The recent 11-point agenda by the central government to bring about a qualitative change in the field of higher education in India is, by all, means a great move.
The agenda(s) give a sense of being wellthought-through and one can see how they have proposed real change, to remove the impediments. Furthermore, the amendments in the functioning of University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education is a great move forward and hopefully will not be in the current state of the straight-jacketed bureaucratic functioning of the Indian education system.
That said, however, the end result must be for all to develop own end-to-end learning and teaching paradigms, rather than the constant top-down dependence on western institutions for their intellectual property and methodologies. Even the IBM India survey recorded that 61 per cent of education leaders consider India's higher education system as antiquated the government's move is a welcome shot.
One of the biggest questions that the 11-point agenda need to answer is “Can it help the Indian Higher Education keep up with changing times and eventually improve its standards?”.
The answer to it, of course, is a yes, we can be positive that this proposal should certainly start bringing about any change and force people to think and act innovatively. The proposal to replace University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education by a singular regulatory body called Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency in due time is surely one of the biggest shifts.
This move would only benefit the system if its conception is broad-based and implementation is not weighed down with the usual narrow bureaucratic mindset. If industry leaders and various sectors of public and industry are actively involved in the setting up and functioning of this body, it could turn to be a strong and productive move by the government.
Additionally, the declaration for foreign collaborations is a welcome move and would be good for Indian institution in helping them lift the quality of curriculum and learning methodologies. Hopefully, in time, that would in turn lead to a revolution of local talent whereby curriculum and innovative learning and teaching methodology within India would be developed rather than we constantly rely on foreign talent.
Given that online education is becoming increasingly popular, the decision/proposal to recognise full online programmes is a smart take on their part. Our country is filled with over 370 million Internet users, and it has also been revealed by Coursera’s survey that 90 per cent Indians benefit in careers from online courses. Giving online freedom means that this will be greatly benefitted by those who don't find the time to go for normal process. The proposal also includes NET exam screening for PhD students does not seem too well-thought-through given that admission to PhD programmes is purely based on research proposals.
This is best left in the realm of research and should not become a taught programme like a Masters or a Bachelors degree. Other agendas like the three gradations of category based on assessment scores, the additional compensation and incentives for faculties, and limiting the UGC inspections definitely holds the promise of enhancing the current standards of education in India.
All in all, the new 11-point agenda proposed by the government will change the paradigm in the overall Indian Education space and bring about the much-needed activity.
The writer is chairman, The Chopras