Ever wondered what differentiates a good institution from an average one? Why is there such a craze to go abroad for higher education? Why do people from a few institutions always get the best jobs? Barring a couple of IITs, why don’t Indian institutions find a place among the first 200 institutions in the world?
To find the answers, think of the problems the Indian higher education system has faced over decades. These problems are not limited to professional courses, but start much earlier than that.
Cram them young
In school, how much a student can cram matters more than what he or she has understood. The same goes for higher education. The system in India does not cater to the intellectual capacity of a student.
Few institutions in India take the risk of shaping the future of an academically average student through their own procedures or through their academic versatility. The best institutions in the world do not necessarily have the best students; their systems and processes are such that it breeds innovation, and allows a systemic approach to research and development, and promotes interaction among students and faculty.
Indian institutions, on the other hand, have created a system that is non-inclusive and do not cultivate out-of-the-box thinking.
Not a good mix
Our institutions do not have a healthy mix of international faculty and students. Whereas institutions in the US and Europe have scored heavily in that area, Indian institutions still lag behind in attracting good international faculty. The amount of red tape involved in inviting foreign faculty members for work-related matters is a major deterrent.
Very few institutions in India have identified and addressed these weaknesses that come in their way of being ranked among the best in the world. Those who have cared to do so, have set up an excellent track record, one example being the Indian School of Business (ISB).
In a relatively short time, ISB has done a commendable job in getting on with activities that makes it one of the better institutions in Asia. But, such an example is rare in the post-secondary education scenario in India. Such experimentation can be replicated only in institutions that have the autonomy, resources and the vision for achieving such excellence.
Better the average
Institutes offering higher education should address all such shortcomings and create strong teaching-learning processes that add more value and competence, enabling even an average student to step out with the right mix of domain knowledge and competencies.
Creating a pool of talented and mature international faculty mix has its own advantages, problems and challenges. Susan Bathie, a professor of Human Resource Management who has recently moved to India to teach at Greater Noida, says, “We thought initially that relocation issues — travel, food, accommodation and medical aid — in a new ambience may be the more pressing issues. But upon arrival, we have been looked after well, and setting up a truly global centre of educational excellence has emerged as a real challenge ahead. It would be a truly fulfilling and rewarding experience.”
Another faculty member, Michael V Barbas, a professor of corporate strategy, views this invitation to teach in India as an opportunity for students here to study at a global level.
One fact that surely emerges is that such institutions will continue to excel in the eyes of students because they can only be better than the existing systems. I do not claim that those who shy away from this new learning experience would not flourish in life; what I claim is that those who do embrace it will definitely be better equipped to face the global work environment.
The author is Vice-Chancellor,