do not accept for accreditation.
Enabling environment for private and foreign participation for quality education and healthy competition: Foreign Educational Institutions to be treated on par with Indian institutions, they too be subjected to the same accreditation norms.

Thrust towards internationalization: Much of the 20 years of reforms underpinned by the desire and commitment to emerge as a globally competitive education system. Internationalization has been a powerful driving theme, enabling the Indian higher education sector to both be in consonance with global standards as also emerge a leader in higher education globally. Hence, in the era of globalization internationalization of our higher education system is necessary.

Inclusive Education the Way for the Future: Education Commission (GOI) has rightly pointed out that “Every society that values social justice and is anxious to improve the lot of the common man and cultivate all available talent must ensure progressive equality of opportunity to all sections of the people. This is the only guarantee for the building up of an egalitarian and human society in which the exploitation of the weak will be minimized”. Hence, Inclusive Education should be the vision of India.

Vision 2030:
To achieve the envisioned state in 2030, transformational and innovative interventions would be required across all levers of the higher education system. In India Higher Education architecture require –
1.      Curricula and Pedagogy
2.      Faculty
3.      Research
4.      Partnerships
5.      Infrastructure
6.      Funding
7.       Good Governance/ Leadership

By 2030, India will be among the youngest nations in the world. With nearly 140 million people in the college-going age group, one in every four graduates in the world will be a product of the Indian higher education system.

Road Map to Progress: 2014 to 2030
In recent years, India has undertaken massive structural and systemic changes that have started to yield encouraging results. The country has been touted to have the best-in-class post-secondary education system at present. Some of the significant factors that have contributed to this growth and can help envision the 2030 dream includes:
1.      Expansion of a differentiated university system with a three-tiered formalized structure
2.      Transition to a learner-centered paradigm of education
3.      Intensive use of technology
4.      Reforms in governance
·       By 2030, India will have the largest population in the world, in the higher education age bracket. Increasing urbanization and income levels will drive demand for higher education.
·         India’s economy is expected to grow at a fast pace; rapid industrialization would require a gross incremental workforce of 250 million by 2030; India could potentially emerge as a global supplier of skilled manpower.
·         India has the opportunity to become a prominent R&D destination.
·      Given the expected socio-economic scenario in 2030, India would need a robust higher education system that can deliver on multiple imperatives.
·         A differentiated system of institutions with differing objectives and focus areas would be critical for achieving the proposed goals.

Conclusion:
While it is important to address the existing shortcomings in the higher education system, it is more important to move towards a bold and aspirational vision. We strongly believe that a stratified three tiered structure that enables seamless vertical and horizontal mobility of students would be able to create the desired intellectual, economic and social value. The implementation framework suggests the student at the center stage to foster innovation and choice, an ICT architecture that will increase access, equity and quality, and a transparent governance framework that will enable autonomy and self –regulation. A framework for governance has been detailed in the addendum document which proposes a mechanism based on outcomes and strong institutional accountability, clearly delineating the role and responsibilities of the government as well as public and private higher education institutions.

References:
Status of Education in India National Report (Dpt.of HE, HRD Ministry, GOI)
National Development Plan: Vision for 2030
The Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017)
                                                                  

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