The obvious idea is to make students aware, not only of social and economic realities, but to prepare them to take on assignments. But there is also the need to provide quality education, which is unfortunately confined to a few higher education institutions.
The recent decision by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to engage experts and professionals from various fields as practice teachers is indeed a welcome step. The aim, according to the project, is “to develop courses and programs to meet the needs of industry and society and enable HEIs (higher education institutions) to work with industry experts on joint research projects and consultancy services that will be mutually beneficial”.
The initiative aims to bring in distinguished experts from various fields such as engineering, science, technology, entrepreneurship, commerce, social science media, civil service, public administration, armed forces , etc. and to involve them in developing and designing curricula, delivering lectures, mentoring students in innovation and entrepreneurship, emphasizing industry-academic collaboration, carrying out joint research projects and organizing seminars in collaboration with regular faculty members.
Today, the biggest challenge in higher education is to impart skills that are relevant to the needs of industry, the agricultural sector, etc. The obvious idea is to make students aware, not only of social and economic realities, but to prepare them to take on assignments. But there is also the need to provide quality education, which is unfortunately confined to a few higher education institutions.
Digging into the statistics, there has been a growth from around 20 universities in 1950, to around 1040 universities at present. Only about 135 of these establishments are considered establishments of national importance (INI). Nearly 39 million students are currently enrolled in academic institutions, with India’s gross enrollment ratio (GER) standing at just over 27%. For the implementation of Education 4.0, changes are imperative in the area of quality improvement.
It could start at the curriculum level. The curriculum requires the right mix of technical knowledge, social science, ethics, leadership skills, design elements and it must also be tightly integrated with out-of-class learning. But this program must reach all the universities of the country, with an eye on those located in the backward districts of the country.
The national education policy has proposed innovative ideas such as allowing undergraduate students to take courses in all disciplines, the launch of a four-year undergraduate course, the integration of vocational education in the college program and the autonomy of the main colleges. Meanwhile, very few colleges have so far achieved autonomy and the process absolutely needs to be accelerated. Added to this is a specific and important suggestion for the creation of a National Research Foundation
However, the fundamental problem is the creation of more colleges in the rural and backward areas of the country, but the experts do not talk about it. There are suggestions of merging tiny colleges into one big institution without considering how students would reach that institution every day. Although the emphasis is on the modernization of education, which is undoubtedly very important at the present time, there is also a need to make education accessible to all sections of society.
A section of experts believe that the latest NEP visualizes an education that is in perfect sync with the policy of the Hindutva corporate alliance which currently governs India. Politics believes in the privatization of education, which will clearly make it more expensive and obviously beyond the means of socially and economically disadvantaged sections. It also implies that a quality education that the wealthy and middle class can afford will not be available to the lower rungs of society.
As is the case now, the privileged stratum has acquired an education that will enable them to occupy positions of leadership and office, while others excluded from this education will be qualified and join the vast segment of the labor force. work among which a limited number of available is rationed. out. The globalization of capital characteristic of neoliberal capitalism has also created a global market which, in turn, demands a homogeneous education, across countries. This completely detaches education, say in India, from its Indian setting. Thus, an economics student in the country cannot simply understand the Indian economy without considering the legacy of colonialism.
The current effort to professionalize teaching by emphasizing the professional aspect and qualifying training is perhaps something that should have been undertaken years ago. The focus on curriculum development should be given special attention by ensuring that education is not pedagogical but tailored to the needs of industry and society. It is indeed a great challenge and the sooner this transformation occurs, the better.
However, the autonomy of these higher education institutions must be guaranteed, which is a vital need at the present time. Politicians, both at the Center and in the United States, want to have a say in universities and colleges because they want to use students for their political activities. This cannot continue and each institution must be able to develop in its own way. This means that they should be allowed to design variations of the standard curriculum, keeping in mind local needs and requirements.
The growth of the university depends to a large extent on the quality of education provided for which the faculty must be high level and sincere with its students. The involvement of teachers with students is absolutely necessary to ensure that each of them – not just those who are deserving – receive the right education and have no difficulty in understanding. In this regard, dedication and sincerity are key words that are unfortunately missing from the vocabulary of most teachers.
The trend towards privatization of education, which will clearly make it more expensive and obviously beyond the means of socially and economically disadvantaged sections, needs to be seriously considered and appropriate rules put in place regarding the structure of fees. A committee can be set up to ensure that deserving students from poorer sections get advantages to study in private universities.
Finally, while institutions should be encouraged and allowed to develop with proper impetus and support from the government, in the long run, universities in backward areas should not fall behind, as this would imply that an education quality would only be available to the rich and the middle class. class, as is currently the case. It would be deplorable if only the privileged fringe acquired an education that would enable them to occupy managerial and functional positions, while others excluded from this education joined the vast segment of the working population among which a limited number of jobs were available. is rationed. In fact, management needs to educate themselves because empowerment of the younger generation is the need of the hour.