, by PROF. M.A. HAQUE
When we talk of higher education, we need to consider various aspects like targets, present condition, necessary finances, available infrastructure and quality of education. Recently, a fair and unbiased assessment has been made in order to promote social justice through this most significant factor in character formation: the Union Human Resource Development Minister has proposed the formation of a central university in every state and a degree college in every district. This is a significant step to spread education, contributing to the development of citizens conscious of their duties to society and in keeping pace with changing times. The actual essence of education reflects a person’s utility and responsibility towards society.
PURPOSE OF EDUCATION
We are witness to tremendous changes in almost all fields of human philosophy and conduct, be they the theories of the cosmos or galaxies, uses of atomic energy and marine, wealth, socio-economic development of the contemporary society, or people’s needs and aspirations, hopes and apprehensions. Contemporary society demands emancipation from the shackles of ignorance, superstition, discrimination, and poverty. We have taken on the challenges and changed the face of the world by our progress in science and technology, medicine and health care, construction, transport, business, defence, civic amenities and research in all sectors of human activity. But education has failed to ‘educate’ man into a good and refined person, possessed of human and social values, sympathy and compassion, understanding and tolerance. One deprived of these essential virtues, self-centred, arrogant and violating essential social norms of behaviour, can be anything but educated.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has identified infrastructure and quality of teachers as two most important aspects requiring urgent attention in the higher studies sector. Out of 14000 colleges in the country, 8000 colleges do not receive UGC grants because of their inadequate infrastructure, poor facilities not conforming to UGC standards. Similarly out of 378 universities in the country, only 167 varsities receive the UGC grant based ion similar reasoning. The Prime Minister has now announced plans to create 30 top class universities, one in each of the 18 states which currently do not have a central university. It is proposed to have the estimated rate of enrolment raised to 15% of the population by the end of the Eleventh Plan, increasing the number of students by about 84 lakh. This sounds quite ambitious but even after achieving this, our country will remain much below the present world average of 23% of population’s enrolment. Increasing and strengthening infrastructural facilities along with finding quality teachers is a big problem, requiring huge efforts at many levels.
IIMs & IITs
These institutes have created a niche for themselves and a degree from these institutes is a sure guarantee for assured high salaries and accompanying perks. Hence their quality of education, training and research facilities are comparable with the best of the world. Advanced countries of the world have a very materialistic approach to recruitment. Their organizations evaluate an employee in terms of financial and other benefits accruing to the organization from him/her in furtherance of the objectives of their company. Thus the demand for products of these institutes indicates their worth. But with the expansion of knowledge, new branches of knowledge are coming into existence quite fast, making it crucial to have institutes of similar stature and repute in other fields as well. However, our average Indian university is hardly comparable to the world average performance of a University.
The 2% education cess levied through the Finance Act 2004, yielded Rs 6,910 crore in the financial year 2005-06. It went up to Rs 8,748 crore in the year 2006-07. The additional 1% secondary education cess announced in this year’s budget is expected to generate additional revenue of Rs 5,300 crore. The move has contributed a lot in raising finances for this noble national objective of affording education to a larger target group. But while the nation tightens its belt to contribute to the government’s financial resources for the needy by way of increased income tax, it is the duty of the beneficiaries of this cess to also contribute to the state exchequer as an acknowledgement. A man having been educated largely at the expenses of common man cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of commoners. He must pay back this debt and lessen a little of their burden by contributing to the works planned for the welfare of the poor and needy.
The task taken up by the UGC is huge: upgradation of existing infrastructure and increased enrolment of students to meet the project targets. But greater still is the job of ensuring competent faculty, devoted to the cause of education and who find interest and fulfilment in their teaching profession. Moreover uniformity in fee structure, content of various courses, admission policies, furnished laboratories, computers, modern teaching aids etc. available in private universities need to be examined and regulated. Such provisions of quality teaching and training in Indian universities may well reduce the obsession for foreign degrees, thereby benefiting the country.
CONCERN FOR THE DEPRIVED
Social harmony and homogeneity becomes easy in societies having equal opportunities for education due to its instrumentality in removing the veils of superstition, ignorance and in leading to understanding events and people in their proper perspective.
In post-independence era our country has made rapid strides in agriculture, construction and transportation, communication, information technology, space research, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, pharmaceuticals etc. But the fruits have not reached all sections of society: poverty is still rampant, prosperity is improperly distributed; and wretchedness, want and misery is writ large on the faces of vast multitudes. Over the decades, the rich have grown richer but the poor, poorer. We need to awaken a ‘social conscience’ among the affluent sections of society, something higher education must impel them to have: because so much of these developments have been offset by moral degeneration.
TRUE SPIRIT OF EDUCATION
Lack of education breeds superstitions and strengthens ill-founded beliefs dragging the human race away from intellectual progress and material advancement. But the education of every citizen must lead to attainment of moral stature and meaningful contribution to the healthy growth of society. Everyday we come across news of corruption, dereliction of duty, greed and unprofessional behaviour of people from all walks of life, but noticeably by highly educated people occupying powerful positions in public life. While an uneducated law-breaker may have his crimes limited in extent and consequence, highly educated criminals shake the very foundations of society. They indulge in offences of the most damaging nature: printing and circulating counterfeit currency, manufacturing and distribution of spurious drugs endangering life for many, forging documents to take possession of others’ properties and economic interests, usurpation of others’ assets, deceit and fraud and hundreds of other forms of making a fast buck with no consideration to morality or fair play.
Darkness abounds, vested interests have become a substitute for righteousness, stark materialism seems to have defeated ethics and extreme myopia has affected visionary approaches. But it must be remembered that it is only truth and justice which sustains nations in the endless march of time. A society not acting according to these time-tested values is hurtling towards destruction at a dangerously swift pace. It is especially imperative for a country like ours which has the motto ‘Satyamev Jayate’, to stop such degeneration, especially in the face of our claim to oriental values and flaunting a love for truth and spirituality.
The quality of education and infrastructure in the newly created varsities and colleges will have to be at levels higher than those at their inception. If some existing educational institutions are raised to the level of universities or ‘deemed varsities’, the standard of education should be upgraded to meet the norms of quality Assessment & Accreditation Council (NAAC) – an autonomous body established by the UGC. This is mandatory for institutions of higher learning to prevent the mushrooming of sub-standard institutions and, thus, dilution of standards.
Education must reach out to the most poor, deprived, marginalised and isolated groups of people, individuals and communities, uplifting them to access the mainstream national way of living with widened mental horizons and larger hearts. To this end, efforts must transcend barriers of cultures, customs, philosophies, conduct and perceptions of people in a composite society like ours. With a large variety and range of diversities in food and dress, festivals and linguistic spectra, each having a peculiarity and beauty of its own, the approach has to be based on the concept of ‘unity in diversity’; this alone can usher in prosperity and lay the route for India to become a superpower, playing its role as promoter of ever-living ideals of peace, progress and reconciliation in the world.