Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[op-ed snap] The need for reforms in the education sector


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Development Report, World Bank, PISA, OECD

Mains level: Need for reforms in India’s tertiary education sector


World Development Report 2019

  1. The World Development Report (WDR) 2019: The Changing Nature of Work studies was released recently
  2. It talks about how the nature of work is changing as a result of advances in technology today
  3. Technology is changing the skills that employers seek
  4. Workers need to be better at complex problem-solving, teamwork and adaptability

Importance of early childhood care

  1. The demand for certain skills is going up in today’s labour markets
  2. These skills include complex problem-solving and analysis, and social skills such as teamwork and relationship management
  3. Reasoning and self-efficacy are also increasingly important, particularly as they improve adaptability
  4. Building these skills requires strong human capital foundations—and building these foundations is especially important in early childhood development
  5. Most of these traits are learnt by infants up to the age of 5-6
  6. If children miss out during this period in life, it is hard to catch up
  7. These foundations can be established through effective early childhood development programmes and basic education
  8. Investments in nutrition, health and stimulation in the first thousand days of life build stronger brains

State of India’s education sector

  1. As per UNESCO data, India has one of the lowest public expenditure rates on education per student, especially compared to other Asian countries like China
  2. India spends $264 per student per year compared to $1,800 spent by China
  3. The World Bank report on its worldwide survey of public spending on education stated that India spent a meagre 11 percent of public expenditure on education, compared to 20 percent in China
  4. Education in most schools is one dimensional, with an obsessive focus on marks
  5. Added to this is the lack of availability of trained teachers at all levels
  6. Quality teachers are the missing link in the Indian education system
  7. Although pockets of excellence exist, the quality of teaching, especially in government schools, does not meet the standards

Need for education sector reform

  1. India needs to focus even more strongly on the quality of education it offers to its greatest asset—its citizens- its human capital
  2. For most children, skill foundations are formed through primary and secondary education
  3. Yet, the acquisition of foundational skills that one would expect to happen in schools is not occurring

Impact of investments in human capital

  1. Through investments in foundational human capital—India can prepare its people for the coming shifts in jobs, skills and market structures
  2. Lack of investments, instead, will leave future generations—especially the poorest—at a severe disadvantage, amplifying inequalities that already exist
  3. In the worst-case scenario, this might create instability when rising aspirations are met with frustration instead of an opportunity

India’s efforts at building human capital

  1. A lot of investments in human capital have already begun in India and are likely to have a positive impact in the coming years
  2. The shift in the education sector towards more competitive federalism and results-based financing is expected to improve accountability and learning outcomes
  3. India’s agreement to participate in PISA is a major step forward in its policy landscape that will help rank India with global peers based on education outcomes
  4. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to test education systems by comparing the test performance of 15-year-old pupils
  5. The two-hour test not only evaluates the cognitive skills of students in science, math, and reading but also assesses their ability to solve problems in new and unfamiliar conditions

Reforms required in the tertiary education sector

  • India’s tertiary education system is the second largest in the world, after China
  • It is home to more than 35 million students and over 50,000 institutions\\
  • The most prestigious institutions within this system have global standing and are responsible for making India a world leader in the high-tech sector

For this success to be taken to the next level, India’s tertiary education system needs three sets of reforms

  1. It requires more flexibility between the general and technical tracks
  2. More focus on building the skills
  3. Ensuring that specific universities become effective innovation clusters

Way forward

  1. Digital technologies are changing the shape of work before our eyes
  2. Emerging markets like India stand to gain—but they need to have the right skills at the ready
  3. Investing in human capital now and over the long term is an investment with profound implications for people’s future prosperity and for national economic growth

With inputs from the article: Why Does India Refuse to Participate in Global Education Rankings?

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