Hope for better environs for education after election
Hope For Better Environs For Education After Election. General elections are round the corner and the country is flooded with manifestoes by different political parties.
General elections are round the corner and the country is flooded with manifestoes by different political parties. It has been a usual practice that political parties release their manifestoes at the time of general elections so that electorates are familiarised with the policies and programmes of the party. Though a wide range of policy matters and programmes find a place in the manifestoes, only few have direct concern to the general public, among which education is one. Therefore, I study manifestoes of different political parties with particular reference to education in general and their commitments and determination with particular reference to Universal Literacy and Enrolment, reforms in higher education policies etc. though there is no guarantee that all the promises will be fulfilled or even a particular political party itself will get a chance to implement its programmes. I wish to share some of my ideas which I am sure everyone interested in our educational policies will endorse.
Emergence of knowledge as a driving factor results in both challenges and opportunities. It is now well recognised that the growth of the global economy has increased opportunities for those countries with good levels of education and vice versa. The benefits of globalisation accrue to the countries with highly skilled human capital and it is a curse for the countries without such specialised human capital. Developing countries are further challenged in a highly competitive world economy because their higher education systems are not adequately developed for the creation and use of knowledge. Converting the challenges into opportunities depends on the rapidity at which they adapt to the changing environment. Though the higher education system and the pattern of financing higher education vary a great deal across countries in terms of their size and strength and degree of diversification of higher education institutions, yet they all face a severe financial crisis in the public finances available for higher education. Our India is no exception to this global phenomenon. I wish that our future policymakers would focus more on realising the ideals of our higher education system.
Understanding the dynamics of socioeconomic- political and psychological obstacles is essential before starting any school reforms. The poor conditions in our primary and secondary education with unplugged drop out rates, high student teacher artios, poor infrastructure, unfilled or vacant teacher posts make our school education a very weak base for our higher education, its goals and standards. Consequently, poor quality in higher education, failure to meet the objectives, demoralisation in the teaching community, inability to meet the market standards or cultivate the research temperament, merely producing unemployable graduates in large numbers.
Global competetion, rapid growth in interest by private sector investors, the freedom enjoyed by consumers force our government to take positive policy decisions. As expansion, inclusion and excellence are our government’s objectives inorder to maintain an edge in the global knowledge economy, we need to identify and overcome all challenges that block the desired progress. One of the striking reasons for the failure of our state-sponsored institutions in higher education is the utter starvation for adequate resources. Private sector in education shows expansion alright but it cannot be inclusive as the cost of education remains very high while in the government sector there can be expansion that is inclusive but without excellence or quality as has been proven so far.
Though the expenditure on higher education has gone up considerably, only 30 per cent of the colleges under state universities are financially supported by the UGC depending on their recognition under the 2 (f), 12 (B) of the UGC Act and even here the UGC does not allocate any funds under the nonplan grants, leaving the colleges high and dry for any support in these areas. The National Knowledge Commiion (NKC) has suggested the utilisation of University lands to generate funds and approaching philanthropists may also be another avenue but these things apart, a considerable raise in budget allocation must be adopted if we do not wish to compromise our quality in education.
With lucrative jobs for professional degrees on the rise, the number of talented, intelligent and committed people opting for research and the teaching profession is proportionately decreasing thereby creating a constant dearth of quality teachers in the higher education circles and perpetuating the vicious circle of low quality and ethics yielding substandard products.
The revised pay scales cannot do much to alter the situation as the career options in non-professional courses is mostly done residually after the students options for engineering, IT, medical and management fields are closed. Moreover, the financial constraints are encouraging the government to leave the vacant posts unfilled and run the show with either contract or guest faculty. So, the element of uncertainity to procure a good job also deters students from considering teaching as a first choice career.
Coming to what we teach, today’s world is increasingly dominated by economic logic and it is a challenge to design and implement policies in a highly differentiated society without compromising on what education signifies and its role in building a just society. Our curriclum, our research goals must not be dictated by mere economic, short term gains. In the wake of wide spread marketisation of knowledge coupled with the pressure of the global market on redesigning the curricula to cater to the global demands and skills, nurturing and nourishing our intellectual capital must not be neglected. It is time that higher education also is realised as a right and duty of our nation. Synchronising the global, national and local demands must be achieved in our strategies.
Education is for nation building and education is for enhancing capabilities for democracy and we need to construct a different framework for policy-making in education. Higher education is a social public good, so we have the fundamental duty to guarantee the right to provide education that is pertinent and of quality and also foster access to quality higher education through appropriate strategies and actions.
The four PPP models in our public and private partnership, suggested by UGC, such as the basic infrastructure model, outsorcing model, equity/hybrid model and the reverse outsourcing model, restructuring financial aid to students, competetive research funding can be positively considered and put into force.
Given the socio-economic and political realities, the government has to continue to bear a large responsibility for funding higher education, but instead of relying on a single form of funding, efforts should be made to evolve a model of funding that provides a mix of the various methods. It is also worth considering that our fee and subsidy policies need to make distinctions across various layers and forms of higher education.
So, can we expect a better focus after the elections, on providing necessary funding, quality teachers, a ‘glonacal’ (global, national, local) synergy in curriculum designing, providing motivation to learners to choose teaching as a profession, strengthening of the base in primary and secondary education for a stronger higher education with excellence, inclusiveness and expansion ?
(The writer is noted educationist and former MLC. He can be reached at [email protected] co. in)