Widen education’s horizon beyond mere degrees

  • Shyama Rath
  • Updated: Jul 13, 2015 01:53 IST

It is that time of the year when college admissions are in full swing. The desperation for the handful of seats available in a few universities cannot be missed. One such aspiration for many is Delhi University, whose astronomical cut-offs and limited number of seats have become topics of discussion over the years.

The cut-offs are determined by results awarded by educational bodies. As for the intake, let us suppose that the university increases its seats by 100% or 200%, would there be a drastic change in the cut-offs to guarantee admission to all deserving aspirants? Sadly, the percentage of the unhappy aspirants would still remain high. There is, after all, a limit on the intake that any institution can accommodate, irrespective of a candidate’s credentials.

The demand-supply imbalance at the undergraduate level and the flocking of students to a handful of institutions could, to an extent, be blamed on our obsession with rankings. This is not to undermine the institutions which have painstakingly built their reputation.

Let us take the example of Delhi University. The stereotyped reputation of its affiliated colleges is blurring. Several of the earlier lesser-known colleges have made great strides to come on a par with the traditional top colleges. As a result of this, no single college holds a monopoly on the toppers across any subject discipline. In the mad rush for far-flung colleges, aspirants often miss out on some good options, which are available closer home.

Many new private and government institutions are also beginning to make a mark and it would be unfair to neglect these lesser-known or newer institutions as equally good options. The rising demand for higher education necessitates immediate actions for the improvisation of educational institutions nationwide.

Instead of mere rhetoric, the responsibility for promoting excellence lies with the teachers, students, parents, and policy makers, albeit in different forms. Teachers form the backbone and their role is obvious. As for parents, while many lament over the quality, vis-à-vis say American institutions, the concept of private endowments and donations, which is so prevalent there, escapes their notice. In addition to this, a successful institution is taken to the world by its alumni. The policy makers and government must encourage private universities and invest in regional universities.

Further, the paucity of quality teachers, particularly in the newer institutions, is a concern, and could be addressed by taking help from the faculty members of established institutions. An aggressive use of the National Knowledge Network can facilitate inter-institutional interactions.

Finally, it is time we addressed our obsession with vanilla degrees. It is not possible to create sufficient employment opportunities for a vast pool of graduates equipped with the same set of knowledge/skills. There is growing need for vocational training to create a more diverse set of people. Strengthening polytechnic institutions and according them greater respectability can go a long way in accomplishing this.

Shyama Rath is a faculty member at the University of Delhi. The views expressed are personal.

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