13th October 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II- SOCIAL-EDUCATION
Q1. The reason why the Indian universities are aging behind in world rankings is not the lack of funds but the lack of research, creativity and autonomy of teachers. comment
- Delivering the inaugural address at the ‘Conference on Academic Leadership on Education for Resurgence‘, jointly organised by University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education and the Indian Council for Social Science Research, the Prime Minister announced that the government would make available ?1 lakh crore for infrastructure in higher education by 2022. The Prime Minister is also reported to have emphasised the importance of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill of 2017 granting autonomy to the IIMs. He correctly pointed out that this meant that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will no longer dictate their curricula. Somewhat earlier the government had announced a list of ‘institutions of eminence’, the idea underlying which was that they are now free to set their own rules and regulations. While the freeing of universities from external control and increasing their resource base is for the better, the question is whether these moves can by themselves raise higher education in India to the desirable global level.
- There are two aspects that need acknowledgement from a survey of the state of higher education in India:
- First, the Indian universities are lagging in their research output. This by itself should be worrying, but another aspect, namely the migration overseas even at the undergraduate level, suggests that not even the dissemination of knowledge here is considered good enough by Indians. The estimated flow of income overseas due to fees paid to foreign universities is around $2 billion. Surely, resources cannot be the barrier to providing world-class teaching in India.University teachers are paid well enough and the availability of material is no longer a problem, with highly affordable Indian editions of the best international textbooks.
- The crucial factor is the absence of the norms internal to the Indian university that enable desirable outcomes with respect to teaching and research. Among these norms would be an expectation of excellence from both teachers and students and the assurance of autonomy to the former. This autonomy, it may be asserted, is to be expected not only in relation to external agencies such as the UGC or the MHRD but also within the university, including from peers. In fact, within the university the latter is all that counts.
- Secondly, it is unlikely that in a leading world university there would, directly or indirectly, be an attempt to pressurise a teacher to change her assessment of a candidate’s performance. The autonomy of a teacher is both a value in itself and designed to contribute to the larger goal of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge. In India this value receives little recognition and its crystallisation is thwarted, irrespective of the ideological persuasion of the regime governing the university.
- It is not as if the idea of the university as a space of freedom and intellectual responsibility has received universal acceptance globally. However, the best regarded universities of the world today yet harbour some of the norms which ensure that they remain ahead. Culture may be difficult to measure but when its meaning is reduced to norms as the rules of the game, it is easy for us to see what is missing here.
- No amount of hand-wringing over India’s place in the world university rankings or pumping resources into infrastructure building can help if the culture is not conducive to creativity. Its culture is a university’s most valuable resource. Feeding a repressive culture bodes ill for the future of our universities and, therefore, India’s place in the world of knowledge. Rightly we rue the fact that Nalanda, an international university that had flourished in India over a millennium ago, was destroyed through foreign invasion.