The century old model of education system in India needs a critical examination in a rapidly globalising world. Despite impressive reforms in almost all sectors of economy, higher education remains the least reformed or rather untouched sector in India. It is a moot point to say that, besides the government, the private sector must play an important role.
It has undergone phenomenal growth in terms of number of institutions, types of programmes, etc, but not on the line of a planned healthy development.The policy framework that is heavily drawn from the British education model of the 1940s has failed to address the needs of the current times. The most acute weakness plaguing India's education system is the lack of their independence, autonomy, ability to be innovative and a master-slave kind of relationship with the regulators leading to poor governance and thus below par delivery of objectives.
Many commissions and committees since 1948 have examined the higher education system in India and recommended changes. For example, one of the first reports was in 1948 by the University Education Commission headed by eminent educationist Dr S Radhakrishnan and one of the recent one was in 2015 by the AICTE Review Committee headed by M K Kaw, a senior bureaucrat. It is lamentable that the many major recommendations made by these committees continue to remain as file notes and there has been no serious effort for their implementation.
Over the last couple of decades or so some ad-hoc actions and notifications of the government without dovetailing them to the emerging changes in the market structure has increased inefficiency and ineffectiveness in higher education domain.
In few cases some institutions resorting to judicial interventions to safeguard their position has led to digging the heels by the stakeholders that further complicated any reforms process.
The higher education policy viewed in the light of a variety of legal, economic, social, bureaucratic and political issues is fundamental to the well being of a civilized and growing nation. Thus, an institution in India will have to fulfill regulatory requirements at both levels. Further, for various inherent social/ cultural values is seen as a social good.Hence, any liberal view on cost of education is prima-facie seen as an undesirable outcome and so a higher fee structure is seen as profiteering and thus attracts political mudslinging.
Most nations in the world are working towards reducing regulatory control but India is moving in a reverse direction by tightening government control. It must also be understood that any superior quality will come at a price.Even China, known for its socialistic policies, is bringing their higher education at par with the international standards in terms of quality and the associated cost. India needs to act fast. Governance and policy making in this sector needs urgent attention and overhaul. Central government must consider autonomy, quality, competition and regulatory parity as the guiding principle to fast track reforms to bring it at par with best practices of the world.
(THE WRITER IS DIRECTOR, FORE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, NEW DELHI)