India needs to attract best brains to its academic institutions
Recently, the Indian Express Group organised a notable event, THINKEDU Conclave. Many distinguished speakers from varied sectors such as politics, science, business, education, art and so on were invited to take part in the panel discussion. One of the best parts of this conclave where most of the deliberations took place centered around the primary theme of the Conclave title, 'Schooling India for a Better Tomorrow'.
Mallika Srinivasan, Chairman of Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. (TAFE), spoke on the topic, "Why are not India's Professional Colleges Considered World
Class". Some important comments made by Ms Srinivasan are: "We are a young nation and that is what we are betting on to propel growth. In 2020, the average age in India
will be 29 as compared to 31 for China and 48 for Japan, with currently over 32% of our population between 0-14 and 550 million below 25 years. These youngsters are seeking higher education now or will be seeking higher education in a decade. Ability to world-class quality of higher education will alone determine whether the theoretical advantage we claim will become a material reality in a 'flat world'. That the quality of our professional colleges is not world class is amply evident - we boast of the world's largest network of higher educational institutions and are second in terms of student enrolment but we are faced with the fundamental issue of employability". Some highlights of the solutions offered are:
(1) On Vision and Policy - The Higher Education & Research Bill (2011) and Foreign Educational Institutions Regulation of Entry and Operations Bill 2010), although awaiting Parliament's nod address some aspects of a more holistic solution; economic growth should be linked to higher education in a more appropriate manner.
(2) The need of the hour is to create a transparent system where private institutions are encouraged to invest in and deliver high quality education and let the inclination of the players and the market dynamics decide their profitability.
(3) On Infrastructure and Environment - A well laid out campus, high quality buildings, classrooms, auditoriums, libraries, computer systems, well equipped research labs and access to cutting edge work done globally, high quality teaching and learning aids - all of this brings together an atmosphere and environment that invigorates the spirit of learning and enquiry. Hardware and software are equally important. India is spending around 1.1% of GDP on education as compared to South Korea's 2.4% and the US 3.1% and if funding, besides vision, is a cause, the answer to overcome this definitely lies in private-public partnership.
(4) On Faculty - the quality has to improve a lot. In every developed economy, the concept of "thought leadership" is found in every sphere of scientific and economic activity that resides in its universities. India's Einsteins are not in the University - they are in consumer goods and financial services plus other service sectors; for achieving excellence in higher education, for development of intellectual property that alone will in the long term boost economic growth in a sustained manner, the country absolutely need to attract the best brains to our academic institutions because Asia is where it is all happening right now and India provides a great opportunity.