Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back

End education’s licence raj

Author: Rahul Bajaj and Sanjay Bhargava
Publication: The Times of India
Date: August 5, 2014
URL: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-edit-page/end-educations-licence-raj/

The education system in our country is largely dysfunctional, from schools to universities. And this dysfunctionality is because of the system, not despite it. Our system is now designed to produce bad quality. Unless we face up to this fact we will continue to produce unemployables.

There are three wings of the system. Government run, government aided and private. Government run institutions at the central level like IITs and central universities are OK because they get very good students and are well funded. State government run and aided institutions are mostly declining. Private ones are proliferating in quantity to meet the unmet need — and cater to those running away from the collapsing government run and aided system — but are also mostly of poor quality.

In response to poor quality institutions in both government and private sectors, private tuitions have become the way to ensure clearing of exams. Consequently, in most institutions little teaching or learning is going on. This sets in motion its own set of consequences. Teachers, especially in government and government aided institutions, indulge in a second vocation of tuitions or something else.

In most government aided institutions teacher jobs are sold. The going rate in Maharashtra for a college teacher exceeds Rs 20 lakh. What quality can be expected from such institutions and teachers?

In aided institutions, though teacher salaries are good, funds for running the institution are scarce. In Maharashtra this is 5% of the salary grant, barely covering even the electricity bills.

Government stranglehold on education is complete. Irrelevant systems exist which largely delay appointment of teachers and institutions’ expansion, increase costs, and create black money.

For example, all teachers in private colleges are to be paid government teacher salaries, even as the fees prescribed cannot cover such salaries. In fact, their actual salaries are half of the prescribed level. Institutions get them to sign on the higher amount and the rest is black money. These inflated salaries are used to justify higher fees!

All parts of the system are culpable. Governments running a licence raj and making rules that are supposed to improve quality but only increase costs and cause delays, managements who are not education but money minded, teachers who do not want to work or upgrade themselves, and students who are seeking degrees, not learning.

University governance structures and the teachers being elected for them have led to universities being controlled by ‘politicians’ rather than academics. Universities often dilute academic standards so that colleges can function without adequate facilities. Also, evaluation is error prone because a coterie of bad teachers is usually doing the evaluation at breakneck speed. In Nagpur University, 250 colleges were functioning without teachers and yet students enrolled in them are being allowed to sit for exams. Even the much vaunted Pune University had over 70 such colleges.

Then there is the R word, criticism of which is taboo. It is not a coincidence that better quality education is available in institutions of national importance like IITs or in minority run institutions — where reservations are not applicable to faculty. Should we, for the benefit of a few teachers, dilute the educational standard of a multitude of students?

There is a new scheme — Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) — that would move the bulk of allocation of funds to colleges from UGC to state governments. This may result in badly run institutions controlled by politicians cornering most of the funds. The mother of all whimsicality of course was the four year undergraduate course at Delhi University. All this has created a situation where honest institutions find it hard to operate and dishonest institutions flourish.

There is, however, a way forward. And we say this with confidence because we run government aided A grade institutions. Essentially, the solutions in our view lie in, first, lifting the heavy hand of government from education. Decisions on starting and expanding an institution should be left to institutions, especially for institutions with a good track record.

Second, disband ‘electoral’ institutions in universities and empower ‘academic’ vice chancellors. Third, give government aid to A grade institutions and stop giving it to non A grade institutions. Fourth, move to a tenure track mode of selecting teachers, as in the US and Europe. At present, they are simply confirmed after a year. Given the bad quality of governance, this has the potential of turning away good teachers from teaching altogether.

Fifth, get the corporate sector involved in starting or supporting institutions from schools to universities. It is in their enlightened self-interest and they should use their CSR funds for this purpose. The important thing is to face reality and make real progress.

A hunger for education amongst the disadvantaged is palpable. Education is the route for social mobility. And they are going to great lengths for it, making great sacrifices for it. We must not let them down. With a new dispensation in power let us hope there is serious reform of the education system. One, like that done to industry in 1991, is long overdue.

Rahul Bajaj is president and Sanjay Bhargava is general secretary of Shiksha Mandal, Wardha, a Bajaj Educational Trust.
«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements