Privatization of Professional Education in India
IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION
Education is the process of instruction aimed at the all round development of boys and girls. Education dispels ignorance. It is the only wealth that cannot be robbed. Learning includes the moral values and the improvement of character and the methods to increase the strength of mind.
HIGHER AND PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION IN INDIA
Higher education in India is gasping for breath, at a time when India is aiming to be an important player in the emerging knowledge economy. With about 300 universities and deemed universities, over 15,000 colleges and hundreds of national and regional research institutes, Indian higher education and research sector is the third largest in the world, in terms of the number of students it caters to.
However, not a single Indian university finds even a mention in a recent international ranking of the top 200 universities of the world, except an IIT Kharagpur ranked at 41, whereas there were three universities each from China, Hong Kong and South Korea and one from Taiwan.
On the other hand, it is also true that there is no company or institute in the world that has not benefited by graduates, post-graduates or Ph.D.s from India be it NASA, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Bell, Sun, Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Cambridge or Oxford, and not all those students are products of our IITs, IIMs, IISc/TIFR or central universities, which cater to barely one per cent of the Indian student population. This is not to suggest that we should pat our backs for the achievements of our students abroad, but to point out that Indian higher educational institutions have not been able to achieve the same status for themselves as their students seem to achieve elsewhere with their education from here.
While many reasons can be cited for this situation, they all boil down to decades of feudally managed, colonially modelled institutions run with inadequate funding and excessive political interference. Only about 10 per cent of the total student population enters higher education in India, as compared to over 15 per cent in China and 50 per cent in the major industrialised countries. Higher education is largely funded by the state and central governments so far, but the situation is changing fast. Barring a few newly established private universities, the government funds most of the universities, whereas at the college level, the balance is increasingly being reversed.
THE PRIVATISATION EXPERIENCE
The experience over the last few decades has clearly shown that unlike school education, privatisation has not led to any major improvements in the standards of higher and professional education. Yet, in the run up to the economic reforms in 1991, the IMF, World Bank and the countries that control them have been crying hoarse over the alleged pampering of higher education in India at the cost of school education. The fact of the matter was that school education was already privatised to the extent that government schools became an option only to those who cannot afford private schools mushrooming in every street corner, even in small towns and villages. On the other hand, in higher education and professional courses, relatively better quality teaching and infrastructure has been available only in government colleges and universities, while private institutions of higher education in India capitalised on fashionable courses with minimum infrastructure.
Nevertheless, successive governments over the last two decades have only pursued a path of privatisation and deregulation of higher education, regardless of which political party ran the government. From the Punnaiah committee on reforms in higher education set up by the Narasimha Rao government to the Birla-Ambani committee set up by the Vajpayee government, the only difference is in their degree of alignment to the market forces and not in the fundamentals of their recommendations.
With the result, the last decade has witnessed many sweeping changes in higher and professional education: For example, thousands of private colleges and institutes offering IT courses appeared all across the country by the late 1990s and disappeared in less than a decade, with devastating consequences for the students and teachers who depended on them for their careers. This situation is now repeating itself in management, biotechnology, bioinformatics and other emerging areas. No one asked any questions about opening or closing such institutions, or bothered about whether there were qualified teachers at all, much less worry about teacher-student ratio, floor area ratio, class rooms, labs, libraries etc. All these regulations that existed at one time (though not always enforced strictly as long as there were bribes to collect) have now been deregulated or softened under the self-financing scheme of higher and professional education adopted by the UGC in the 9th five-year plan and enthusiastically followed by the central and state governments.
This situation reached its extreme recently in the new state of Chattisgarh, where over 150 private universities and colleges came up within a couple of years, till the scam got exposed by a public interest litigation and the courts ordered the state government in 2004 to derecognise and close most of these universities or merge them with the remaining recognized ones. A whole generation of students and teachers are suffering irreparable damage to their careers due to these trends, for no fault of theirs. Even government-funded colleges and universities in most states started many “self-financing” courses in IT, biotechnology etc., without qualified teachers, labs or infrastructure and charging huge fees from the students and are liberally giving them marks and degrees to hide their inadequacies.
It is not that the other well established departments and courses in government funded colleges and universities are doing any better. Decades of government neglect, poor funding, frequent ban on faculty recruitments and promotions, reduction in library budgets, lack of investments in modernization leading to obsolescence of equipment and infrastructure, and the tendency to start new universities on political grounds without consolidating the existing ones today threatens the entire higher education system.
