Higher Education at the Crossroads
ndia is slated to become a top ranking talent provider, globally by 2020, provided it brings about quantitative and qualitative changes in its vocational and doctoral studies curricula. As of now, they are poor cousins to the more lucrative course choices for India’s youth. The two extremes of post-secondary education, vocational and doctoral, are facing acute quantitative and qualitative challenges in attracting talent, delivering value and meeting society’s expectations. Vocational education is impaled on the quantitative front by the large gap between demand and supply. According to the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India, while 12.8mn people are added to the labour force annually, vocational training is available to only a miniscule 4.3mn. On the qualitative scale lies the dismal skill development and training scenario. A report by the World Bank notes that over 60% of graduates from the vocational stream in India remain unemployed even three years after graduation. A telling assessment of the poor quality of training imparted to students. If vocational training is in a shambles, not much can be written about the postdoctoral education system either, struggling with the issues of quality and accessibility. According to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, universities enrolled nearly 36,000
EDUTECH June 2011
students in doctoral programmes in 2005-06 — a disproportionately small number for one of the largest education systems in the world enrolling more than 8.5mn students at the undergraduate level. Despite such a small number of PhD enrolments, concerns for quality and rigour of training have been growing. The challenges faced by vocational and doctoral education systems in India are complex and dynamic, wherein choices are driven by societal and labour market rewards. Competition for scarce resources and jobs is high. As a result, there is a marked preference for career paths with low risk and high employability. The twin factors drive students to pursue courses that, apart from high salaries, also offer prospects for going abroad. A student wanting to pursue low paying career choices like social work with a not for profit outfit, or technical diploma at a polytechnic institute, would be under pressure from family and society to opt for a more lucrative option, even though he may neither have an interest nor an aptitude for it. The following five major changes proposed at societal, policy and institutional levels, will pave the way for better post-secondary education in India.
A doctor and a consultant share what it takes to establish new trends in the leadership of academic institutions