The curious case of India's broken Higher Education System
May is the month when brooding, eager 18-year-olds migrate from their slumber castles to institutes of higher education looking unexpectedly at admission lists. Flocking around these supposed temples of learning are bright young faces with the naïve enthusiasm of a hopeful future. When the admission results are declared, the scenery around these colleges turns into an expanse of melancholic heads as students see their bleak future resemble the rubble that our higher education system has become.
Here is the reason for my pessimism and lack of belief in the current system. (Leaving primary education for another time; I will literally start crying if I talk about it). In 2016-17, 190,000 Indian students spent ₹44,000 crore in US colleges. Our budget for higher education in that year was less than ₹30,000 crore. This explains how a few lucky Indians who can ‘afford’ it are able to secure their future – by leaving India.
Next is the story of our crème de la crème institutions. If you think that through our IITs and NITs, our government is taking care of our smart and deserving students, you may want to have a look at the following numbers. In the information provided to the parliament by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in August 2017, vacancies for faculty in new central universities in India was over 53%. In NITs, it was around 47% and in IITs over 35%. Again, we know these how these students who study in the top government institutes secure their future – by leaving India.
Now, about the rest of the students who somehow find a place in the second- and third-rung state colleges and private colleges. According to the Higher Education report by FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and Ernst and Young (EY), 93% of MBAs and 80% of engineering graduates in India are unemployable. Moreover, we are ranked 156 out of 190 countries in ease of starting a business according to the latest World Bank annual ratings.
Basically, the future of a majority of our youngsters is doomed.
I have a few questions for our 3 crore students studying in colleges across India and the others who will join them soon.
When exactly do you think is a good time to demand a better future? When you realise that your primary education has not taught you what you need to know? When you realise that there are not even 1% good quality higher education institutions in this country for you? When you realise that most organisations where you will apply for a job would consider you unemployable? When even if you have a Ph.D. degree, chances are that you will have to compete with millions of others to get the job of even a peon? When you realise that starting a business of your own will always be a distant dream? Or will you wait till the trend starts where you like our farmers will have no options left but to commit suicide? Or better, wait for the good to happen on its own since you are in no hurry?
Pardon me, I somehow miraculously developed a questioning mind despite being a part of our education system.
You may be the one my questions are directed to, or you may know someone who is a victim of this defunct system, or you may be settled in a secure job with a great career and a comfortable life. In any case, take a moment to think about the future of the millions of our youth and children who will be the next to look up at that admission, nay rejection list.
I am not willing to wait for things to get fine on their own. I believe they won’t, unless we act before it is too late, and act differently. So, help me out and let us think of solving this mess now. Let us do something together.
In the words of our former President A.P.J Abdul Kalam-
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.”