Education Pollution: Substandard Schools, Decaying Higher Education, Mushrooming Coachings

There are nearly 1.2 lakh single-teacher schools in the country of which an overwhelming 89% are in rural areas. More than 30% of schools had no toilets and over 60% had no playground. The selection of the top positions of the institution has emerged as a great challenge. A research scholar who gets a UGC fellowship does not want to complete his Ph.D. work in time but tries to extend it since after his/her Ph.D. if he/she gets an appointment in a private institution, he /she will get less salary. The conditions of teachers in self-finance institutions are very pathetic. Mushrooming of coaching centres and dummy schools across all cities has misled students into believing that they can perform better in entrance exams if they go for coaching at such centres and by skipping classes in regular schools.

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Heading Towards Extinction of Formal Education?

The new trend of popularizing coaching institutions, over-dependence on digital technology, and reduced financial support to institutions of higher learning shall prove to be the death knell of our long cherished formal education. Are we giving free/subsidized education and scholarships to regular students just to enroll in the institution and join coaching classes? The ground reality is that in universities and colleges, we are teaching with the minimum number of teachers without students. The greatest threat to formal education is the recent trend of robbing universities of their academic autonomy. Policymakers have been acting as feudal lords to impose and further their agenda through higher education institutions. One of the turning points for the survival of formal education and universities could be to generate active value-based research.

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An Era of Dynamism in Higher Education

The HEIs must assess the changing requirements for programmes commensurate to the specially trained manpower requirements. The quick responsiveness of private sector HEIs in offering programmes as per market demand is facilitating good admissions to them. The regulatory framework must enable public universities to exercise their choices of being dynamic in conceiving and offering market-centric demand-driven programmes/courses. Nonetheless, the public sector HEIs must not get rid of their mandate to roll out well-trained and qualified graduates and postgraduates in all disciplines whether popular or not popular.

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Decadence of University Education in India: The Unseen Compromises

A struggle for political influence between the Treasury and Opposition benches has evaporated the pious objectives of establishing the institutions of higher education as centres with all qualities and potential, to guide and regulate the lives of individuals and society as well. The seen and unseen irregularities have weakened the entire higher education system from within with no end to the phase in near future. The downward slide of higher education is in progress not for want of pious intentions but a lack of determination at the highest political level to translate the vision into reality.

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Fixing Responsibility for Wrong Appointment of a Vice-Chancellor

Recently, on 3rd March 2022, Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that a state cannot legislate the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations. Therefore, if any state does not follow the apex court judgment, the appointments shall be unconstitutional. It is very unfortunate when the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor gets challenged after the selection, and the honourable courts turn down the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor on the basis of either not following the rules and regulations of the Act or the selected Vice-Chancellor not possessing the minimum qualifications as per the rules made by the UGC. If a Vice-Chancellor is removed by the Hon’ble High Court, a serious question arises in the mind – who should be held responsible for such a fault?

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Academic Collaboration of Indian and Foreign Institutions Needs Soul-Searching

The new UGC regulations for academic collaboration are said to have three possible formats of collaboration, namely, joint degree, dual degree, and twinning programmes, with a liberal view of UGC to encourage collaborations. The intent of exposing Indian students to the education system abroad sounds reasonable, nevertheless, the affordability of practising such engagements and their relevance to students calls for honest introspection. The private sector HEIs market their programmes by showcasing their foreign collaborations to woo new students during admissions. In most cases, the poor socio-economic conditions of Indian families may not allow their children to take advantage of the foreign collaborations unless they get sponsorships to sustain the expenses.

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Expansion in Medical Education: Easier Said Than Done

The Ukrainian Crisis has brought the problems of medical education in India to the fore. While the most urgent challenge has been to evacuate all the Indian students to bring them back safely and also to explore all the possibilities to rehabilitate them within the country. In a short to medium-term framework, India must aim at expanding its intake capacity in medical education by manifold but with due regard to quality as well as affordability. Here are the facts as well as the opinions and views of a cross-section of society for investigating the expansion in medical education.

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Why do Indians Go Abroad for Higher Education?

