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Higher education by numbers

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The Chandigarh Tribune has an interesting editorial:

India’s higher education system is the third largest after China and US. India has around 34,000 institutions having about 220 lakh students. For making education a reliable engine of development, the quantitative expansion should be in tandem with quality.

India’s global competitive edge is also constrained by the very low access to higher education. The Gross Enrolment Ratio in the country is only 18 per cent. In South Korea it is 100 per cent. The government has attempted to increase access to education especially by opening it to private sector.

Unfortunately, a large number of private institutions have failed on quality and the bubble has burst because of sub-standard quality of education being provided in these institutes.

For want of employability and quality around 50 per cent private engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh are on the brink of closure as enrolment ratios have been dismal. In Tamil Nadu private institutions have failed to fill even 50 per cent seats in MCA and MBA programmes. The situation is equally alarming in other states.

Around 50 per cent faculty positions are lying vacant. The teacher-taught ratio is much higher (1:26) against UGC norm of 1:15. In Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is 1:7 and 1:5, respectively. According to UGC around 73 per cent of 1471 colleges and 68 per cent of 111 universities have mediocre or low quality infrastructure. The average number of books per student in an institution’s library in India is only 9.

The Indian population pyramid. The male-female difference is shown in yellow; it is skewed towards males. (Single age data, Census of India, 2011)

The Indian population pyramid. The male-female difference is shown in yellow; it is skewed towards males. (Single age data, Census of India, 2011)

The histogram above should put these numbers into perspective. There are about 80 million Indians in the age range between 18 and 22. If we want to build a technological society like Japan’s or South Korea’s, all of them should go to college. If the teacher-taught ratio is to be 1:15, then we need to hire 5.3 million college teachers. Compare this to 1.5 lakh teachers today: the number of teachers has to be be multiplied by 35 or so. The fraction of the GDP which is spent on higher education will have to go up by a similar factor.

So clearly, this is not going to happen, without a large increase in the GDP itself, to offset this. So India seems to be caught in an illiteracy trap. Not enough money to educate people; not enough educated people to increase the national income. But the trap is not absolute: China has walked out of it. However, it requires a national consensus to begin move towards this ideal.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

September 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

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