Low quality of education in India

By Girish Linganna

A large section of youngsters in India, looking desperately at career advancement prospects, is paying for 2-3 degrees in the hope they will one day find their dream job. They are drawn irresistibly to colleges that are mushrooming inside tiny apartment complexes or inside stores in public places. Billboards promoting organizations promising job placement border both sides of highways.

It is an odd paradox! Top technology and management schools in India have produced such leaders in international business as Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc. (Parent Company of Google) and Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp. However, thousands of small private colleges lacking instructors with proper training, the wherewithal to hold proper classes and using outdated curriculums that hold no promise of internships or job placements have mushroomed into a burgeoning business, says Bloomberg.

Such cities as Bhopal—a thriving central India habitat of over 2.6 million people—highlight the complexities of the nation’s education growth. Private institutions put up large signboards that announce their claim to fame and tempt the young generation with the lure of jobs through degrees—which are often found to be fraudulent assertions. One such ad reads: ‘Regular classes & better placements: Need we say more?’

And who can forget the huge examination-admission-recruitment scam in 2013 that involved the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), popularly known by its Hindi acronym, ‘Vyapam’ (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal)? The massive scale of the scam surfaced on the night of July 6 that year when the Indore police arrested from various city hotels 20 people—17 of them from UP—who had come to impersonate local candidates in the PMT exam scheduled on July 7, 2013. The scam was operational since the 1990s and involved politicians, senior and junior officials and businessmen systematically employing imposters to write papers, manipulate examination hall seating arrangements and supply forged answer sheets by bribing officials.

Tanmay Mandal, a 25-year-old resident of Bhopal, paid $4,000 for his Civil Engineering Bachelor’s degree. He was sure it would lead to a decent job and a better life. The costs were prohibitive for his family’s $420 monthly income, but that did not discourage him. Having exhausted more than his meagre means, Mandal claims he, finally, learned next to nothing about construction from teachers who, themselves, lacked proper training. He was unable to respond to technical queries during job interviews and has been jobless for the past three years.

“I wish I’d attended a better college to study in,” remarks Mandal. “A lot of my friends are also unemployed and sitting around.” He, however, has not given up his job search yet.

In Bhopal, private schools offering management, engineering and Civil Services training are running a thriving—often sham—businesses. After ordinary degrees failed to land them professions of their choice, students claimed they enrolled in these courses to improve their skill sets and increase their prospects of better career options.

Partha Chatterjee, West Bengal’s Minister and general secretary of the West Bengal unit of the Trinamool Congress, was held by the Enforcement Directorate on July 23 last year in connection with the West Bengal School Service Commission teachers recruitment scam.

As recently as on February 10 this year, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of Calcutta High Court—hearing a clutch of petitions regarding the school recruitment scam since September 2021—had ordered cancellation of 1,911 jobs in Group D positions in state-run and state-aided schools after finding manipulation in their Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) sheets.

Calcutta High Court directed the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) to notify termination of 842 schoolteachers by March 11 this year. In the case pertaining to illegal appointments, the high court order on March 10 this year took the total tally of jobs terminated to 3,623. Out of these, 252 were teachers in primary schools who were appointed illegally, 618 were teachers of Classes IX and X, 842 were Group C teachers and 1,911 were Group D employees.

Millions of young men and women dreaming of a better life in India’s grim job market find this kind of a lure difficult to ignore. In India, young people from middle-class and lower-income households place great value on higher education degrees earlier solely available to the wealthy. When questioned by Bloomberg, students gave a variety of justifications for continuing their education, including trying to advance their social standing, enhancing their chances of finding a suitable bride or groom and applying for government jobs that need a degree.

The government trust India Brand Equity Foundation projects that the education sector would increase from $117 billion in 2020 to $225 billion in 2025. India’s public education spending has stayed steady at 2.9% of GDP—much lower than the 6% target stated in the current administration’s education plan.

Big business faces a significant hurdle. Only 3.8% of engineers, according to a report by the human resources company, SHL, possess the qualifications required for employment in software-related roles at startups. Smaller institutions continue to teach out-of-date subjects, such as the fundamentals of internal combustion engines, despite the fact that employers want to hire in such fields as manufacturing electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The course curriculum they have completed and what the industries are looking for are at great odds. (IPA Service)