Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission Ved Prakash has called for strengthening primary school education in the country.

He was delivering a special lecture on “Coping with the emerging challenges in higher education”, organised by the University of Mysore here on Monday.

Prof. Prakash said that progress in the field of higher education was not possible if school education was ignored, and called for improving the transition from primary and high schools to pre-university and higher levels. The transition rate from one level to another was only 27 per cent in the country. Increasing this was a major challenge, he added.

Although the country could take pride in the fact that it had the highest enrolment of students in institutes of higher learning, this was only 12.5 per cent of the total eligible population in the 18-24 age group, Mr. Prakash pointed out.

This compared poorly to the global average gross enrolment ratio, which was 27 per cent, he added. The challenge was to increase the gross enrolment ratio, he said.

Prof. Prakash regretted that education was not used as a strategy for poverty alleviation. Despite the expansion of higher education, the country had slipped from 130th to 134th rank in the UNDP's human development index, he said.

The Suresh Tendulkar Committee report which stated that the percentage of people living below the poverty line had gone up from 28 per cent to 37 per cent, showed the need for greater debate and introspection in college and university campuses to identify the problem and find a solution, he said.

Resources

Commenting on the quality of education in India, the UGC Vice-Chairman said that students without adequate skills to make them employable were being “churned out” in universities. The country's contribution towards research had declined from nearly 10 per cent to less that 3 per cent, while China's had jumped from around 2.5 per cent to 10 per cent, he noted. Prof. Prakash said resource constraints plagued higher education, and public funding was not keeping pace with the rate of enrolment.

This had led to privatisation of education, he said.

“The philanthropy of the Wadiyars and Jamshedji Tata, which saw the germination of the University of Mysore and the Indian Institute of Science, the vision of Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan that resulted in the founding of the Aligarh Muslim University or Madan Mohan Malaviya who founded the Banaras Hindu University, is now lacking,” Prof. Prakash said.

‘Vision document'

He urged the University of Mysore to introspect on its growth in the last 94 years and prepare a vision document for the future. He called for capacity development of the teachers to produce quality students.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mysore V.G. Talawar, director of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council Ranganath, students and staff of the university were present.

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