Against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the Prime Minister of India has revived a concern that needs to be taken seriously and urgently. It is imperative for the higher education policy planners, administrators, and regulators to take proactive measures to ensure quality higher education at an affordable cost within the country across the broad spectrum of higher education, including but not limited to only medical education.

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Challenges and Strategies of Better Online Assessment

The preparedness of the country’s education system and its stakeholders for resorting to the online mode in an efficacious manner is still reeling under the question mark of feasibility. Reducing the weightage of final examinations or the end-of-course examinations and increasing the weightage of continuous assessment will envisage good quality student assessment. The open-book type unproctored examinations hold the potential to resolve the institutional problems of likely use of unfair practices in online examinations. The teacher engagement, too, increases in, both, the continuous assessment of students and the open-book examination.

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Challenges of Designing a New Regulatory Framework in Higher Education

While everyone has been recommending, since 2007, for an all-embracing single regulatory body to take care of all higher educational institutions and programmes, none has been able to provide details of deficiencies that have made the existing regulatory bodies dysfunctional. In the meantime, the idea of the single regulator has seen some major dilution. The first anniversary of NEP 2020 was celebrated with gusto, but there is still no sight of the single regulatory authority, even though the Finance Minister announced in the budget speech of 2021-22 that the new regulatory body shall be set up during that financial year itself. It must, therefore, be a real challenge to design a single regulatory body for higher education, which must meet the NKC’s idea of saving higher education from being ‘over-regulated and under governed” or the Kasturirangan Committee’s desire to evolve “light but tight” regulatory framework.

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Motivation for Higher Education

Higher education, for many, is an investment in hope for the future and it is incumbent upon the nation to ensure that it does not get turned into despair. Yet, higher education is generally confined to a minuscule proportion of the students mostly comprising the social and economic elites who have already accumulated enough resources. The mass of the highly educated talent pool that the country has is an invaluable resource that may be garnered as the demographic dividend, making it imperative to gainfully employ them to save ourselves from the onslaught of the demographic disaster.

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The Next Tech is Lifetech

This is perhaps the right time to look back at The Science of Life, a 1931 publication by the renowned biologists GP Wells, HG Wells, and Julian Huxley and look deep into the body machine and understand how this magnificent intelligent design works with a perfect synergy between rasayan, the chemistry and the jivavigyana, the biology, and allows the microbial kingdom to enjoy its fruits and produce the nutrients and proteins in the functioning of the metabolism. All our technology innovations should, now, be aligned towards our strengthening of the ‘Lifetech’ to make science and technology in the true sense, a valid means for living a life of bliss, happiness, and good health

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Appreciating the Importance of Teachers in Higher Education

People often fail to realize that teachers in higher education require time and space to contemplate, reflect and think on a number of issues relating to their teaching and research. Generation of ideas, formulation of the hypotheses,  methodology, and models are not mechanical processes. They need deep thinking and deep work. In the best universities of the world, teachers are supported a great deal through their teaching and research assistants and also some additional staff to help them prepare proposals for research fundings. Sadly, most universities in the country hardly have such a system. At the best, they have only a common room for all teachers hardly suited to do any serious work.

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Brain Drain: An Apparent Loss to the Nation May Prove Lasting Gain to the Profession

According to an old adage, says that as soon as a student gets into an IIT his soul emigrates to the US; and the moment he graduates, his body too migrates to join the soul. The phenomenon is not confined to the domain of engineering and technology alone. The situation with the Indian scientists and academicians is no different. Many of those who went abroad for higher education and chose to make a career there, were recognized for their accomplishments and rewarded with coveted positions. How come most of the Indian Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medal awardees are those who left the country and were able to make their marks on foreign soil? They might appear a loss to the nation but are a gain to the profession that they wish to pursue and excel!

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Withering Public Sector and Bourgeoning Private Sector in Higher Education

The blossoming of few private sector HEIs as evident from their good rankings and sizeable share among top ranking institutions establishes that self-financed institutions too can achieve excellence, provided there is a strong will. Flourishing private sector HEIs is a positive sign in overall higher education; nevertheless, the shrinking number of public sector HEIs in the top 100 ranks is concerning because of the inadequacy of quality output from the public sector HEIs established and run by taxpayers money.

