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800 universities & 35000 colleges more

The efforts of Human Resource Development Minister, Mr. Kapil Sibbal, to bring about revolutionary changes in the country’s education system, should certainly be lauded. It was high time someone took over the responsibility sincerely. Although The Honorable minister is trying to do too many things together, the results of which are quite unpredictable, at least these proposals have once again started the debate on India’s education system, in the right earnest.

Recently Mr. Sibbal quoted that the country needs 800 more Universities and 35,000 more colleges to boost higher education.
Human resource is the greatest and most important asset of a nation. And if we consider the size of India’s population, we can say we have a huge reserve of human resource. But unfortunately, it is largely uneducated and untrained and hence not an asset but a burden on the economy. We need many more schools and colleges in and around the villages, because the dropout rate is higher in the rural areas. Nearby schools and colleges are particularly important for the girls. Even if the girls and their parents do desire for higher education, they hesitate to send them to far off places or other towns & cities. In many poor families too, it is mostly the girls who are more sincere and better in studies than the boys. But distance becomes a hurdle in their pursuing higher education. Primary Schools have covered many rural areas, but higher education and vocational training institutes are negligible.

We do certainly agree that we need many more colleges and universities, but what about the quality? Quality of the existing as well as the upcoming, proposed institutes?

Quality of the Govt. Schools
Barring the Kendriya Vidyalays, other Govt. Primary schools are in dismal shape, both in terms of academics as well as infrastructure. There is hardly anything to attract and retain the interest of children in these schools. They may come to the school for the mid-day meals, but do they acquire the desired knowledge from these schools? The pass percentage in the rural govt. schools is extremely poor. Whereas the same children who failed in a govt. school, if their parents send them to a private school in the same village, at a slightly higher fee, the children pass easily. So it is not just the quantity, but the quality of the schools is more important to inspire children to complete their education.

Quality of College teaching
Same is true with colleges. What is the use of churning out hundreds of graduates who are not interested in the subject, but somehow manage to pass out and get a degree? Quality of staff in Government colleges is another important factor. Really good dedicated teachers, who can make their subject interesting for the students, are very-very few. Subjects of Arts have lost their charm not just because these are not much job oriented, but also because we lack good teachers. Sociology can have so many research applications, if taught and studied with interest; same with political science and geography. If the teacher is just doing her/his job for the pay, even a beautiful Wordsworth Poem will become dull. But if the teacher is able to kindle the interest of the student, even a literature graduate can find a variety of job opportunities today.

Permanent government jobs often lead to below average teaching. There should be some way of periodic assessment of teachers too before allowing promotion. Merit should be the basis of promotion, like in private sectors.

Education has to extend beyond textbooks and more research oriented in order to be useful to the society.

Allowing foreign universities to set up branches in India will no doubt increase the number of universities and colleges in India, but these won’t cater to a large part of the Indian population. The upscale higher education brands will fulfill the needs of the upper crust of the society. To pull out the country’s poor uneducated lot, the government will have to start a revolutionary.

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