New Delhi: Echoing what experts have been saying for years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that many institutions of higher education in India are sub-standard and turning out graduates the job market no longer has any use for.
“We must recognize that too many of our higher educational institutions are simply not up to the mark,” Singh said. “Too many of them have simply not kept abreast with the rapid changes that have taken place in the world around us in recent years, still producing graduates in subjects that the job market no longer requires.”
In a speech to the vice-chancellors of central universities at a conference in New Delhi, Singh rued the lack of quality and poor global standing of Indian educational institutes. He said India’s higher education system has made a lot of progress over the last one decade, but “in recognition of the fact that expansion without quality improvement serves little purpose, we will now give overriding emphasis on quality”.
Critics have for long complained that India’s government-funded educational system is out of tune with the needs of the job market; corporate recruiters often say that the graduates Indian universities produce are unemployable, requiring them to spend precious time and resources on training them even in basic skills.
Few centrally-funded institutes are ranked at the top by global surveys of the best centres of learning. As per the UK-based Quacquarelli Symonds rankings, the top Indian institutions are the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi (212), IIT-Bombay (227) and IIT-Kanpur (278).
Singh said that the higher education system is often criticized for being unnecessarily rigid, both in the case of their faculty and the students they pick.
“I think it is well worth exploring how we can introduce flexibility in our institutions to enable them to attract good faculty, raise teaching standards, encourage cutting-edge research and nurture talent,” the Prime Minister said.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who is hosting the conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan, said besides being a powerful tool for the nation’s technological and economic advancement, higher education has to fulfil the aspirations of the young, who are restless and looking for direction.
Quoting an erstwhile National Knowledge Commission report of 2006, Mukherjee termed the declining quality of higher education as a “quiet crisis that runs deep”.
The dearth of talent to fill important academic and research positions, the regulatory architecture and quality of governance are key challenges that need urgent attention. The focus now has to be on making policy that promotes autonomy and good governance, Mukherjee said.