Arjun To VCs: Face It - Indian Higher Education Is Sick

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New Delhi, Oct 10 (UNI) Some 400 plus vice chancellors from around India were asked today to face the fact-- Indian higher education is sick and not serving the cause of young Indians.

With that preface, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh went on to give Indian academia a glimpse of ''opportunity and duty'' they now have ''to find a way out.'' ''As Vice Chancellors,'' said Singh, opening their two-day National Conference on Development of Higher Education, ''you have opportunity and duty to find a way out for it.

''To prescribe is not my ideology. Let us now inscribe. Give the country a road map of higher education,'' Singh told participants.

He dubbed experimentation a key to higher education reforms.

The Conference has been organised by the University Grants Commission.

Among basic realities of Indian higher education pointed out by such experts as Planning Commission Member B Mungekar is the poor level of employment for graduates who are often ill-equipped for workplace requirements.

Participants spend today and tomorrow looking at problems identified by four regional meets-- Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and New Delhi-- and finalising steps to deal with them.

Singh said it is time India's academic world came to terms with reality. He described Indian higher education as a sick child of education, saying it is not serving the cause of young people of India.

Singh advised the VCs to keep in mind the rich and poor divide in the country and work out a strategy with conviction and a national commitment to see India through.

He exhorted the VCs to jointly define the parameters of higher education as to what should be the content, what should be the extent of higher education, what should be the methodology of teaching and what should be the basic ingredients of the syllabus.

In the end, he said, India is not knocking at the doors of the world but the world is knocking at the doors of India.

The Minister also opened an exhibition on 150 years of India's modern university system since its inception in the early 18th century.

Prof Mungekar proposed a Five Point Action Plan for Higher Education Reforms in XIth Plan.

He said over the decades education has some how become divorced from India's realities and development goals set out in its Constitution.

Prof Mungekar suggested drastic restructuring of higher education curricula, saying a growing economy needs a robust, quality education system.

He also stressed steps to achieve inclusive education, pointing out that a few oases of excellence, such as technology or management schools, were not sufficient to meet the burgeoning needs of Indian youth.

He also suggested a switchover to semester system and higher fees along with scholarships on merit.

He proposed a Higher Education Loan Guarantee Authority for educational institutions with good academic records to help secure loans without any collateral.

He emphasised filling up teaching vacancies in State colleges and universities.

UGC Chairman S K Thorat recounted the findings of the precursor conference and told delegates that the agenda centres around six issues-- access, inclusiveness, support to needy colleges and universities, bridging the quality gap, focus on State colleges and universities and finally finance.

He said public funding has to be increased and therefore the present fee structure needs revision.

He also spoke of the need to set up a framework to regulate the role of private sector as self-financing education institutions come up.

Guests were welcomed by UGC Vice Chairman Moolchand Sharma who stressed access, quality and equity.


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