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Internationalization of Indian Higher Education

Indian higher education is widely recognized and respected across the globe despite none of its higher education institutions being in the top 100 of World University Rankings. The paucity of suitable infrastructure and physical facilities along with the self-imposed rigidity in the processes of teaching, learning, admission, evaluation, etc. is responsible for discouraging the foreign operations by Indian universities. Given the international reputation of Indian higher education and the comparative cost advantage that they enjoy, it should not be difficult for universities and colleges to attract students from developing and less developed countries. This will require certain policy initiatives on the part of the government as well as at the end of individual universities and colleges. Fortunately, NEP 2020 supports and promotes the idea.

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Should Ph. D. be Mandatory for Assistant Professors in the University?

For a person in academia as a teacher, a Ph.D. is essential as it expands our knowledge base and keeps the learning loop continue unhindered. Ph. D. is not just a degree. While doing Ph. D. one learns how to address problems, how to behave with colleagues and how to remain calm in odd situations. Making Ph.D. mandatory for the post of Assistant Professor will only reinforce the fact that teaching is not an easy job and only dedicated candidates must enter the field. However, we should first check the mushrooming of fake Ph.D. degrees for quality assurance.

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Metamorphosing Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0 Requires Engineers From All Domains

Why do engineering aspirants opt only for Computer Science and Engineering when the future Industry 5.0 shall require engineers and technologists from all disciplines to sustain and upgrade civilization?
The future lies in the application of digital know-how to the existing and upcoming systems from various domains.  
The cross-fertilization of a variety of concepts may call for technical professionals possessing a broader range of expertise which is enabled by the new policy framework. This enjoins technical professionals from every engineering discipline with vital competencies, and the same can not be merely taken care of by computer and IT-related professionals alone.

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Private Participation in Higher Education

Private Participation in Higher Education is imminent but may not be sufficient to promote Access, Equity, and Quality in Higher Education. It is reassuring that NEP 2020 recognises the public education system as the foundation of a vibrant democratic society, and the way it is run must be transformed and invigorated in order to achieve the highest levels of educational outcomes for the nation”. The policy also argues for “increased access, equity, and inclusion through a range of measures, including greater opportunities for outstanding public education”. It is now time to walk the talk.

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Equitable and Accessible Education in COVID-hit India: A Mirage?

Supreme Court has remarked limitations of students from poor sections of society in access to online education and exhorted for corrections. Juxtaposing Indian socio-economic conditions with the education model of the nations having significantly strong IT infrastructure and much better capabilities as compared to India is irrational. The penury coercing the poor to the extent of leaving the mainstream education has not only flouted the constitutional provisions regarding the right to education but also forbidden the talented ones to chip in for the good of humanity and civilization. In a country with around 1.3 billion population of varying economic stature, it is inevitable to holistically assess the feasibility of the so-called new normal of education, i.e., online education and blended mode of education before starting it.

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Examinations: An Exercise in Futility and Barrier to Academic Reforms

The present system of examination, rather than facilitating learning, acts as a barrier in broad-basing the curricula, introducing modularity, and offering wider choices because they pose a logistical nightmare in terms of examination and evaluation. Studies after studies, in India and abroad, have proved that such an examination system is not capable of assessing the talents, abilities, and potentials of students. As NEP 2020 is being celebrated annually to showcase its speedy implementation, it appears desirable to draw the attention of the academic community to this critical aspect of higher education at this juncture.

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The Great Indian Distressful Examinations: An Introspection

The apprehensions to fail in examinations usher students to a distressful state. The education system should strategize to avert the fear psychosis in students in respect to any examination. The examination is not the end of the road. Instead, it is an opportunity of knowing the individual’s capabilities even through failure and move on to the other possible avenues for a successful life. Holistic improvement in the quality of primary education and secondary education holds the key to keep students away from any distress.

