By Kapil Rampal, Director, Ivory Education
There are a lot of governmental issues on which we can discuss, but today, I would like to talk about the BJP government’s work on higher education on completing his one year tenure. The running government is making efforts, but the tag of Achchhe Din for higher education seem very far way.
While India has over 700 universities, over 35,000 colleges and over 20 million students every year, it is a dismal figure for a country of 1.3 billion people. The current education system needs a complete revamp for our institutions of higher education to reach the past Indian glory of Taxila and Nalanda.
The current government is continuing several draconian and wasteful policies of the earlier regime. Education budget went up 8.03 percent in 2013-14 and the Modi government reduced the plan allocation with 24.68 percent for 2015-16. In this all education policies such as Rashtriya Madhyama Shiksha Abhiyan for secondary education reduced by 28.7 percent, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by 22.14 percent, Mid-Day Meal Scheme by 16.41 percent, and Rashtriya Uchhattar Shiksha Abhiyan by 48 percent. For an illustration, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (provide funds to schools across the country) asked for Rs. 50,000 crores for 2015-16 but the Modi government allocated only Rs. 22,000 crores. Whereas the budget allocated for setting up 5 new IITs is just Rs. 1,000 crores.
None of the Indian universities are in the list of top 200 universities as per Times Higher Education Rankings. The reason for that is that education is not considered an industry. Private education bodies that can run just as a society on paper violate several laws to take profits out of their organisation. Government run universities continuously need grants for survival.
Why are government run universities not expected to tighten their belts and improve in order to enter amongst the list of best institutions? While PSUs are under a constant pressure to deliver profits or face disinvestment, government universities and colleges continue to cost the exchequer. They should be made autonomous and expected to give a dividend back to the government.
Hospitals, schools and other private institutions that get the benefit of cheaper land, are allowed to earn profits and have commitment towards the poor. Similarly, government should let the universities be independent and charge those who can afford to pay.
Privatization in education became the trend in India and all major private institutes are serving best to the society. It has also developed a mindset that it must provide valuable education, but it does not mean that government universities can shun their responsibility of value education.
IITs, IIMs, and all other higher education bodies need adequate funds for continuously enhancing their quality. The need of the hour is to make them independent profit centres. The universities that do not improve should be asked to shut shop if they cannot deliver profits or provide quality education.
Under the tag of Achchhe Din government need to provide more funds to the education sector but also free it from the shackles of being just non-profit organizations. Without a diversified and systematic process, no university can facilitate the valuable professional education.
Government has also given a body blow to the training industry by increasing the service tax. Eventually students have to pay 14% extra to get quality training from private institutions. It is a draconian step to tax something that greatly benefits both the employees and the industry, and keep academic institutions away from tax net. There is so much debate about net neutrality, the need of the hour is education neutrality. :)