Another corollary of this trend is that an educational institution recognized in a particular state need not limit its operations to that state. This meant that universities approved by the governments of Chattisgarh or Himachal Pradesh can set up campuses in Delhi or Noida, where they are more likely to get students from well off families who can afford their astronomical fees. What is more, they are not even accountable to the local governments, since their recognition comes from a far away state. Add to this a new culture of well-branded private educational institutions allowing franchisees at far away locations to run their courses, without being responsible to the students or teachers in any other way. This is increasingly becoming a trend with foreign universities, especially among those who do not want to set up their own shop here, but would like to benefit from the degree-purchasing power of the growing upwardly mobile economic class of India. Soon we might see private educational institutions getting themselves listed in the stock market and soliciting investments in the education business on the slogan that its demand will never see the sunset.
The economics of imparting higher education are such that, barring a few courses in arts and humanities, imparting quality education in science, technology, engineering, medicine etc. requires huge investments in infrastructure, all of which cannot be recovered through student fees, without making higher education inaccessible to a large section of students. Unlike many better-known private educational institutions in Western countries that operate in the charity mode with tuition waivers and fellowships (which is one reason why our students go there), most private colleges and universities in India are pursuing a profit motive. This is the basic reason for charging huge tuition fees, apart from forced donations, capitation fees and other charges. Despite huge public discontent, media interventions and many court cases, the governments have not been able to regulate the fee structure and donations in these institutions. Even the courts have only played with the terms such as payment seats, management quotas etc., without addressing the basic issue of fee structure.
PRIVATIZATION OF TEACHER EDUCATION
“The destiny of India is now being shaped in her class rooms”. This is the opening sentence of the Kothari Education Commission report (1964-66). What kind of destiny has been actually shaped during the last sixty years? There are thousands of schools without primary needs. The position of teacher’s economic condition is also poor when compared to USA teachers. Majority of teacher educational institutions are under the control of private sector. The main aim of private organizations is to get profit.
It is not only students but also teachers who are at the receiving end of the ongoing transformation in higher and professional education. The nation today witnesses the declining popularity of teaching as a profession, not only among the students that we produce, but also among parents, scientists, society and the government. The teaching profession today attracts only those who have missed all other “better” opportunities in life, and is increasingly mired in bureaucratic controls and anti-education concepts such as “hours” of teaching “load”, “paid-by-the-hour”, “contractual” teachers etc. With privatisation reducing education to a commodity, teachers are reduced to tutors and teaching is reduced to coaching. The consumerist boom and the growing salary differentials between teachers and other professionals and the value systems of the emerging free market economy have made teaching one of the least attractive professions that demands more work for less pay. Yet, the society expects teachers not only to be inspired but also to do an inspiring job!
PRESENT STATUS OF TEACHER EDUCATION
Permission is granted by the NCTE regional centres to number of teacher education institutions/colleges especially in the private unaided sector. Take for example, in Andhra Pradesh, there are more than 300 B.Ed Colleges in the private unaided sector and there are less than 20 B.Ed colleges in Government and aided sector. Is there any kind of supervision either by the university authorities or by the government officials or by the officers of NCTE with regard to availability of the staff during college days, proper attendance of the students, proper organization and running of different programmes of B.Ed Course? It is a doubtful validity. The first and foremost supervising authority for running B.Ed programme is the concerned University. The concerned officials of the university have to make frequent surprise visits to the B.Ed Colleges under its Jurisdiction. If any loopholes identified, necessary steps may be taken for rectifying them at the earliest possible time; then only the quality of B.Ed programmes can be improved.
In the most of the private B.Ed. colleges in the state of Andhra Pradesh, there are two or three teaching staff only. In some of the universities, there are no selection committees for these colleges. The managements will run the colleges according to their whims and fancies. In majority of the situations, they are charging Rs.6000/- for a set of B.Ed. records which cost about Rs.300/- in the market. They will pay less than Rs. 5000/- to the teaching staff. They are collecting huge amounts from the students under the heads; ‘practical examinations’, ‘study tours’, etc. they allow less than 20% attendance students to the examinations by collecting huge amounts from them. Some private management resort to all types of fraud activities. Then, who will set right these things? The first and foremost is the concerned affiliating university, then the state government and NCTE at the regional level and national level. Honesty persons with surprise visits can make the situation better.
India is a developing country. Different types of religious people are living in the country. We have thousand years of tradition and culture. Now we are living in the technological and modern world. Because of globalization a lot of change occurring. Education is a primary need for all in the society. It is the duty of government to provide free education for all up to 14 years. All people have no opportunity to study higher and professional education. Now majority of professional educational institutions are under the control of private organizations. Especially all teacher educational institutions are in the private sector. The main aim of private sector is to get profit. How it is possible to expect quality education? It is not possible to study Medicine or Engineering course for a poor student in the society. It is necessary to establish more and more professional and higher educational institutions in the country. Teacher is a national builder. He has a capacity to change the world. There are some benefits and losses due to privatization of professional education. But India is a developing country. It is better to establish all professional educational institutions under the government sector. Then only it is possible to study all type of courses for poor section children and India will become developed country in the world.