Observing that higher education system in the country continues to be afflicted with problems of access, equity and quality, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Tuesday called for curricular and academic reforms.
“We have made progress in the field of higher education since 1947. Today, India has the third largest higher education system in the world. We have around 652 universities and university level institutes that impart higher and technical education. They also provide affiliation to more than 33,000 colleges and institutes,” Ansari said.
“However, our higher education system continues to be afflicted with the three problems of access, equity and quality,” he said at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the R V College of Engineering (RVCE) .
He said enrolment rates in our higher education institutions had gone up to around 17 per cent, but were still well below the world average of 26 per cent.
“Wide disparities exist in enrolment percentages among the states and between urban and rural areas while disadvantaged sections of society and women have significantly lower enrolments than the national average,” he added.
Stating that the higher education sector is plagued by a shortage of well-trained faculty, poor infrastructure and outdated and irrelevant curricula, he said, “The use of technology remains limited and standards of research and teaching at Indian universities are far below international standard.”
“Curricular reforms leading to regular revision and upgrading of curricula, introduction of semester system, choice-based credit system, and examination reforms are yet to take place in higher educational institutions across the country,” he said.
“Exceptions apart, majority of our higher education institutions perform poorly in the area of quality on a relative global scale,” Ansari added.
Pointing out that nearly seven lakh science and engineering graduates pass out every year in the country, Ansari said industry surveys show that only 25 per cent of these are employable without further training.
“The picture is more dismal in other disciplines if a recent, non-official, employability report is to be believed.”
Ansari said in recent years, the massive expansion in enrolment in higher education in the country has resulted in unbearable burden being put on the physical and pedagogic infrastructure of colleges and universities.
“This is reflected in overcrowded classrooms and distortion of desirable student-teacher ratios, overall shortage of teaching and tutorial space, overloading of laboratory and library facilities, and often a lowering of quality of teaching. All these issues require urgent correctives,” he added.
Noting that curricular and academic reforms are required to improve student choices, with a fine balance between the market-oriented professional and liberal higher education, Ansari said, “Higher education must be aligned to the country’s economy and also to the needs of the global market.”
“Innovative and relevant curricula should be designed to serve different segments of the job market or provide avenues for self-employment. Emphasis must be given to the expansion of skill-based programmes in order to make our youth employable in the job market,” he added.