I had a chance to review E&Y’s latest report – EY FICCI Higher Education Report Nov12 released at the FICCI Higher Education Summit 2012. I have reviewed their past reports here. The report leverages the UGC report, HE At a Glance Feb 2012.
Broadly, the report shows a picture of growth as a result of the capacity building in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. We now have 659 universities (152 Central, 316 State and 191 Private), 33,023 colleges (669 Central, 13,024 State, 19,930 Private) together serving 18.5 mn students. and 9,541 diploma granting institutions (no Central, 3,207 State, 9,541 Private) serving 3.3 mn students – a staggering total of 46.430 institutions and 21.7 mn students, not including the 4.2 mn students being served by 200 Open Distance Learning / Distance Education institutions (largest individual player with 1/6th the market is IGNOU). Private institutes (about 30,000) comprise 63.9% of the total HEIs and 58.9% of the enrolments. Our GER is now 17.9%, a big jump from the 12.3% reported last year.
General courses account for 2/3rds of students. Undergraduate degrees comprise 84.9% of the total. In fact, there is a dramatic decline as the degree level progresses – from 16.2 mn enrolments in UG programmes, to 2.2 mn in PG and a measly 0.1 mn in PhDs. Diplomas are sizable at 3.3 mn enrolments. Demand for professional courses (as compared to general courses), and the number of private institutions seem to be increasing faster.
The report is centered around an analysis of the three pillars of our policy – equity, expansion and equity. It does a post mortem (rather just lists the achievements) of the 11th Five Year plan, and proceeds to list the initiatives and critical bottlenecks facing the 12th FY Plan. I would specifically like to call special attention to what is perhaps the first ever public acknowledgement of MOOCs on p29 of the report. Under the title of a meta-university initiative, the report states:
Establish meta university framework to promote inter-institutional collaboration and designing of innovative interdisciplinary programs. This framework would encourage the use of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and access to content, teaching and research support for all the members of a network.
True to style, the report looks at some key levers for enhancing the quality of India’s higher education institutions, namely merit-based student financing, internationalization of education, enabling research environment, high quality faculty, improved technology for education delivery, and employability. Collaboration between industry, academia and government is a unifying theme.
I get really anxious when I see these (like when they called them Game Changers). For example, how does merit based financing through which MIT, USA provides multiple financing methods, assured (?) placement outcomes and scholarships through alumni contributions, really enhance the quality of India’s higher education? In fact, how does taking an MIT example help us at all?
Nor does internationalization of education mean much to me. What if this became a condition for excellence? Amrita University has a tie-up with 50 international institutions – does that make it excellent. Why say MOOCs on one end at all then? Perhaps we are gearing up to internationalize the Coursera kind of MOOCs through institutional collaborations next as I have heard talk on already. But besides that, how is internationalization, as represented in the report (exchange programs, dual degrees, research collaborations) really going to help anyone except the guys who are already at the top? The same holds for “enabling research environments” – true research will happen in India when the entire system is empowered and not just when a few hundred teachers/researchers are involved.
High quality faculty – we are talking of an exemplar here – 150 teachers at ISB of which 100 are visiting faculty from abroad!!! The report also equates technology with tablets. That is a first for me, with examples given of B-schools in USA and Canada. Next in employability, there is no mention of mass employability initiatives. The same comments hold true for the examples of collaboration that they have presented.
The target enrolment by the end of the 12th plan is 35.9 mn students. The report sees critical bottlenecks. It argues for the lowering of barriers to entry by domestic and foreign players, equal opportunity to the private sector in all government programs (now that government seems to be increasing funding avenues), freedom for private players to operate, resolution of conflicting regulations for distance education (which has some valid concerns like territorial jurisdictions) etc.
The report does not see teachers (and students themselves, or edu-leaders) as key levers. It does not call out the fact that we have a crisis of educational leadership that report after report sponsored by the government has emphasized. It ignores the fact that critical bottlenecks arise out of India’s sheer diversity and scale, not from restrictions on private players. It does not mention, except in passing, that the Higher Education and Research Bill plans to cut bureaucratic paralysis, perhaps giving the system a chance to shape up. It mentions once that learner centric approaches need to be followed and teachers need to develop, but does not talk about pedagogy/education technology initiatives, nor about the critical bottlenecks in teacher education so evocatively brought out by existing reports.
In being driven by private diktat, the report pays scant attention to the real problems and needs of India’s education system. Somewhere we need to wake up and realize that the problem of capacity and the problem of the market, is not India’s issue at all. Somewhere it is our inability to accept that we do not understand the problems we face, and therefore continue to drive solutions that ill-serve our system.