Indian education systems evolved from the traditional gurukuls and ashrams when it was considered leading light for the world to the present time with a very large number of modern schools, colleges, and Universities. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are responsible for creating the educated ones with the capability of carrying forward civilization and help humanity. The higher education system shows that there has been a paradigm shift as compared to the conventional approach.
Undoubtedly, the population spurt has necessitated the increase in the number of higher education institutions for meeting the aspirations of the majority, and it created the opportunities for the education providers. Also, the premeditated quest for achieving higher gross enrolment ratio of 30 by 2020-21 has enabled the quantitative increase with other consequential implications.
Looking upon the number of higher education institutions, the public perception needs a classification of these institutions so that the students can choose appropriately as per their merit and capability. This has compelled for ranking of the institutions so that the admission seekers know about them through a third party.
There are numbers of Institution ranking frameworks available, and each one of them has their assessment tool for quantification of Institution’s performance and profile. This ranking of Institutions has emanated stiff competition amongst the HEI, and the major efforts are put in by the Institutions for scoring maximum in all attributes.
A look at the prevailing higher education system shows that both the type of institutions in the public sector as well as in the private sector are under pressure to compete with others. Thus, the participation of any Institution in the ranking process eventually sensitizes it for consciously striving to attain maximum scores typically in the attributes of the respective ranking framework for improving its ranking. However, the introspection into the mandate of higher education institutions makes it clear that these are primarily meant for creation of knowledge, imparting the education and facilitating its application at the post higher secondary level leading to graduation, post-graduation, and doctorate degrees.
The research & development, innovation, incubation, extension services, social outreach, etc. are supposed to be integrated with the core teaching-learning process for the enriching the quality of formal and informal learning in the educational institutions. The engagement of the teaching community in these activities through their students happens to be the most prevalent practice. Sometimes it is seen that the drifting focus on improving rankings sacrifices the core learning, inculcation of values & ideals, and discipline.
Comparison with ancient higher education system indicates that competitiveness amongst HEIs in respect to teaching-learning and resources, research and professional practices, graduation outcomes, outreach and inclusivity, and perception is likely to yield lesser time and scope for fundamental thinking, ethical working with high moral values and knowledge application for the benefit of society.
It is pertinent to realise that the education system needs to devise suitable economic and social development model for ensuring the peace, and prosperity on this planet earth. It has to create educated ones who possess high integrity, moral and ethical values, empathy and truthfulness along with being responsible and caring towards society. All these desirable attributes require a good amount of continuous contact based nurturing by the mentors in educations institutions. The passion for learning in the students, time, peace of mind and absence of future uncertainty are compulsorily needed for ensuring qualitative enrichment of education.
Formal and informal education in higher education institutions for the creation of new knowledge and its dissemination through upcoming generation cannot be driven by the mere desire to supersede others rather synergy is required in exploiting the capabilities of each other. HEIs should effectively use the communication tools for sharing mutual resources and collectively contribute to holistic improvement in the quality of education imparted by them.
The higher education system should sincerely strive for providing education to make the educated ones capable of helping in Millennium development goals set by the United Nations. The issues needing concerted efforts from educated ones include eradicating hunger & poverty, gender equality, improve maternal health, reduce child mortality, disease reduction, and control, environmental sustainability, availability & access to clean water, information technology, energy and development through partnership across the globe.
Financing of HEI being different for public and private HEIs also tends to vary the approach towards the basic objectives of education, research, and social service. The declining public funding to the public sector institutions and the diktat for private sector institutions to be of non-profit type while generating revenue to survive and grow makes the situation too complex for the complete higher education system. The perception of higher education in the regulators, as well as the education providers, seems to have changed in the prevailing materialism.
Earlier it used to be the service imparted by nonprofit organisations which were committed to offering social service without any pressure of return over investment. While in the current situation, it has become a service being offered under acute pressure and the institutions have become somewhat like companies operating in knowledge market which is highly competitive in respect to seeking the numbers and maximizing the revenue generation for sustenance and expansion.
Apparently, the prevailing competitiveness could be a driving force for HEIs to deliver the best quality education, but it tends to add the materialism in the practices and processes instead devotion for learning and application of learning for the good of humanity to carry forward the civilization with an element of sustainability.
Higher education providers need to mull over the relevance, outcome and learning levels in education processes for creating the educated ones with requisite capabilities and values for serving humanity.
(Dr. Onkar Singh has been the founder vice chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur in UP, the first non-affiliating technical University of the state. Currently, he is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur).