IITs are a big name in India. Such is the reputation of IITs in India that Indians quote it, no matter what education discipline they are talking about. As a result, of all the individuals taking education in India, an IITian is the most intelligent, the most able and the best. Even though this appears partial to some, as it in a way robs the due credit from other institutions and disciplines; still one thing is for sure, India managed to create a world class institution in the form of IITs. And up till a couple of years ago; IITs were indeed the home to India’s best brains. Although it still is, as IIT JEE or new JEE examination format, is still aiming at the top rankers; but some believe that giving 60 percent weigtage in IIT Advanced has tilted the balance in favour of a disciplined student, rather than the razor sharp intelligent student with average marks in class 12th.
Irrespective of where you find yourself in this IIT quality of student debate; one thing you can say for sure is that India created a world class institution in the form of IITs.
That said, the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world university rankings, puts an approval stamp on this belief. In the latest QS rankings, the IIT Delhi’s electrical engineering department has been ranked the 37th best globally, the highest entry from India across all categories. QS is a reputed British education and career advice company, which has been ranking Institutions for some years now. Covering 30 subjects, the QS rankings by subject are the largest of its kind.
Two places down in the same List,at 39th place, is another IIT deparment, the IIT Bombay’s civil engineering department. IIT Delhi’s mechanical and aeronautical engineering has been positioned 43rd. Indian Institute of Science, Bnagalore (something conventional science graduates can look up to) ranks 50th in materials science. IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi and IIT Madras are all ranked in the global top 50 in at least one of the four areas of engineering: civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical.
Notably, not a single university or department, apart from IITs, has made it to the top 200 altogether in 12 of the 30 disciplines covered in the rankings. Important subjects without a single top-200 Indian institution include medicine, law, economics and education. As expected, the best performances from Indian universities came in engineering discipline only (expected as that’s where India focused on since independence).
Apart from engineering and Science, Delhi University and JNU have made it to the top 100 in the world for English literature, while the only other Indian entry in this category are Jadavpur University and University of Kolkata both of which are among the top 151-200. But even here, IIT has a presence. IIT Bombay’s linguistic department also made a place among the top 200 in literature category.
Chinese universities on the other hand have achieved 37 top-50 rankings in 23 subjects, compared to just four for India.
What do the rankings reflect on India’s higher education?
According to QS head of research Ben Sowter,
“These rankings reflect the progress made by the IITs in recent years in engineering, but in many other areas of the academic spectrum India is lagging way behind its international competitors,”
Yes, quite true. To understand this, ask yourself a question, Why does a student who wants to become a movie director, goes to US to learn film making? OR ask another question, why Indian scientists, educated entirely in India don’t get a Nobel price?
The Answer to these questions is, as India doesn’t have world class Institutions in these disciplines.
Ben Sowter further adds,
“India faces numerous challenges as it attempts to expand participation and increase university funding. These rankings make it clear that it is some way off achieving a truly internationally competitive higher education system.”
Taking the debate even further, India has developed a higher education system where there are an insignificant small number of top institutions; and truck loads of mediocre and poor institutions/Universities. The mediocrity or poor quality of these institutions/universities is because the policy makers have not focused sincerely and adequately on the reason of the existence of these second fiddle universities. And from the looks of it, it appears that except for some elite Institutions/universities; the higher education system in India is existing there simply to act as a safety valve. A safety valve to release the pressure of youth discontent. To keep the Youth engaged in an activity as long as possible.
Let I give you an example. The largest share of class 12th passouts in India, enroll in Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science(BSc) and Bachelor of Commerce(BCom) programs in Indian Universities. Since all three are not seen as professional courses, the three years spent in the university are just a waste, as the person has to top it with either a PG or some other professional course (like an MBA). In contrast, those who do BTech or BE or BPhama become employable in just 4 years after +2. I used the words “Waste of Time”, because an education system which expects every graduate to do a PG; or some professional course after graduation to become employable is either foolish or has misplaced priorities. The reasons being: Firstly, Not every graduate has the aptitude to pursue a PG degree; secondly, if a person has to do an MBA (a business degree) after doing a BA or BSc degree, then the very existence of BA and BSc degrees is questionable.
