Article 51-A indicates that education eradicates illiteracy and provides a means to economic empowerment and opportunity to life of culture. Higher education is advised to be pursued keeping in mind specific aim and national requirements; otherwise aimless enrollment and over-qualifications will cost the exchequer heavily.
During the British rule, in India the number of universities were limited, mostly located in big cities and too expensive to be pursued by the common person. After independence, many universities/institutes of higher learning were established. However, an awakening was observed in the country’s educational centres after the introduction of planned, reoriented higher education in 1986 as recommended by Dr DS Kothari, head of the then Education Commission. It emphasised the need to increase productivity, achieve social and national integration, strengthen democracy, accelerate the process of modernisation, and cultivate, social, moral and spiritual values.
Similarly, the Secondary Education Commission pointed out at that time that our school education was not job-oriented with the result that students were forced to take up higher education in the hope of getting better jobs, thus adding weight to the much unsold employment problem of highly educated.
Following the Education Commission’s recommendations, over 700 universities — Central, State, private, technical, and deemed with a multiple number of colleges affiliated to them — mushroomed. The age-old concept of university with multiple faculties started giving way to single faculty/course/subject-wise universities. This unprecedented development gave a feeling that there was a deterioration of educational standards in higher education. To check this, the University Grants Commission (UGC) introduced the scheme of autonomous colleges and deemed universities.
In order to enable employability of graduates, the UGC in the early 90s introduced 35 career-oriented subjects to be studied along with formal undergraduate courses. But the lack of coordination with job offering organisations/companies and non-allotment of sufficient time to students for acquiring the required skills did not help much for the success of the scheme. Subsequent checks by inspection committees revealed that some of them lagged because they did not have well qualified, experienced faculty and suitable infrastructure.
Selection of teachers at any level should be based on merit clubbed with devotion to teaching like a “guru’’. Proper testing, spread over different stages of demonstration, for requisite qualities is a must. A wrong selection is bound to spoil the career of students. Of course, selected teachers should get sufficient time, besides teaching, and required facilities to update their knowledge and carry on the research work.
The aim should be to convert the centres of knowledge dissemination to hubs for knowledge creation. What is desired need not always be possible under circumstances beyond our control. However, the adoption of strict measures to create a suitable academic atmosphere on the campuses is bound to yield desired results. If these basics are not adhered to then the teachers cannot be blamed for the deteriorating standards in higher education. Recent surveys indicate that a very high percentage of students with their degrees in technical education are not fit for the jobs they are seeking in their profession. Higher education without required quality, standard and need is construed to be a national waste of public money and time.
Success in Telangana
As far as Telangana is concerned, the credit for establishing the first-ever State university a century ago goes to Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam and ruler king of erstwhile Hyderabad Deccan State. The State comprised a part of present Maharashtra and a part of present Karnataka along with complete Telangana. The medium of instructions, right from primary to postgraduate, was Urdu, and it was quite successful. After the merger of Hyderabad State with the Indian Union, there were good additions of universities, both State and Central, in the undivided Andhra Pradesh. Even now, Telangana has a reasonably good number of universities to cater to the needs of about four crore population. Not all of them are multi-faculty, a few are with single faculty and some with a single subject.
Keeping in view the tremendous development in diverse fields of higher education and advances in modern technology, the State government has been providing opportunities, clubbed with facilities, by opening new institutes of learning, especially information technology and industry need-based, for highly qualified youngsters.
The futile attempt by the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government by opening about 700 engineering colleges within a short span to boost the production of engineers and preventing them from seeking admissions in adjoining States, resulted in over one lakh seats vacant for years. Now, most are either closed or in the process of closing due to lack of demand and sub-standard teaching.
The Telangana government has permitted well experienced, financially sound enthusiasts to open private universities with the expectation that they will provide purposeful quality education properly using autonomy without fear and favouritism. This being the first experiment of the State, the goal appears to be challenging under the prevailing economically weak situation and politically surcharged atmosphere but can be achieved with a sincere approach and firm determination.
The country can raise the percentage of literacy to a highly appreciable level, emphasising on higher education even in remote areas. The fact cannot be denied that a good number of private universities/colleges/institutes/research centres have the reputation of providing good quality of higher education resulting in high demand for their products. The Indian Institutes of Technology and similar others, including the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (which was till recently without the tag of a university), may be cited as centres of excellence in higher education.
If newly started private universities come up to the required expectation in demand, then they deserve to be encouraged and assisted with necessary requirements. Care should be taken to see that they are not converted into centres of education business; otherwise, the goal of achieving excellence in higher education is sure to elude endlessly.
(The author is Retd Professor and former Principal, Nizam College (Autonomous), Osmania University)
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