EDUCATION SERIES – PART V


This article is the fifth part of the ‘Education’ series of articles. Read Part IV here.

‘Education ’ is a hot topic for UPSC. Questions from this topic can be expected in the essay paper or any other general studies paper. Therefore, in order to cover various aspects and dimensions of this topic we bring to you a series of posts dedicated to this specific topic. We would be analysing the topic from multiple angles and at the same time provide data, quotes etc. related to the topic.

Wherever required, we will link the article with previous parts of the series. This will not only help our readers better understand the topic but also would assist in revision.


1

PhD holders in India (also relevant for any topic related to ‘Higher Education’):

The number of PhD graduates has proliferated over the decades — while there were only a dozen doctorates till 1920 in India (the first was awarded in 1904), there were 24,000 in all disciplines from about 900 institutions in 2017. While the number may not be surprising, what is disquieting is that of the 6,000 people granted science PhDs annually, not even 2,000 find decent employment today.

There were 326 PhD-awarding institutions in 2000; this rose to 912 in 2017. According to the University Grants Commission and the Department of Science and Technology, the number of science PhD holders tripled in the same period. With the number of PhD holders surpassing the number of opportunities created, many are left without jobs.

Major problems PhD holders face:

  • Oversupply of candidates – The capacity of market to provide opportunities to PhD holders is dismal. The number of PhDs being granted each year does not match the job opportunities being created. There is indeed an oversupply of candidates.
  • The vicious cycle – A scientist’s performance is evaluated largely based on some standard criteria: in order to get the first promotion, he/ she has to publish five to 10 papers, and at least one PhD student should graduate under his/ her supervision. Awards and fellowships are also given based on such criteria. As a result, scientists end up training more scientists.
  • Funding – Funding which is mostly provided by the government, is crucial for good scientific research. Further woes for scientists include the fact that available resources are not distributed properly, funds are pruned, delayed, or stopped altogether.
  • Underdeveloped industry – Many industries have not developed adequately to absorb highly trained personnel. Corporate research and development provide employment to only 10%.

It is important for PhDs and postdoctorates to have other skill sets to be employed in business incubators, industry, journalism, and patenting offices. Available positions must be filled quickly in academia. It is crucial for the PhD to regain its respectability.

Source: The Hindu


2

Culture – a university’s most valuable resource

Less external control – In October 2018, the Prime Minister announced that the government would make available Rs. 1 lakh crore for infrastructure in higher education by 2022. The Prime Minister is also emphasised on the importance of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill of 2017 granting autonomy to the IIMs. He pointed out that this meant that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will no longer dictate their curricula. Earlier the government had announced a list of ‘institutions of eminence’, the idea underlying which was that they are now free to set their own rules and regulations. The freeing of universities from external control and increasing their resource base is for the better.

Important aspect on state of Higher Education in India:

  • Indian universities are lagging in their research output.
  • The migration overseas even at the undergraduate level. The estimated flow of income overseas due to fees paid to foreign universities is around $2 billion.

What is the problem? – The crucial factor is the absence of the norms internal to the Indian university that enable desirable outcomes with respect to teaching and research. Among these norms would be an expectation of excellence from both teachers and students and the assurance of autonomy to the former. This autonomy, it may be asserted, is to be expected not only in relation to external agencies such as the UGC or the MHRD but also within the university, including from peers.

Beneath the mushroom cloud of UGC regulations, governing everything from hours to assessment, there are no norms making for the attainment of excellence or the empowerment of faculty so that they deliver to their highest potential.

The autonomy of a teacher is both a value in itself and designed to contribute to the larger goal of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge. In India this value receives little recognition and its crystallisation is thwarted, irrespective of the ideological persuasion of the regime governing the university.

The role of culture:

No amount of hand-wringing over India’s place in the world university rankings or pumping resources into infrastructure building can help if the culture is not conducive to creativity. Its culture is a university’s most valuable resource. Feeding a repressive culture bodes ill for the future of our universities and, therefore, India’s place in the world of knowledge. Rightly we rue the fact that Nalanda, an international university that had flourished in India over a millennium ago, was destroyed through foreign invasion. Today our universities may be being destroyed by our own short-sightedness.

Source: The Hindu


3

The role of outreach programmes in spreading science

Outreach programmes, as the name suggests, comprises talks and demonstrations by scientists or research scholars on a science topic, pitched at an easy-to-grasp level.

For example, the National Centre of Biological Sciences has in its cocktail of outreach activities a programme called ‘Out of the Lab,’ in which scientists from the institute can be invited to homes, where they address fascinating aspects of their respective fields to neighbours who have gathered together.

Currently, knowledge of what goes on within the lab is understood by few outside. Labs within research institutes get separated from the universities, colleges and schools where future scientists are groomed. The existing social gaps due to language, class or caste, make the situation more problematic.

Outreach programmes do a lot to break the notion that research can be understood only by people within the lab. They do, however, suffer from a couple of drawbacks such as of scalability and of reaching beyond urban borders.

Source: The Hindu