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Is college education in India not world class?

Education has been the driving force of India's march into the spectrum of development. Higher education has especially been the thrust of our policy makers since independence as it forms the bedrock on which one's career and orientation shall lay in life. A lot of funds have been invested in this system to ensure that our intellectual pursuit remains at par with our peer groups all over the world.

However, there has been a raging debate over the years that our college education system has been marred by a snail pace of reforms and is not at par with its peer across the globe. Despite such criticisms, it can be affirmed that the Indian college system is noteworthy in its own way.

Higher education in India has witnessed an unprecedented and gigantic growth with the addition of over 20,000 colleges and more than 8 million enrollments in the decade from 2000-01 to 2010-11.Colleges have witnessed an outgrowth in semi urban and rural settlements all over the nation accentuating our efforts in making higher education accessible to all the sections of the society.

However, it is the quality of education delivered that makes the difference. It must be understood that India is a developing country and pertaining to its resources and affordability, its education system has been designed.

At the graduation level, the subject honors system along with electives is followed which is quite befitting for the Indian students. On the contrary, in western countries, the students are free to change their majors midway thus allowing them the scope to skip the tough courses and choose the easier ones. This restricts their capability to have an in-depth analysis of their chosen field of study. However, the absence of such flexibility proves to be a boon for the Indian students who can afford to dive deep into their courses and face the tough ones.

A more significant difference between Indian education and the developed countries including U.S. is syllabi of study. In the Indian education system, specific chapters are allotted by the universities and based on the coverage of the prescribed syllabus, semester exams are held. On the other hand, in western education system, the quarterly or semester exams are based on the syllabus coverage of their respective professors. This system is quite restrictive and individual differences of knowledge among the students of the same university crop up.

The Indian students have always an edge over their western counterparts on mathematical abilities and logical reasoning attributed to the high emphasis on mathematical education given during high school years, a stark departure from the education system in U.S. where a high flexibility is allowed for the students in taking mathematics.

In spite of a well planned carefully designed educational course, the college education in India is often dogged by infrastructural liabilities and staff shortage resulting from acute fund shortages. Foreign institutes rely heavily on practical modules and power point presentations which has a very naked presence in Indian colleges. The resulting system makes western students well built in natural sciences like physics, chemistry, zoology, etc.

Even in the non science courses, most of the Indian universities follow the annual exam system at the year end in contrast to western systems that follow quarter and semester exams. Moreover, their system is marked by regular quizzes, field assignments and surveys while in India, the entire year passes off with mugging the professor notes and the books prescribed.

In the recent years, regrettably engineering and medical careers rule the roost in the preferred choices of career sidelining research opportunities in general sciences. The Indian education doesn't reflect a student's inner feelings, aspirations and ambitions. Low scorers are relegated in the market and the society largely depends on mere certificates containing displaying high marks and good grades, irrespective of how the knowledge has been attained. The education system in India often is designed in a way that needs memorization and mugging of facts unlike western system that relies on a more pragmatic and practical approach. Colleges in rural and backward areas technically exist on papers adding to the quantitative tally while they are hardly monitored or supervised putting the qualitative learning to the backseat.

Luminaries like Satya Nadella and Rajeev Suri who recently forayed into elite positions global giants like Microsoft and Nokia are a product of the Indian college system. Indian universities have witnessed a surge of foreign students who come here to pursue their higher education. Similarly, Indian students abroad form a significant chunk of their educational institutes competing efficiently with the western intellectuals. We need to take a stock of our education system, address the financial and infrastructural deficiencies and look for a practical based education model. Education for ages has been a critical dimension of national progress and therefore all efforts must be made to reap maximum benefits form the system and sustain the prestige of our civilization!!!

Satwik Patnaik

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