Kashmir Scan, Dec 2014

By Sajjad Bazaz

Our higher education system is a social enterprise with obligations to society

 

1412587892phptMEiAcHighest seats of learning in India are falling from grace. This is what could be summed up after going through the recent Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2014-15. None has made it to the top 200. And it’s a cause for serious concern that a country of India’s size, growing economic strength and great intellectual history, does not yet have a top-200 entrant. There are indications of further deteriorations and the system does not seem to be making enough progress up the rankings.

Amid this falling scenario, our higher education system in state is witnessing a growing mismatch – the products produced hardly suit market needs. Some time back, I came across a stunning statement from none other than higher education minister when he said that our colleges and universities are producing liabilities. This courageous statement vetted the intensity of the challenges our higher education system is facing – turning assets into liabilities!

Precisely, the translation of human assets into liabilities speaks about credibility crisis of our colleges and universities. We don’t need a kind of thorough probe to find out the causes. We have still a run-of-the mill system of education where our young ones are just handed over graduate, post graduate and doctorate degrees only to get lost into wilderness for want of a job. There is mushroom growth of colleges and universities in the past one decade and this growth has been at the cost of quality education, especially in terms of student’s career development.

Today we witness a growing number of parents who are worried on account of their kids’ career and they consider education degrees an expensive mistake. Gone are the days when students could rely on their degree to give them a leg-up to a suitable career. Now times have changed. Our young ones are engulfed into a thick sludge of economic misfortunes. Even as they possess higher degrees and with impressive curriculum vitae (CVs), they fail to get a suitable job.

In an increasingly competitive atmosphere coupled with innumerable career choices, today most of the students are confused about which field to step into. For most of our students the ‘best way’ to go about a career development is to pursue a career that either their friends have taken up or their parents have told them to do so.

Here at our place, career choices also tend to be influenced by factors such as respectability attached to certain professions, peer pressure, fads and also the lack of value attached to some careers.

Is this right way to choose your career? Even parents are in a dilemma while choosing a field of study that really suits to the interests or skills of their wards.

In succinct, our higher education system over a period of time has wittingly or unwittingly accommodated poor value degrees which pose a real threat to our students’ future financial security. Today this system is in complete mess. What it needs is a complete revamping so that the value for money of degrees is brought into the spotlight for scrutiny. We have to also understand that millions of people make better-than-average livings without going to any college or university. However, a unique competition is brewing up in the job market for these kinds of people. Since the number of students going to universities and colleges is going up considerably, some of the jobs that were once open to anyone may now require degrees. This way also, the scenario is leading to turning of human assets into liabilities.

Precisely, our colleges and universities should have influence on our economy, public policy or society. Let our higher education system be acknowledged as a social enterprise, with obligations to the society that supports it.

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)

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