Higher Education in India today
I am a member of a Yahoo group Called the Indian Higher Education Group. I got a very interesting message from the group which I felt should be shared. So here it is with no editing.
Higher Education or Hire Education
By Navendu Mahodaya" firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Today, a leading business magazine of India Today Group, published an article (Sept. 2, 2012 edition) - “Hiring sleaze! Hiring scandal: How corrupt recruiters are cheating jobseekers, colleges and IT companies.” The article has provided an authentic account of some of the rotten practices. It seems a top IT company recruiter used to charge three quarter of a million rupees to visit a campus and conduct interviews. In addition to that every offer letter was charged at Rs. 50, 000/-. These were the terms to visit Engineering Colleges. Likewise, there would be terms for M.B.A. Institutes. It seems colleges that produce simple graduates could be considered lucky. It is rumored that post graduate management education has been paying commissions to those who are in a position to supply candidates. And these colleges have thousands of impressionable graduates, who do not know what to do. I am aware of a Girls College where at graduate level they have A through Z, all the sections. Once the girls have completed their M. Com. Degree, the highest level at that college, they are told about vocational courses in Fashion Designing or professional courses like M. B. A.
We need not see the frauds reported by Business Today in isolation. We have to analyze, “How such frauds become feasible or possible?” I am a member of several internet discussion groups. And from various comments and experiences shared by others, I have been able to compile the following:
· First is the intake of students for college education. Second is selection of a course by a student. Third- the conduct of classes, practical, and other academic work. Fourth- University Examinations and Degree. Fifth- Employment.
· First: It is about students crossing the 10+2 mile stone to join college education. In last two decades, I have seen the standard of school education falling steadily. There are many reasons. Main reason is appeasement of innocent children who find schooling tough. I say ‘innocent’ because those children do not know the impact of that on their future. In the beginning of the session, the newspapers are full about students’ hardships of a heavy bag and home work. During the rest of the academic sessions, in bits and pieces, newspapers are trying to win over future consumers for the brands whose advertising they carry. This is done by publishing such reports which amount to empathizing with ‘underdog student community’. February and March months are used to create further inroads in to those young minds by publishing those reports which highlight pain of appearing for an examination. It appears that all the motivating and good counsel is being reserved for them advertising coaching institutes. The case of Government Schools is well known. Baring a few, most schools do not have proper class rooms and facilities to conduct academic activity of desirable quality. A middle school child today aspires to go for IITs or MBBS program without having judged if s/he has any inclination. Coaching Institutes catering to middle school students have become hunting grounds for those coaching at high school level and so-on. Same ways, IIT Coaching Institutes have become hunting group for those countless Engineering Colleges. In case of medical education, colleges are very few. But fee charged by private medical colleges along with the underhand admission fee is well known, and its impact too is well known.
· Second: The school education and the environmental impact during school education, leaves most students unable to exercise good judgment. Further, their dependence on coaching institutes, leaves them wanting guidance and instruction at every turning point. Their academic skills are below standard and this makes them permanently in need of coaching or dependent on guide books. The observable behavior of students at the time of entry into college indicates that while their association with coaching establishment has turned them into ‘street-smart’ but they lack the academic standard desired of a 10+2 pass out. Street-smart without a goal or direction is likely to be a confused and trigger-happy arrogant person.
· Third: Once upon a time, colleges were opened on the basis of demand at user level; i.e. employers’ level or industry level. Today, a vast majority of colleges have come into existence on the basis or revenue trends shown by other colleges a few years back. Therefore if someone saw a college making good money, he also went for it without considering its impact on society. A vast majority of these colleges have employed newly qualified teachers. Such teachers do not demand competitive salaries. They have been hired only to ‘engage’ students in the class rooms. And they have been instructed, “Do not rock the boat!” So they play safe and believe in the dictum- “Do not trouble Trouble, until Trouble troubles you!” And those confused students who sit of the benches have understood the game into which they have been suckered. This year in the state of Karnataka some 50% M.B.A. seats have gone vacant. Further, I wish to share some admission data in Madhya Pradesh about Professional Education. It has been published on front page of Dainik Bhaskar, Indore edition dated 5th August.
Number of Govt. Colleges: 3
Number of seats in Govt. Colleges: 180 (all full)
Number of Private Colleges: 83
Number of seats in Private Colleges: 8400
Number of seats taken by students: About 700 (8.33%)
Total number of colleges: 222
Total Seats 90, 000 (Approximately)
Number of seats taken by students: 45,000
Colleges where 90% seats are vacant: 55 (25% of the total number of colleges)
Colleges where 80% seats are vacant: 20 (approx)
Colleges where 70% seats are vacant: 20 (approx)
A quick arithmetic will show that there are 95 colleges ( 42%) where more than 70% seats are going vacant. This data shows, students have understood the game. Mr. Prabhakar Waghodekar who is a Principal in Aurangabad writes- (1.) No teaching in Colleges: Right from Jr. colleges, periods and practicals are hardly engaged. The culture is what I am observing in big cities: Get copy of assignments or journals, xerox them, re-write them over two nights and submit. It is really disheartening that theory lecturers and practicals are not engaged in true spirit. (2.) In rural areas, boys and girls hardly go the college, they either go for farm work and just pass the time. (3.) In big cities, coaching classes are doing roaring business. Students attend rather advise to attend some coaching classes for 11 and 12 stds so that everybody is happy. This culture has made our students exam-robots, no independent thinking, no critical thinking, no innovation. What types of students this country is generating? (4.) The bightest students from IIMs and IITs are picked up by MNCs with package something like 75 lacs to one crore Rs. Our nation spends public money on such students who serve other countries! (5.) The PG and PhD programmes have been transformed into like postal/correspondence courses. We hardly believe in earning a degree. (6.) The teachers who are the outturn of the system are not expected to assure quality of Higher Education in India.
