Former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University E. Balaguruswamy speaks with raw candour about the state of education.
“Can we really talk about quality when most engineering students will not even know how to apply Ohm’s Law?” he asks, with enthusiasm and a well-measured sense of idealism. That’s E. Balaguruswamy, former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University and author of several books on computer studies. He currently is a member of the Union Public Service Commission.
Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Confederation of Indian Industry-Institute of Quality (CII-IQ) summit on ‘Quality in Education’, Prof. Balaguruswamy dismisses the current educational and assessment system. While he openly talks about corruption in colleges and regulatory bodies in the country, he says that this apathy has resulted in a sharp deterioration of quality in education. “One can hold several seminars and pontificate on the quality of education, but if everyone did their job properly, such seminars would be redundant,” he argues.
“I have drawn lot of flak for my way of functioning. But my commitment remains to the student and his educational experience,” he says. As vice-chancellor of Anna University, Prof. Balaguruswamy often found himself caught between the system and its corrupt practices.
He blames the “briefcase culture” which sends people to Delhi (where the regulatory bodies sit) in a bid to subvert the system to their own advantage.
Recollecting an instance when an engineering college functioned in Tamil Nadu for three years without an electrical connection, he points out that colleges and managements are now functioning purely in a profiteering mode.
“If you can take hour-long interviews for professors, can you not interview the man who wants to open one educational institution after the other,” he says. So, what is the solution? “Simple!” he exclaims, “Don’t give them permission.”
Having said that, how does one address this skill shortage that every industry is facing today? “We need more professionals everywhere but it needs to be planned properly. You cannot expand without consolidation but what needs to be changed foremost is attitudes. VCs who never visit their colleges, teachers who do not teach…all this needs to be looked into first before expanding indiscriminately,” he asserts. “As Vice-Chancellor when I made the examinations application based, the results came down to 40 per cent. How can such a system even aspire to any sort of quality?” Prof. Balaguruswamy asked. “A new teaching-learning process needs to be evolved which is learner-centric. Technology can help bridge this gap to a great extent.” As UPSC member, he interacts with several young candidates everyday. “I find that students lack in all types of skills. There is no depth in the knowledge. Even if we keep the communication and soft skills aside, they lack any understanding of the subject. That is where the education system needs to step in.”