This is a serious dichotomy. Dichotomy, as except for IITs and some other few Institutions/Universities, we are not focusing on the quality of students in other institutions/Universities. The reason for policy makers simply overlooking this dichotomy can be either lack of focus or something strategic (if you can’t give job to all, why not engage them as long as possible, before the youth demands a job).
An example here will help.
A 90 percent student can’t get an admission in BSc Physics in Delhi University; while a 45 percent student gets admission in BSc in one of the many lower rung universities. This means that even if the policy makers make the University Syllabus and faculty quality uniform across all universities in India (which is currently the situation); the quality of final product or final pass-out will not be the same. This explains why a DU pass-out, for most disciplines is employable while a graduate from other universities is not.
What can be the Solution:
Indian education is not the complete case of inactivity. After all, establishing even a few world class universities for a 121 crore country, getting its freedom only half a decade ago, is NOT a small feat. The country and its policy makers have done a remarkable work in Higher education. Only thing which is lacking are the priorities.
And the first priority in this regard, is to make Higher Education (College Education) in the country Quality oriented. That’s, making the University Syllabus and faculty quality uniform across India is great. But what about quality of students? If the policy makers see the 80-90 percent cut-off for admissions in top universities like DU; then why some other university is admitting 45 percent holders to similar courses.
Excuse me for that, but the more mediocre or less educationally bent students you induct in Universities, the more discontented Youth you will get. As at the end of it, people don’t compare their marks but their degrees. (The human logic here goes like this: If a DU degree holder can get a job, why can’t I; I have done double MAs but still not getting a job). Here, the students shouldn’t be blamed, as they took admission in a University course, to become employable. They are not bothered by their marks and aptitude; as the university didn’t bother about the same, while admitting them.
So this brings us to the Question: What is the Solution?
The solution is to have a Pyramid shaped Education System — wherein maximum students should be at school Level. Class 11th and 12th must be removed. The curriculum of class 11th and 12th must be put under the University Education. Students must do class 10th and after that they are given 2 years vocational gap. During this vocational gap, they are made to take small jobs (the Governments must help the students get the jobs, get adequate training for them and as well pay an allowance from their side to those who take a job) .
What will happen with such an arrangement is, only those students who have aptitude, and more importantly the willingness/passion/desire to pursue University education, will go to the universities (they will simultaneously be preparing for University entrance exams during 2 years vocational gap; Government can help them prepare for that as well). Most other students who see very less importance in education, will continue with jobs like waiter, mechanic, newspaper vendor, shop salesman, fitter, orderly etc. and try to build their lives from there. Many of these will marry and move to humble living. Here it’s important to understand that, the policy makers will have to increase the class 1oth passing out age to 18 years. As such an arrangement will be successful only when students are treated as adults during the vocational gap. Only when they are seen as adults, they will be able to live away from their parental homes, and will be able to decide for themselves whether to go for university education or be happy with the jobs they are doing during the 2 year period.
How Elite Universities are made:
In the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world university rankings, the US and UK universities dominate the list, with Harvard ranking number one in 10 subjects, ahead of MIT (7), University of Oxford (4), UC Berkeley (4), University of Cambridge (3), Imperial College London (1) and UC Davis (1).
Even the List sees a strong performance of leading universities elsewhere in Asia, with institutions including National University of Singapore, University of Tokyo, Kyoto University Hong Kong University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology making it to the global top 10 in several disciplines.
This brings us to an important question: How Elite Universities are made?
Simply By focusing on these:
1) Having an ever evolving curriculum
2) Having uniform curriculum across universities
3) Having Best faculty
4) Inducting the Best students (here best means having aptitude and willingness to work hard)
5) Funding adequately
India seems to be doing satisfactorily on all the points; except that it is not inducting the right students. The moment India becomes uniform in Student quality across universities and sees Higher education as a specialist area (an exclusive area), we will see many Indian universities in the Top ranks, globally. And tell you that will increase the number of patents, journal submissions and inventions India files annually. And that will indirectly benefit people of all education levels.