Indian education system: Opportunities and challenges


After sixty one years of independence, India looks back in pride, not only for the level of development it has attained in industry, energy, infrastructure and health sector, but also for the laudable growth in the field of education. Be it primary, secondary and technical education, or research based, India has proved time and again that it is capable of producing a class of educated and scholarly citizens, despite lacking resource facilities.

The country which was tattered by the two hundred years old British colonial rule has come up with some of the world class universities and technical institutes in just sixty one years. There are seven IITs and IIMs in India, producing world-class qualified professionals every year.

The IIMs plan to go global very soon. Taking note of the importance of technology in determining the status of a country, the government aims to establish five more IITs. Besides this, there are three hundred universities in India, of which, twenty are Central Universities. With a mushroom growth of 15,600 colleges, churning out approximately 2.5 million graduates, India can boast of a huge educated and professionally trained population.

Though the number of Indian professionals and research scholars has been growing spectacularly, the question arises what are the ways to stop them from looking for greener pastures abroad? Here the major glitch with the education system of India is that it depends a lot on the government policies. These policies once framed consume a lot of time to be executed. Very few of those executed are actually beneficial to all classes of Indian population.

Reservation Policy and education

The reservation policy of the Indian Government for the SCs, STs and the OBCs, in the education sector, is the biggest example of the government’s one sided approach to a problem. This has been an issue of debate for many. Though a boon for the depressed classes, this policy has also proved to be a bane for many.

In central government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (Dalit) and Scheduled Tribe (Adivasi) students (15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs). This reservation percentage has been raised to 49.5%, by including an additional 27% reservation for OBCs.

Nationwide protests took place in India in 1990 and 2006 to protest the reservation policy, claiming it to be discriminatory.

It is this reservation policy which has prompted many young scholars to move out of India, in search of unbiased education system. They move out in quest of institutions where ‘merit’ and ‘merit’ alone is the criteria for admission. After completing their education abroad, in world class universities, very few come back to India. This is indeed sad.

Quality research environment

Resources and the intellectual climate for research are important for quality scholarly work. But India lags behind developed nations like the USA and UK in so far as research environment is concerned.

Foreign universities receive patronage from all quarters, as a result they are able to hire the best research guides and provide best research guidance. Above all the research scholars are paid handsomely. On an average, a researcher can draw $ 9000 a year in the USA. While those in India, receive a meager stipend of around Rs 13,500 per month only. Thus there is lack of enthusiasm among the aspiring researchers in India.

Lack of proper patronage from the government impedes the development of a healthy research climate in the country.

“India is in its nascent stage as far as research is concerned. The infrastructure there is not strong enough to support meaningful research,” Nikhil Rasiwas, an engineering PhD student and vice president of the Association of Indian Graduate Students at the University of California San Diego, was quoted as saying by the forbes.com.

The literacy rate is growing sluggishly in India, thereby raising a warning alarm for the government which has aimed to raise literacy rate to 85% till 2009-12. At this juncture, the government is making all possible efforts to achieve it with programmes like the National Literacy Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and providing mid-day meals in government owned schools.

Exodus of intellectuals

In this process, it has, to some extent overlooked the need to create scope for promising young scholars, who are gradually moving out to join the 20 million Indian diaspora abroad, never to return to serve their motherland. Students of Indian origin are traveling in higher numbers than ever before to pursue higher education abroad. In year 2006, of the 123,000 studying outside India, 76,000 have chosen USA as a country of their choice followed by UK.

All said and done, it is high time for the government to join hands with the private enterprises, to bring out the ‘best’ in the education sector. Policies related to the development of education or the betterment of students should be kept away from narrow political interests.

Let’s hope for a day when we can have a fair exchange of scholars with developed nations. Afterall, it is through a planned education system that we can make India a ‘superpower’ someday.

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