Today's youth pre-decide their career paths at school level itself and thus, higher education plays a pivotal role in shaping their future financial and social lives.
The higher education system in India is quite complex and it so far had mixed results in terms of contribution to the nation and to the student community of each generation. The National Policy of Education of 1986 has been a turning point and by bringing about a radical change in the allocation of funds its role has been seminal.
We take pride in producing finest talents in every single field in the world, be it IT, Medicine, Law, Commerce or Social Sciences. Indian educational system is lauded for including wide range of subjects at the school level, which enables the students to wisely opt for their specialisation at the graduate and post-graduate levels. But, unfortunately, many educational institutions have dropped their ranks in the Asian ranking. It is observed that only 1.7% institutions run Ph.D programmes. Doesn't it imply lesser support for research aspirants? A NASSCOM survey found that only 25% of the technical graduates are employable in the IT industry. Doesn't it reflect the low quality education being provided at higher levels?
India has the world's third largest higher education network. Its economy can work wonders if people are provided with adequate and good quality education as well as ample job opportunities. If they remain technically illiterate and jobless, they will turn into a liability for our nation. Thus, there is a dire need to make our youth industry-ready and sharpen their soft skills. There are plenty of avenues for our students to excel in, but we must prepare them to meet the job market. Students of ordinary institutions should be encouraged and allowed to share technologies and laboratories of well-established institutions on a regular basis.
The SWAYAM initiative helps students to study online for certificate courses provided by the IITs and IIMs. Such online measures that help students get access to high quality study options must be promoted.
Moreover, students must be made aware and well-informed about various add-on courses, career opportunities and internships in all fields. They should be regularly informed about careers, research and changes in the job market.
The education must become student-centric and it must help them to become competitive. It should help them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Draft New Education Policy 2019 has come up with some good suggestions in this regard.
Education must help the kids to develop their own perspectives and no attempt should be encouraged to choose a political ideology. Let them think and decide on their own.
Importantly, teachers must be trained to utilise different methods of teaching after evaluating their potential.
As most of the educational loans are becoming NPAs (Non-Performing Assets), steps to prevent students from being caught in the vicious circle of debts are necessary. Let us remember what Barack Obama once said, "Higher Education cannot be a luxury reserved just for a privileged few. It is an economic necessity for every family. And every family must be able to afford it."
In a nutshell, India's higher education system requires a radical shift.
(The opinions expressed are personal)