A NATION which has contributed much to world civilisation is no more in the forefront of the comity of nations and to me it is an outcome of primarily a mental deficit. We have lost our ability to have lofty visions. We first must speak about a world class mindset. Being dominated for the last 1000 years has made us think narrow. We have become good at copying - ‘Cut! Copy! Paste!’ Unfortunately, it works well only in computing. When we attempt that in real life we produce monstrosities that are at odds with national needs.
If we have to regain our rightful place, education is the primary key. Education empowers, it invigorates, it is the creative force. Is it not an irony that India has one of the highest number of employable graduates and equally large number of unemployable illiterates? Change in this scenario would hinge on three domains, quality of governance, quality of content and quality of people.
Quality of governance
Governance must be ensured in all educational institutions. Real regulation must stimulate and control at the right time. But our agencies do neither. They are stuck on the control mode. AICTE, for example, is more interested in how many rooms you have, how many fans and how many computers. It speaks very little of academic quality. Employability of the students so produced is not its concern.
All academic institutions whether public or private must be brought under the Comptroller and Audit General’s Act and subjected to statutory audit. RTI Act must be applicable uniformly to all institutions. These two initiatives together would bring in the much needed transparency to the system. Public money and private money are equal in case of education, because they deal with students’ money.
The current compartmentalising of education must go. Now we have a Higher Education Council and then another council for medical education, yet anther for law. Are they not higher education? It is time India thought of education in a comprehensive manner. The hypocrisy must go. In our country establishing an educational institution is a charitable activity. Those who give education cannot and must not earn money. Those who get education can earn. This needs to change.
Quality of content
The content must be geared towards generating entrepreneurs. It is they who create; they who drive the society. What we need are drivers, what we are creating are a mass of passengers. Ask any student to make a list of what is it that you can and what is it that you want honestly and you would see a huge dichotomy, and that is because the curriculum is outdated. Our undergraduate system is worthless. In many universities no student comes to classes and few teachers teach. It appears that the controller of examinations is the only one who works the most in some of our universities. India’s best universities rarely revise their syllabus.
Quality of people
It all boils down to people finally, and we do not seem to it get that right. Look at London School of Economics. For quite sometime it operated out of nondescript buildings in London suburbs. But its reputation came from quality of its faculty. In the West, the student is known by his or her teacher. And that has to happen in this country. India has given up her hoary tradition of being known by her teachers. Unfortunately our best brains go on to sell soaps, tooth brush and shampoo. We must ensure that the creamy layer of academia come back into academia. And good people make all the difference.
(As told to B. Mahesh Sarma)