Opening up the education sector

Opening up the education sector
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First Published: Wed, Jun 24 2009. 01 45 PM IST

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Managing editor, Mint
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Managing editor, Mint
Updated: Fri, Jul 24 2009. 02 33 PM IST
It’s an old curse: So much gets said about the crying need to reform India’s creaking education system but so little actually gets done.
So it is good to know that education policy is now in the hands of an able man with modern sensibilities.
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Managing editor, Mint
Kapil Sibal has already made some encouraging statements on the need to get the education system back into shape, a must for a country that realistically hopes to be an important global power in the new century.
“There is a need to restructure the set-up, decontrol and (get) rid of government controls,” the new human resource development minister told PTI on the sidelines of the 17th Commonwealth education ministers’ meet in Malaysia on 17 June.
This is the background of hope against which Mint presents its second ranking of professional colleges, the training grounds for the next generation of managers, engineers, lawyers, doctors, fashion designers, journalists, chefs and such skilled workers. As was the case last year, this year too we have partnered with the Centre for Forecasting and Research (C-fore).
There is undoubtedly a utilitarian objective in such surveys—to help companies know where the best pools of talent lie. Hiring has been slack in recent months because of the sharp slowdown in the economy and problems in individual companies. But this rough patch will pass and companies will have to start looking out for fresh talent again. The Mint survey of colleges will be a handy filter to have.
If some colleges have become better, there are also cases of movements in the opposite direction. One story we visit in these pages is that of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, which has lost some of its sheen and has slipped in our rankings as well.
While there have been the inevitable journeys up and down the rankings ladder, there are some issues that all educational institutes have to battle.
One such issue is spotting and retaining good faculty. Announcing decisions to set up new engineering and business schools is one thing and finding good teachers to guide students is another. Low salaries are one obvious problem. But creating a teaching and research culture that is not polluted by politics is also something that needs to be done. Autonomy is one solution.
There is more to our initiative than ranking the best professional colleges in India. Mint’s mission statement is to be “an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian dream”. Higher education is an integral part of that dream, both at the individual and national levels.
This special issue is, in that sense, an important landmark in our ongoing journey to chronicle changes in the Indian education system: a close look at the present, even as we pay attention to the future. We at Mint believe that higher education is perhaps the last bastion of the licence-permit raj that throttled the economy for many decades.
In a perverse way, the recent attacks on Indian students in Australia highlight the mess that our own system of higher education is in. Why would thousands of young Indians pay large sums of money to get a foreign degree if they have a good domestic education system to learn skills?
Education is too important to be left to political ideologues or turf-hungry bureaucrats. Even as the government should continue to spend public money on education, the actual business of setting up and running educational institutions should be opened to the private sector, foreign investment and autonomous institutions.
Sibal will hopefully be the catalyst for many of these long-overdue changes.
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First Published: Wed, Jun 24 2009. 01 45 PM IST