India, December 2015. India has been singing the reform song for the past twenty years and it hasn’t yet reached a crescendo! After opening up for the international and global markets, the need for reforms had been put forward or rather thrust upon due to dire need.
Governments and successive governments talked about reforms in many sectors, but it was not until 2005 that an urgent need for reforms in the educational sector was recognized. And, from that point till date, though there have been many things done, there seems to be a lot more to be accomplished. One does have questions as to what reforms in the educational sector mean and why it has not been able to achieve desirable results.
In 2005, when the need for reforms in higher education was taken up as a serious issue, many scholars, educationists, and political leaders termed the state of affairs as “dismal,” “Achilles heel,” and surprisingly by the then Prime Minister of India as “state of disrepair.” From then on, many panels and bodies came up with proposed reforms, some of which have been implemented and have certainly shown some results. Let us have a cursory glance at the framework of Indian higher education, and how the reforms went through.
Firstly, the Indian higher education system is complex and huge. In fact, it represents the largest number of institutions in any country in the world with third largest number of enrolments. Perhaps, this and the urban/rural divide is something that impedes most of the reforms. Added to this is the nation/state policy divide along with the disparity in infrastructure in public/private establishments causing obstacles. The irony of the situation is that the diverse nature of our education system instead of helping the cause has actually withheld progress.
The decisive divide is, however, the public-private setup. The goals for reformation in higher education sector seems to be providing literacy for the government or the public educational establishments. This goal gets farther and farther like mirages in desert even though many good schemes have been launched. This was associated with a lot of dissipation of budget and will as the schemes reached the bottom of the pyramid.
However, new policy makers have used technology to make reforms possible. With various partnerships with universities and governments of other countries like USA & Germany, India plans to launch digitization of education. This would certainly help some strata of the rural population.
In the case of higher education institutions, the number of private institutions vastly outnumber the government ones. The standards set by the private institutions are much better than the government ones, and this has caused a rush towards private institutions. The catch here was that education in private institutions was unaffordable to most Indians.
Moreover, the very idea of reformation of education sector was seen as a move towards globalization and internationalization. The idea was to make education more meaningful as with the financial reforms more international companies would set shop in India and students exposed to more internationalized education would have better chances of being employed.
So far so good. But, the idea of globalization of education has led to public and private systems take different tangents. For the government-based institutions, it meant partnerships with international institutions to set up infrastructure for the vast populace while for the private sector it meant opening of the floodgates for a newer system. The direct consequence was the emergence of new age education.
Many international schools, techno schools, digital schools, and concept schools have sprouted out of nowhere. This is certainly a very welcome move. The top international schools in India now promise to produce more CEOs and entrepreneurs what with the trend of startups catching up.
If one considers the list of schools in India, we would see that most of them function to see that students pass out. One reform that can surely make a huge difference is that of skill based learning. Emphasizing on skills would certainly make education meaningful as in a country like India, employment is the main reason to get educated.
Quicker implementations, and public-private partnerships can certainly make reforms in educational sector successful and can lead to more employment. After all, when Nelson Mandela refers to education as the most powerful weapon that can change the world, why not we gain this powerful weapon to change our country.