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Is college education in India not world class?

As soon as new ranking on universities and colleges come up a debate follows on quality of higher education in India to which renowned QS's latest world ranking of universities is no exception. With no Indian university making to top 200, an Indian must be wondering about our much hyped IITs or IIMs. Even on QS ranking of Asian universities only two IITs featured in Top 50. With likes of Taxila and Nalanda, India was once considered to be very superior in higher education .But today our able leader tries to clout reality but judging this surveys as scams and full of bias.

With millions of student passing their SSE and few fortunate getting into IITs or NITs, other are left with the so called private colleges, some of which are considered way below, even by Indian standards. Absence of world class universities has made our meritorious students leave country to study in foreign institutions and spend billions of rupees enriching economy of other countries. Even the number of colleges is not enough for our students, with millions of student getting ready every year; this must be a priority area for the state.

But with limited budgetary allocation of mere 3% of GDP as compared to countries like China and America, one could only expect some miracle to rectify and strengthen our higher education system. We need to step up this public expenditure and try to rope in public sector as partner in increasing the amount and quality of research and development.

One must realize that powerhouse of any university or college is their faculty. As substandard fuel decreases the mileage of vehicle, similarly, absence of good faculty will never make a successful college. Absence of proper salary and working condition fails to attract competent members. Also with excessive politicization in every public sphere has degraded the quality of teachers. Only a proper training program with focus on research oriented perks for faculty could raise the quality of higher education.

Proliferation of private sector in education is on rise, but without proper checks and balances it would only deteriorate the problem further. Corruption in the form of donations is on rise and with extortionist behavior students have become victims to commercial interest in this sector. Steps should be taken to monitor such PPP in education and bodies like UGC should be free from political influence to work in its full capacity. Industries should be made partner in practical education so that an student can be made employable as per today's requirement.

But no university can boast of its excellence until it has a strong research base and plethora of patents. Private and government funding should be channeled to make universities well equipped with state-of-the-art labs and amenities. Ties with some international universities and exchange program will only help to learn us from the others. Colleges should motivate students to innovate and generate ideas to promote inclusive growth of the people at the bottom of socio-economic pyramid.

College level administration should be made more democratic by inclusion of alumni and students in decision making. This will help to know the problem at the root level and create sense of responsibility in students to give their best. Technology should be harnessed to full extend to have video lectures or conferences of renowned faculties, innovators and scientists. For less privileged, quality of distance learning courses should be enhanced. Without proper infrastructure and up-to date curriculum no institution could dream of being world-class.

Recently, India saw largest exercise of democracy but none dared to have debate on status and future of education. Without proper intention and budget higher education will continue to remain on ventilator. To harness the fruits of human dividend, education department should synthesize long term plan and remove inefficiencies and leakages at all level of education departments. Keeping in mind the dreams of our youth, I hope state takes remedial actions to realize and recognize their potential.

Akash Agarwal

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