Transformational need for higher education

Dr. D. Mukhopadhyay
Higher education plays a great role in socio-economic development of a country and India is not an exception to it. It is one of the prominent contributors to the growth and development of national wellbeing. Higher education is a driving force for economic advancement of the country. All the economically developed countries across the globe are found essentially to be advanced in knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination throughout the length and breadth of the respective countries. Gross enrolment ratios in those economically advanced countries are very high. India is still in the category of developing nations because of her slow progress and insignificant advancement in higher education. Research is the most important tool for socio-economic progress. Very insignificant of national income is allocated for higher educational teaching and research. Education budget is much smaller than that of resource allocation for defence and security. Indian higher education hardly addresses on the quality aspects of education delivery system. To bring about transformational change in higher education is a must for India if she would like to compete with rest of the world in the forthcoming days. It may not sound much to state that higher education in India is in critical situation or rather in a chaotic condition. Higher education has been suffering from the multifaceted maladies and some of them include low quality and standard, ineffective governance, insignificant importance to research, low commitment of expenditure in faculty development, regional imbalance in knowledge dissemination, lack of time honoured infrastructure, undesired regulation on the teaching community and many more.
It is the need of the hour for bringing about immediate knowledge driven paradigm in order to create competitive environment which in turn would generate competitive advantage in the field of higher education. Ever-growing population and vast diversity of Indian society throws open challenges to higher education delivery system. There is huge demand for professionally trained and skilled manpower for ensuring economic sustainability of the country. It may be observed that inflexible curriculum, obsolete examination system and class lecture method of teaching are the major critical factors that are behind the retardation of academic advancement. Teaching community takes less initiative to ignite the degree of appetite for knowledge and inquisitiveness of the students by and large subject to exception in certain cases where few teachers still play the constructive roles. Our examination system tests memory and not knowledge and intelligence of the students and because of these, higher education system is plagued on the foundation of cramming, imitation and note-based learning. Creativity, innovation and active learning are attributed with less importance. Present higher education delivery system needs to be replaced with skill and attitude development as the higher education teaching and research in advanced countries are based on the parameters such as quality of publications, need- based teaching and provision for conducive academic ambience. It is the high time to ponder as to how much critical thinking is encouraged , how it sensitizes students in problem solving and how it incubates new ideas and innovations. Government has to shoulder the responsibility for providing adequate resources besides having political will in order to make higher education pragmatic and socio-economic related instrument for making India an educationally vibrant nation. Moreover, it has been observed that there is hardly any effective co-ordination among the Ministry of Human Resource Development, University Grants Commission and the Universities in pan India. Research and development are not properly encouraged. Obsolete examination system somehow plays as a system of awarding academic degrees at the end of the programmes without taking into consideration the usage value of such degrees. It is hardly given any critical thought that what the degree awardees shall do with such degrees which are attributed with insignificant usage value.
Quality development on all functions i. e. teaching, research, infrastructure, equipments and the academic environment that are conducive for knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination are not given due weight-age. India is being seen to go for quantity instead of quality. The functioning of the University Grants Commission is to be periodically reviewed in order to find out gap if any in achieving the objectives behind the formation of such national body. For last few years, University Grants Commission is not giving priority on project based research which may not be considered to a healthy academic practice. It is worth mentioning that all round development of personality among the students is the fundamental and foundational objective of education and higher education needs to play a crucial role in this arena. Present education has failed to impart time honoured true knowledge and cultivating the talents of the students by dint of which they can accomplish excellence in the fields they are interested in. The Universities hardly have any industry-academia linking cells. It is important to frame curriculum that should meet the requirements of the industry. India is having considerable amount of research deficit. It is the responsibility of the Universities to assess the research needs in every field of science, technology, social sciences such as economics, management , philosophy, international relations and strategic studies and so on. The research leading to doctoral degrees in social sciences needs to be more analytical and critical which should serve the purpose and cause of the society in general and policy makers in particular. Critical research is necessary in strategic sector, natural calamity and disaster management and these areas should get priority over other fields. Critical thinking based education curriculum is a must in order to bring about improvement in academic standard. Teachers of the Universities must have research orientation in their respective fields.
The educationists are of the view that online-education, distance education and open University system education should be given due weight-age. The work force having practical knowledge with theoretical foundation in a particular subject can create perfect knowledge in a particular field. The experts are of the opinion that knowledge is created when theoretical knowledge is put forth with practical experience. Progressive outlook is a must in the higher education delivery system. This is the age of globalization and internationalization and it is an imperative to take the help of information communication technology extensively in order to ensure rapid growth in achieving global standards. There should be given due importance to MOOC(Massive Open Online Courses) and NPTEL (National Pogramme of Technology Enhanced Learning) in order to sharpen the teaching capability of the teachers. There is need to involve corporate and industry experts in designing course curriculum. The Universities should have a policy to revise the course curriculum periodically in order to meet cotemporary need of the economy. It may be advisable that experts from other developed countries both from academics and industry may also be invited while framing the academic boards or research boards. Evaluation in the higher education institutions must be transparent and the students should be given opportunity to see their answer scripts before declaration of results.
It has been stated elsewhere that higher education delivery system and mechanism in India is passing though chaotic phases. There is no accountability for non performance. A great degree of transformation in higher education is the need of the hour in order to meet the contemporary challenges . Technology changes very fast and it is necessary to keep pace along with the rapidly changing technology in all spheres of life. Innovation in higher education delivery system is a must in order to ensure long term sustainability. Every teacher involving in higher education delivery system is to keep in mind that it is their foremost responsibility to make man and not degree recipients who can take part in socio-economic development of the country. The higher education needs overall transformation without wasting time anymore.
( The author is the Professor of Management, School of Business and Dean-Faculty of Management, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra, Jammu & Kashmir.)