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Self-Financed Private Universities: Implications on Affordable Quality Higher Education

Private higher education may have gained traction in the country since the mid-nineties, but it is as old as the history of modern higher education itself. ‘Private tendencies’ have also been penetrating deep into the ‘public higher education’. The situation urgently calls for minimally invasive ways and means of ensuring affordable access to quality higher education for all segments of the society

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In Defence of Higher Education

Higher education can, indeed, be censured for expanding rather too rapidly, but it was in response to the call of the industry and to alley their apprehension that the country shall not have enough graduates to match their requirements to sustain their growth momentum. If the jobs are still not in the offing for the graduates, it is because enough jobs are not being created to match the growth in higher education.

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Excess Impedes Excellence: Empirical Evidence for Regulation in Higher Education

Quality of higher education in India seems to be inversely proportional to the intensity of regulation. Does empirical data support this proposition?
It is not only the newly-launched NIRF but also the time-tested NAAC grades which amply prove that stringent regulatory regimes have not necessarily promoted excellence in higher education. Relaxing the regulatory environment seems imminent for promoting excellence in higher education.

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Quality Education: A Luxury or A Fundamental Right?

The increasing costs of education have presented us with a pressing question: Is quality education still a tool to reduce disparity, or has it transformed into a luxury deepening the already-existing divide in our society? Any deprivation emanating from the constantly increasing cost of education at any level in the public sector and private sector institutions may create a deepening divide in terms of knowledge, skills, competence, and capabilities. Large number of students dropping out of the formal education system due to extreme and stingy frugality may turn into imperious problems in sustaining social harmony. NEP 2020 has come as a blessing in disguise with the decree of universalization of education while ensuring access, equity, quality, affordability, and accountability.

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Anniversary of NEP 2020: Education needs intensive care

On the commemoration of the first anniversary of NEP 2020, it will be prudent on the part of the regulators to revisit the progress made in the on-ground implementation of provisions of NEP 2020 and reschedule the milestones laid in it, else the disorderliness created through it may disarray the existing education system as well. The predominant disruptions caused by the pandemic and the pragmatic view on the desired transformations ought to be taken into consideration before a realizable road map is relaid.  

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Disaster Management in School Learning: A Safe and Cheap Option

The disasters happening around the world, especially in India, make it imperative to question ourselves on the importance of disaster management for the preparation of future generations of the country in having better and safer livelihoods. So, how can we incorporate disaster management for preparing people in schools?

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National Education Policy 2020: Issues and Implications

It has been a year since the NEP 2020 was announced and shall be due for the anniversary celebration on 29th July 2021. All policies must undergo the stages of formulation, notification, anatomization, modification, implementation, and, in between, celebration. It is now high time that the details are worked out and implementation strategies announced.

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Blended Learning in Indian Higher Education: How Feasible is it?

Accolades to University Grants Commission (UGC) for out of the box thinking in allowing the higher education institutions (HEIs) to teach up to 40% syllabus of each course (other than SWAYAM courses) through online mode and remaining 60% of the syllabus in the offline mode along with their examinations in the respective mode.
Holistic and collective brainstorming across the HEIs is required before exercising the major shift from the conventional face-to-face teaching approach lest blended learning may have limited cosmetic value.

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Students Steering the Education Wheel through Stormy Virus

How did the Students Cope with the Disruptions in Learning and Life Around Them?
It has been more than a year since campuses were compelled by the COVID-19 pandemic to close their doors to their students and resort to remote teaching. Since few universities and even fewer colleges had a Learning Management System (LMS) in vogue, choices of the tool, technology, medium, and platform were largely left to the teachers to manage to the best of their abilities. The result was a wide variety of ways in which the teaching-learning processes were carried on. Students, though more tech-savvy and better equipped to guide the transition, hardly had a say in the matter and they remained largely at the receiving end. Not only did their chosen and settled ways of learning get disrupted, their lives and the lives of people around them too got tossed into the turbulence

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Calibrate Crappy Education in COVID Aftermath

The regulators of education for all levels should inevitably ponder upon the concerned stakeholders and palliate the damage incurred to the younger generation of the country which is blessed with a 37-year advantage of demographic dividend. The opportunity loss on account of youth remaining disengaged from their pursuits of getting educated well warrants strategizing for immediate correction.

