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Education Policy- Part XVII Will Indian education go international?

The draft report has so many, believe me, really too many, repeated lines, ‘stories’, theories and ‘findings’ that make us feel like watching a useless movie for the nth time on tv. There are a few self contradictory parts as well. The committee may kindly spare a few minutes, go through the report in full and remove these shortcomings.

With regard to the problems surrounding the higher education in India and on the ways and means to overcome the factors ailing the system, the committee offers nothing new or concrete except listing out empty promises that reflect more of an election manifesto of an ambitious political party without bothering too much about implementing any of them.

The committee it seems has decided that it is enough to add certain terms like ‘social’, ‘disadvantaged’ ‘support systems’ in the report and that it would ‘save the day’ for them. The points enumerated in the report are too general and does not give any hope that something good is about to emerge at last.

It says – ‘curriculum, pedagogy and assessment will move away from solely rote learning of facts and mechanical procedures. The examination system in higher education will be recast; evaluation will be guided by curricular objectives and overarching educational goals. Faculty will be supported to achieve these transformations…. Strong academic , financial, social and psychological support systems for students shall be put in place with a special focus on those from disadvantaged groups’. (P9.4)

There are a few suggestions that might be useful in the long run. But it does not amount to anything ‘great’ or ‘too big’ as to be a part of the ‘new policy’ on education. ‘Establishment of National Research Foundation to grant competitive funding for outstanding research proposals across all disciplines’; ‘Independent Boards for appointments of the Board of Governors (BoG), the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor/ Director/ Chief Executive of HEI; ‘light but tight regulation’ are some of the recommendations that are worth mentioning. But they fall short of fitting into the ‘Policy for the future’.

Whatever be the rules or guidelines, a governing body or council of an Institution, on its own, can do nothing beyond a certain point unless it is guided by honest, committed members. To look at it the other way, ‘Independent Boards’ just could not be the much needed solution by itself.

 Is there a foolproof system that would ensure that only the best, selfless people are in place for the noble job? Until and unless this is done, any attempt at a ‘revamp’ would only be ritual and would be nothing but an exercise in futility. The Policy report could have been a lot more specific in this aspect of ensuring an honest administration at the top.

Chapter 10 of the report deals with ‘Institutional Restructuring and Consolidation’ talks about integration o f overall higher education sector intone higher education system –including professional and vocational education. ‘Professional education will be an integral part of higher education’.(P213)

P10.4 says – ‘the notion of ‘streaming’ where science, arts, and vocational students are separated, based on their academic performance, majors, interests or any other such criteria, will end.’ It also says – ‘substantial public investment will be made to expand and vitalise public higher education’.

‘All higher education institutions will either be universities or degree granting autonomous colleges – there will be no affiliating universities or affiliated colleges.’

Chapter 11 – ‘Towards a more liberal education’ has a healthy suggestion. ‘All Masters students will have some exposure to research and to cross disciplinary themes in their subject as a significant part of their learning experiences.’ (P233)

‘Optimal learning environments and support for students’ – Chapter 12 – gives an interesting piece of information on ‘Internationalisation of higher education’.  

‘In its heyday in the 7th Century CE, the University of Nalanda had students and scholars from many parts of the world. However currently, while Indian students are increasingly travelling abroad for their studies, only approximately 45,000 (11,250 per year) international students study in Indian higher education institutions, making India the 26th ranked country among the top destinations for international students mobility. This accounts for less than 1% of global international students mobility, given that globally, nearly 5 million students were reported to be studying outside their home countries in 2014.’

‘Internationally relevant education’ (P12.4.1) ‘Courses on Indian languages, arts, culture, history and traditions’ (P12.4.2) ‘Encouraging institutional collaborations’  and ‘facilitating entry of international students and researchers’ (P12.4.4) and other topics discuss about the prospects and possibilities in the sphere of internationalising our higher studies.

As has been our experience in other parts of the report, here again, we do not get anything like an ‘action plan’ for a substantial increase in the enrolment of students of other countries coming to India for higher education.

Safety, scholarship/ subsidy, easing the rules for enrolment, sustained campaign by the Institutions in association with various departments of the Government of India, strengthening the education system with more options of higher studies and ensuring a place for education in bilateral agreements with other countries should be some of the measures that the Policy report could have suggested.

The report has done a good job by correctly identifying the internationalisation of higher education as one of the promising areas of growth and development. With hundreds of Universities, thousands of Institutions and many lakh students in various disciplines of higher education, India has the largest, most divergent system that would cater to and accommodate students from across the world at the most affordable prices.

Ours is normally a peace loving society.  Gender parity is an added benefit. Our economy is ’student-friendly’ that offers many standards of living according to the economic status of the youth. A minimal life style is very much possible in any town / city of our country. The ‘adaptability’ factor is also favourable with nobody is seen as an ‘alien’ by our people. In short, we have an environment that presents an ideal choice to the international community to stay, to study, to socialise and to succeed in their chosen career.

With this most positive element of our society, our economy, we should be able to attract more number of global students than any other country. But what is happening today is the opposite of it. More and more of our youth tend to go abroad for higher studies while the number of foreign students coming to India is dwindling, if our perception is not wrong.

Why is it so? Why do not we find ways to improve our record in attracting foreign students?

In the field of inquisitive knowledge and innovative thinking, India has so much to offer to the world. Are we aware of it?

(to continue…

Baskaran Krishnamurthy.

Mail: [email protected]

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