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High Time for a Major Education Overhaul

High Time for a Major Education Overhaul

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 April 2018 12:00 AM GMT

Col (Retd) Y Udaya Chandar

Many institutions require their students to attend a minimum number of classes per year. Otherwise, the students are not allowed to sit in their fil exams. In reality, students are never stopped. Some teachers do not record students' attendance at all. The students are quite happy with them. There is also a common provision that allows students to submit a 'medical certificate' to excuse some absences. Those students who have not attended as required produce these certificates, which they obtain from phony medical practitioners.

Another aspect of our higher education system that has fallen to the lowest depth is the fraud carried out surrounding PhD dissertations. What is now happening is that existing knowledge is being copied time and again. The research activities associated with today's higher education sector are very shoddy. Even the dissertations submitted by PhD scholars lack origility and suggest that they have been copied from somewhere else. These enterprising 'scholars' get hold of a dissertation submitted a decade or more ago, copy it and submit. If the student is on good terms with the 'guide', he or she will call a friend to serve as the 'exterl examiner', and thus the degree candidate is assured of receiving the doctorate. These professors perform this 'service' on a reciprocal basis.

Many scholars are especially weak in data alysis using modern statistical techniques. They are good at working the percentiles only. In such cases, scholars persuade statistics students to get the work done. The examiners also do not pose questions on data alysis, as they, too, are poor in the area. In any case, hardly anyone actually collects data from the field; they fabricate it while sitting at home.

Today, it is not difficult to find someone willing to write a dissertation for a fee. London is a kind of hub for such activity. The middlemen often have panels of people from poorer countries who are satisfied with low fees, and they are willing to write on any subject with help from the internet. These people also prepare the scholars for viva-voce, all for a fee.

In most universities, there is a stipulation that all associate professors must publish one or two papers on a worthy topic in a well-regarded jourl before being promoted to the rank of professor. Some associate professors, then, approach 'writers', hiring them to handle this task for them for a handsome price. Postgraduate students are also required to submit a thesis for their degree. These students are notorious for submitting theses written by someone else a few years prior. In any case, no one reads the theses, including the professors concerned; the submissions are of very poor quality. They have nothing but 'colourful pie-charts and graphs' drawn by someone else.

Times have, indeed, changed. The methodologies, tools and systems that were once used to teach have undergone radical transformations. The advent of technology and its application in the learning process has revolutionized education systems the world over. In our primary and secondary education systems (and often in higher education), technology is seldom applied. India does a very poor job of providing technology and technology-based education. Some who are admitted to BTech courses drop out, often on account of their ibility to absorb the technical material being imparted to them. Even at the school level, many students fail their mathematics, science and English course. In the 'old days', the brightest students used to pursue law degrees abroad after completing their undergraduate courses; very few went into the sciences. Some parents force their children to go for B Tech, even if they are disinterested in the topic. If given a chance, more would choose an MBA over BTech.

It is not known what exactly canto be done to make India technology-friendly. The world, and especially the developed world, is becoming more and more technology-oriented, yet we are lagging behind, and the distance between us and the developed world is increasing. To rrow this gap, we should place priority on technology over perfecting in English in our good private schools, at the very minimum. If we put a greater emphasis on technology in the government-run schools, nothing could hold us back.

It is time for the educationists and leaders to strengthen our industry-institution interactions and make them mutually valuable. Today, the interactions between industry and India's educatiol institutions are at a minimal level, whereas the developed tions have thrown open their universities and research facilities to industry and vice versa. In our case, industry has no faith in students' technological capabilities, or in the teachers guiding them. Frankly, the leaders of the industry feel that most of our teachers are worthless. In fact, neither side trusts the other, and both feel that, at best, their interactions are a waste of time.

What we really have, even in higher education, is students who attend classes regularly, memorise their contents, reproduce them in exams, score passable marks and filly are awarded degrees and good conduct certificates. Then, if they fail to find any suitable occupation, they become teachers. This is the system followed even in post-graduate education. The PhD students suffer many more handicaps, the primary one being their lack of interest in finding something new. As a result, the system continues to produce academics who are mediocre or worthless and lack the skills employers desire.

Unfortutely, we have not overhauled our educatiol system in a long time. The commercialisation of the Indian educatiol system is a major bane to its existence.

Many Indian university professors are sub-standard. They have no urge for learning and are, instead, consumed with office politics. Too many students run after positions at a handful of worthy institutions. This has also led to the emergence of sub-standard 'good' institutions.

Most public and private universities around the world depend on their alumni, both fincially and for input regarding the changing requirements of their curricula. This is totally absent in the Indian context. In most of our institutions, including the IITs, there is a 15-25% shortfall in faculty hiring. The freeze on new full-time appointments at many institutions, combined with the increasing number of part-time and 'casual' teachers, has left the academic circuit demoralised.

So worthy academics should sit down and alyse what is to be done to lift Indian higher education to the desired standard, or better yet to a 'world-class' standard. Otherwise, it will keep declining until we will reach the point where nothing can help it.

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