Let’s deliberate and discuss extensively to create a well-laid framework based on the holistic considerations for negotiating the past, present, and future disruptions in the education system lest it is late again.

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Time to Rethink and Reform the Examination System

Alas, the colonial mindset of subjecting their subjects to the supervision and control of their masters has only deepened, as far as the education, examination, and evaluation systems are concerned. Isn’t it desirable or isn’t it the time to reform these terminal examinations to the teacher-based and school-supervised comprehensive continuous internal assessment – an idea that has been in discussion for decades?

The pandemic situation has been quite frightening this time. This indeed limits the choices to a compromised solution – a truncated examination, sufficiently delayed to allay the imminent threat of the pandemic. Whatever is decided by or for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), most state boards are likely to follow the suit.

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When Schools look like the ‘Garden of Selfish Giant’!

The battle against COVID-19 is the battle of the entire human society. We have already wasted enough time understanding the meaning of “disruption in schooling” and how it matters to children and society. Building up resilience to address contextual issues is the need of the hour. Else, the schools may experience the abandoned look of winter just like the garden of “Selfish Giant”, even in the next spring!

The pandemic is a wake-up call for us to plan for better planning for our schools, and the future of our country.

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Engineering without Science and Mathematics: A Disaster for India

The regulators are perhaps perturbed at the decline in admissions and to boost the admissions, a radical decision to make engineering open to all irrespective of the prior knowledge of science and mathematics at senior secondary levels has been taken. Engineering without Science and Mathematics will be a disaster for India and is not the way to save technical education nor is good for the future.

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Work-life balance of teachers in digital learning environment

The otherwise distinct work and life domains now appear to have smudged boundaries. Consequently, digital learning environments have thrown a challenge of work-life balance to the teachers. Teachers, being the sculptors of future generations, should take necessary precautions and strike a healthy work-life balance alongwith inculcating a similar sense in students through their actions.

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Do cent percent marks evince cent percent learning? – A Vantage point

It dates back to a century earlier when some examiner commented on the academic performance of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, that the examinee is better than the examiner. A more or less similar situation is evinced again in the results through 100 % marks obtained in the recent results announced by the examining boards at the secondary level. However, the award of cent percent marks is seen for the last few years. It is not to cast aspersions on the individual children scoring cent percent marks, but the scenario of examinees scoring full marks requires introspection. The moot point is “Does cent percent marks evince cent percent learning?”

The marks obtained should always allude to the scope of further improvement by the students.

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Ensuring Education to Poor in Post-Pandemic Era

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought miseries to humanity across the world. Like every affected country, India also undertook measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. The lockdown was enforced in the country to terminate the chain of contagion, but it had certain consequences. The economic activities became standstill for quite a long period. Among various happenings, the most concerning was the psychological impact and absence of work that drove the majority of the workforce back to their native places. With the increasing unemployment and reduced earnings, ensuring education in the post-pandemic era will be a big challenge.

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Don’t Compromise on Quality Education While Formulating Contingency Plans

“Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.” – Desmond Tutu
Very few higher education institutions (HEIs) of India, like the IITs, IISc and few other good Indian universities, find a place in the world rankings. The education processes got disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic since the last week of March this year. So, it has become important to maintain the standards of excellence in education as we ‘Unlock’ as per the COVID-19 Recovery Plan.
The uncertainty in the decision-making process at the end of the institutions has been due to lockdowns. As a result, academic governance has been unable to comprehend a congenial contingency plan. Owing to it, the higher education regulators of the country have come out with broader outlines to handle this disruption. The disruption embedded with uncertainty raises concerns with the proposed guidelines too.

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Reform Examinations to Promote Deeper Learning

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” The higher education system of India has major dependence upon the final examinations. This has been there despite the continuous evaluation system being in place for most of the programs. The cumulative performance of students in the prescribed evaluation framework leads to the award of degree with grade/marks/division. Therefore, it is important to introspect the prevailing examination system and envisage reforms to promote deeper learning.

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