E. Balagurusamy, Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission Member (Education) suggests ways and means to increase the State Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education.
The State Planning Commission is in the final stages of the preparation of the draft for the XII Five Year Plan under various heads viz., health, industry, agriculture and education.
The members of the commission have been involved in conducting stakeholders' meetings at regional levels to get suggestions that can be incorporated in the Plan document.
After holding meetings in Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchi, the draft on education was submitted last week. Planning Commission Member (Education) E. Balagurusamy speaks to The Hindu Education Plus about the model that has been suggested to increase the State Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education from 16 per cent to 20 per cent in the next Plan period, and to 25 per cent in the next 10 years.
The 5E model
After consultations, the 5E model has been suggested. This is to ensure the five Es in higher education: expansion, equity, excellence, employability and e-governance. We have not only suggested the model but also included strategies to implement the model successfully.
The strategy behind expansion is two-fold: opening new colleges / universities, and increasing the strength in existing colleges. The most common suggestion that we received was the need to set up State universities for arts and science in every district. The focus will be on increasing the enrolment in the new as well as existing institutions. We will also give suggestions on attracting students towards higher education. There are already many schemes for the economically backward and rural students. We have given suggestions for new incentives to attract more youth.
The objective here is again two-fold: to increase the equity in terms of economic status and gender. We already have a good number of girl students in higher education. It has to be further improved in arts and science colleges. While most of the students from economically weaker sections concentrate in government and government-aided colleges, we need to ensure they are enrolled more in private and self-financing colleges as well.
The first casualty at the time of expansion is quality. The plan has strategies to ensure quality does not suffer. Excellence will be achieved by addressing four major factors - shortage of teachers, inadequate infrastructure, examination and evaluation reforms and curriculum revamp.
Shortage of teachers : The shortage of teachers is more than 50 per cent in higher educational institutions. In such a scenario, expansion is a problem. We have to create more skilled faculty. Suggestion has been made for setting up a State-level Staff Development Institute for Higher Education to groom teachers. Postgraduates who aspire to teach in higher education institutions will train here in acquiring the right teaching skills. Gradually, the services of the institute will also be extended to working teachers because many of them lack teaching abilities.
Inadequate infrastructure : Certain basic criteria will be laid out for universities / colleges to ensure that they have adequate infrastructure.
Examination and Evaluation : Reforms in this area will include doing away with an evaluation system that is purely marks-based. It will be based on knowledge application, analytical ability, situational problem solving and logical thinking.
Curriculum revamp : Revamp will be based on the current needs of the industry. Industry participation will play a major role in the revamp. One module that will be included across all disciplines at the undergraduate level is ‘Ethics and Values', which is the need of the hour.
According to the industry, the employability level in engineering / technical education is around 20 per cent, while it is only 10 per cent for arts and science. The present system concentrates only on transfer of knowledge and not on developing skills. This is as much the fault of the curriculum as that of the teacher who himself / herself lacks practical knowledge.
By skills, everyone thinks it is only communication / soft skills. The area that is ignored is the domain skill, which is what the industry rues about. Hence skill-oriented courses will be included in the school / college curriculum to ensure employment for a person right after standard X. The group will work with the Confederation of Indian Industry to develop special modules on skill development.
At present there is no accountability in higher education at any level. To ensure that the four pillars of governance – objectivity, responsibility, responsiveness and accountability are achieved in higher education, all processes will be made online. Information technology will be used as a tool to bring in accountability at all levels – admission procedures, award of certificates, appointments, conduct of examinations, activities of Vice-Chancellors, etc. This will eliminate corruption and ensure a fair system of working.
What are the ways to ensure that the 5E model is implementation effectively ?
For any change / expansion, the main factor is investment. Investment in higher education has to be increased considerably for all these to come into force. The government will be informed on how much of resources will be needed. The Commission will also suggest investment patterns. Besides working out an overall plan for the next five years, an annual plan will also be suggested for distribution of the investment pattern.
It is also a given that without private-public partnership we cannot expand and achieve the required target. The best mode of private-public partnership will be chosen and suggested to the government so that it will be a win-win situation for all concerned.