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Changing Face of education in India - Higher Education Commission

The report of ‘The Committee to advice on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education’, chaired by Prof Yashpal, was submitted in 2009 within a year and few months of its being formed. A lot of appreciative views were expressed by the civil society at large and especially educationists.

Firstly, he advocates a single overall regulating structure for all higher education, viz., a “National Commission For Higher Education and Research”, with a constitutional status and answerable only to the parliament, yet which will not act as a Czar. This implies, subsuming all separate councils of various areas, including AICTE, UGC etc. into one, rather than fragmenting our educational enterprise into cubicles. This, Prof. Yashpal feels, would enable our higher education to be more active and creative.

IN his advice he stresses the fact that our education system advocates studies in various disciplines in isolation from each other. He believes that all world-class universities conduct world-class programs in divergent disciplines resulting in converging disciplines. He hopes that one day IITs and IIMs will produce scholars in linguistics and politics along with engineering and management wizards. This can happen only if different disciplines are allowed to infect and trigger each other for breeding value from each other’s field. He would like boundaries of disciplines to be porous.

He desires change in the examination system, to make it less rigid. Our traditional system is incapable of distinguishing different talents of students. Our emphasis on delivery of information and reward for capability of storing information is faulty, thus it does not help in creating a knowledge society.

The Committee stresses the fact that in these times of mushrooming engineering and management colleges which, barring few exceptions, are meant only for making money and not for imparting meaningful education. Prof Yashpal is seriously concerned about the character and value of the recent explosive growth, and has made specific recommendations.

As there are no policies or guidelines for starting a higher educational and technical institution, and there being no checks to assess the competence of private investors, most of the time their family members, with no educational background, are appointed as trustees . Principals and academic staff are asked only to manage the syllabus and examinations. The teachers are treated with very little dignity, are made to sign for an amount and are paid less than that. Prof. Yashpal suggests specific studies to be done for the sources of the funds of the family trusts and societies before granting permission, as there are allegations that they are part of the unaccounted wealth from political and business enterprises. There should be modification in legal framework, tight regulations and transparent auditing for the privately owned colleges.

Regarding the entry of the foreign Universities, especially those which do not even have a standing in their own country, the Professor emphasizes that this would only give their parent institutions monetary benefit. It would be better to relax rules which forbid foreign teachers of world-class universities to teach in India and allow foreign scholars to come to our universities and interact with our students. This would enhance the quality of our institutions.

Prof Yashpal has expressed sorrow that the best and the brightest in India no longer aspire to become teachers, as the university ambience and controls are stifling and their freedom to research is not unencumbered, and thus there is no intrinsic joy of teaching.

He suggests separation of academic administration and overall management of the higher educational institutions. He also suggests the discontinuance of appointing civil servants as vice chancellors and administrators by the state governments. Appointments in these positions should keep the best interests of the institution in view and candidates should have impeccable credentials.

Long experience of Prof Yashpal and his colleagues has given them enough insight to be able to make these recommendations. Interacting with the best minds of the intellectual world, especially during this past year, their meetings with scholars, and interplay of ideas with principals, teachers, vice- chancellors and also large groups of students (who are not yet imprisoned in rigid disciplines) energised them to produce this report. His intention is to remove the hurdles in the path of the future knowledge creators of this country. We can only hope that this great effort on the part of the commission does not go waste as in the past.

The govt has drafted four bills on the basis of the report. The main advice to formulate one single apex body for higher education to be called ‘National Commission for Higher Education and Research’ (NCHER), reporting directly to the parliament and not to any ministry or bureaucrats has already been diluted by proposing to keep medical, legal and agricultural studies out of the purview of the commission. These multiple bodies will create the same problems of going in different directions, and will have no coordination and accountability, leading to corruption. After all no ministry wants to give up its control!
It seems that everybody has already forgotten CBI’s action against AICTC member secretary and MCI chairman. Prof Yashpal’s worst fears are perhaps coming true and his vision of world-class education is likely to remain mired in political and bureaucratic tangles. How rightly he says, “They are going to mess it up”!

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Vandana Bagchi

Home Maker/Housewife

Madhya Pradesh ,  INDIA

Born and brought up in Allahabad. Educated in Allahabad and Delhi. Taught in various reputed schools in Delhi, Mumbai and Shillong. Now enjoying retired life in Bhopal

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