Dr. Nripendra Singh of Jaypee Business School writes- The worst of all is that if some of us want to do something for the betterment of the students and the Institute, we are discouraged rather than encouraged. Thus, it is not the students alone, but we ourselves and the people who have the power in their hands do not want the good things to happen. The whole culture is being spoiled.
Dr. S.G.Palsodkar, Retd.Principal of Garware College of Commerce Pune writes- What Prin. Waghodekar has written about academic quality in higher education is 100% correct. I will like to add that this lack of commitment on the part of all parties related with higher education is found predominantly in institutions which need not worry for the salaries and other expenses as Govt. pays for it. The only solution to stop the wastage of public money going on in Higher Education is to ask such colleges to earn their money after a fixed period say 10 yrs by stopping the Govt aid. For the economically weaker students who cannot afford to pay the Higher Education fees, selected colleges may be given subsidy on educational expenses. This is necessary as efforts to improve quality in HE like accreditation by NAAC are not proving effective as the trend which Principal Waghodekar has mentioned is found in so called "A" grade colleges predominantly.
Govinda Rajan.K.N. writes- The standard of students coming for B.Sc. or M.Sc. is very low and many of them are not even attentive in class nor do they care. Since you college needs to show a minimum passing percentage many undeserving get through the exams. One reason why the standard of students is so low is not because they don't have brains. It is just that they don't care about studies and are confident of getting through without making much efforts because that is how they have been doing all these years. Many of them can't write decent English either. Since reading is a habit they have lost that habit altogether. With the result even the PhD student spends very little time reading books or journals. He is confident he will get through his PhD as well! He may then become a teacher and teach the students whatever little he knows because the students that we talked about are not going to raise any questions nor going to make out whether his teacher is talking sense or not. With the mushrooming of colleges there are jobs for this kind of teachers in plenty. No wonder companies are crying hoarse that the qualified students are not employable. I was talking about science students. The Engineering students are no better. An engineering student could not draw a triangle, given the lengths of three sides, in a job interview.
Dr. P.V.Ramana, Chairman, ITM Group writes- When I was doing a mid-career MBA in USA, back in the 70's, there was a hit song "Killing me softly with your Song....." by Cher. That is what we are doing "Killing Higher Ed softly with our talk ...." From 2003 to 2008 ITM ran a study in 3rd tier UG Colleges in Mumbai suburbs to study what influences quality in teaching. This was done with assistance of the NCQM Centre in Kharghar. The most significant factor which affected Quality, was simply this: Number of Hours spent by the Teacher, before he went to the class, each day and before each session. The best teachers were also the most interesting and suffered the least absenteeism from their classes. This time was spent in upgrading their instructional materials, rehearsing what to say, and searching for answers - Library or Internet - for likely questions, and the intangible - how to provoke discussion so that actually knowledge is shared peer to peer as well.
While Dr. Ramana has stated a very pertinent finding, how many colleges have been able to benefit and upgrade their working is what matters. The kind of practices that Business Today article has uncovered encourages, the college managements to work of quick-fixes by bribing the recruiters. Once a college resorts to such a device, all the stake holders begin to lose interest in maintaining the quality of education. And the net result is loss of credibility for all.
· Fourth: The examination system is another area that is vulnerable and hence detrimental. There are frequent reports of exam paper leaking out. It creates an environment that does not encourage hard academic work. Today, for every given university examination, at least one guide book exists that is being sold book shop as containing important questions. The student who is in habit of believing those sellers since his school days finds nothing wrong in once again trusting the seller. Often there is problem of liberal marking to such an extent that most sincere student have begun to believe that hardcore academic work to prepare for examination is useless. Examination and valuation methods of distance study programs in Higher Education leave all postal programs suspect.
· Fifth: Sadly for all stake holders, the employment phase is like a proverbial ‘Clearing House’ where the candidates (instruments) must stand up in scrutiny. It is hard to believe that despite much improvement in communication and connectivity, the institutes are unable to run programs to the standards desired by employers. It is here the role of recruiters become important and that is why the malpractices have become prevalent. There is so much stress on coaching for interviews everywhere. Such coaching institutes work as ‘finishing schools’ fashioned as parody of some legendary European Finishing Schools.
Finally: I quote two sentences from a mail sent by Thiagarajan TVS- “If students spend fifteen long years and become unemployable after forking out substantial sums, we argue that employers have to give training. But what do we teach in schools and colleges to have great training in workplaces?” What a remark on the state of a remarkable development tool, otherwise known as education. I've often seen as one goes 'higher' in life, one's foundations become progressively valuable. The workplaces are more complex than before, and there's no stopping. The skill set to function at workplace dictate the content of the education, yet those have been ignored by educationists. They appear to be going through the motions of addressing the issues and defects continue to spread unchecked, year after year. We have Forums, Workshops, Conferences, White papers, Institutions, Government Departments and what not. Yet the problem of 'unemployability' circulates unchecked. The worst part is, those who are unemployable are completely oblivious to their defect and challenges. A shoeshine fellow is still concerned about outcome of his effort and is willing to make on the spot amends. And educationists keep going through the motions, and no amends.
Therefore, the employers need to mount a fresh effort. This time not through their established institutional structure, different Trade Industry Associations; instead they need to come up with micro-short term solutions by establishing system of trainers with-in the firm.