The system needs to be reformed, quickly enough. And spending on the sector needs to be channelled properly and prudently.

India’s position in the emerging world of globally interconnected economies will doubtless be dictated by how successful it is in overcoming the severe limitations of its educational system, which is the foundation of sustained development.

Our country’s future depends on the educational advancement of its people. Despite heavy expenditure on the sector over the decades, the rules of the system have proved to be significant hurdles to improvement. The system remains non-adaptive. This can only be explained by the fact that it works for the benefit of those who regulate it, and not for the larger social good.

Achieving constructive improvement will be a cumbersome task because powerful vested interests will impede them. To forestall this, the educated have to take up the cause of those who desperately need an efficient education system.

A solution has to be found for the existing problems, starting with recognising the fact that our past policies have failed to produce stated and anticipated results. Strategies to evaluate what has not worked and why, is a essential first step in the task of reforming the educational system.

Over the past few years, India’s educational system has seen various developments. Many reform steps formulated for its improvement have been sought to be implemented. Changes in terms of technological methods have brought in new gadgets and teaching methods. Some organisations have shown an overwhelming interest to take initiatives to develop the education system. Methodologies of training that have been put into practice to develop teaching skills have changed the scene. Many renowned private schools are coping with the changing environment of education and building a platform on which students can excel globally. The changing elements have also led to the commercialisation of the education system. Commercialisation is not a concept that suits the sector well.

Disseminating education is a function that involves a lot of prestige, going beyond monetary rewards and benefits. But unfortunately, many educational institutions have today forgotten the essence of the education process that is meant primarily to pass on knowledge to the younger generation and to society at large. Making others’ life miserable for commercial success is not forgivable. If earning money is the only goal, there are several other methods and business activities that could serve the purpose. The fields of education and knowledge dissemination should be saved from such threats: in today’s world, it is one of those rare gifts we can transfer to the younger generations with honesty.

A teacher is a person whose hindsight can become your foresight. Teachers can make and mould a nation’s future by imparting moral values and enabling young minds to imbibe knowledge. But many of today’s tutorials and coaching centres are not working in the same spirit. Many a coaching centre is just a commercial outfit that helps some to earn their livelihood, but the future of the youngsters they engage with, often remain a question mark. This is a line anybody can choose with minimum investment. It does not a matter if the person concerned knows at least the basics of the subject concerned.

These days we find numerous coaching centres. They typically start as home-tuition centres and later become big commercial ventures involved in selling education. Clearly, education is being commercialised.

Education is one of the main factors that determine our attitude. As in the case of having a meal, it is not how much you consume that matters but how much you digest and use. In reality, we are knowledge and wisdom in information, but the thirst remains. A good education system ought to teach us not only how to make a living but also how to make a healthy livelihood.

Allocations

Public spending on education has to be channelled properly. Around 2 per cent of GDP is spent, but ineffectively and inefficiently. There is a need for some revolutionary rethinking on how to optimise the allocation in a proper manner. Instead of funding schools, perhaps the government could achieve better results by funding students.

Education providers, whether they are in the public or private sector, will have to compete for students to impart value-oriented morality in education, besides passing on knowledge of quality in the subjects of their interest.

The growing economy of India needs a large number of citizens with a range of professional skills. The system should be able to ensure their employability. To achieve a proper blend of skilled people, vocational education has to be accorded utmost attention.

The number of vocational institutions will need to grow. Published figures show that India produces some 350,000 engineering graduates including IT professionals each year, compared to 600,000 in China and 130,000 in the United States.

The number appears reasonable, until one recalls that only about one out of four engineers is employable in this country. This creates the paradoxical situation of vast numbers of unemployed engineers on the one hand, and employers desperately seeking skilled engineers and manpower on the other. This needs to change.

(Professor S. Vincent is Dean of Research and is at svincentloyola@gmail.com , and Professor T.M.J. Indra Mohan holds the Kaura Chair: wolchela@gmail.com , both at Loyola College in Chennai)

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