The present paper is an attempt to understand and explain the process of transforming higher education in India. The status quo, the change, obstacles in change and ways to overcome those hurdles- we will be looking at these factors keeping ground conditions in mind.
Students, parents, employees, officers, policy makers and society at large are the main stakeholders of higher education in India.
Our discussion should be rooted to the ground. Education has the potential of shaping the mindset of the people. If harnessed well, education can bring about desired changes in the mindset of the people and also our society. We are an ancient civilization. We are a rich civilization. However just as still water starts stinking, out societal patterns, thinking, behavioral patterns and religious practices need overhauling. India needs positive change. New Education Policy is a valuable document. The soul lies in implementation. Words are of no use if dedicated and inspired people take them to work. The success of NEP lies in implementation.
The classroom has to be a combination of traditional classroom and digital aids. While direct face to face I traction with students cannot be replaced, we need digital connection to boost our understanding and dissemination of knowledge. Every single class, section, group of students must have regular online interaction with each teacher. Google suite technology needs to be placed.
Libraries have been an important component of the university system. However, libraries in theory present format are dying. While money is being pumped to keep them alive, library purchases have become dens of corruption to some extent. The old guard is not ready to change. They don't want to accept that the present-day library has to be a physical structure as well as a digital structure. Libraries have to reach researchers and students through email, social media and online line management systems.
The idea is to take both the modes hand in hand. Senior professors, experts from other universities and abroad can regularly reach each student through technology. This is an incredible opportunity.
Hostels have to be modern, smart building housing students, researchers and outstation faculty. Along with basic sports and physical activity facilities, hostels must be internet connected. The Internet can work as an aid to security issues and also psychological issues of the residents.
Sivasankar Prasad writes, and I quote
"The libraries of the 21st century are no longer simply storehouses of manuscripts and librarians are not mere bookkeepers, and custodians. Libraries have expanded, rethought, and redesigned and now they are providing variety of information services using modern and cutting-edge technologies and reaching their users through a social networking and social media than ever before. We live in the information era, an era portrayed by technological advancements, extended access to digital information resources, use of cloud storages and social media."
Higher education must have physical activity as an essential part for each student. Even IITs need good physical activity and proper dress sense for students. Unkempt persona, smelling students with long beards and jumpers cannot be a mark of intellectual heights. This adds to mental health. We must have well dressed and physically healthy students.
A huge problem for higher education in many states of India is the frustrated and demotivated guest faculty. Guest faculty ought to be divided according to their publication, research work, overall performance and number of years of service. They should be counted in the NAAC accreditation process. While it is true that the set standard of NET cannot be diluted for regular faculty appointments, relief to guest faculty in some form or the other will boost the health of the institutions in a big way.
Lasting change comes from a slow, gradual but definitely and determined effort. Overnight dramatic changes do not work. Persistence is the key. We have to have people who follow NEP in letter and spirit, who believe in it. Regular faculty must be trained from time to time. I believe that even aptitude can be inculcated. If the ideal is persistently presented, teachers will imbibe it. Regular training has a role in motivating teachers and keeping them in a positive frame of mind.
More than eighty percent of Indian students’ study in state universities. More than eighty percent of funding goes to central universities. This anomaly has to change. We have to realize that institutions have been categorized for administrative convenience. All students are from this country. All of them deserve good education. Needs of state universities must be met. Their seed money is ridiculously less. That needs to change.
Inculcation of national pride is an important aim of higher education. Indians must learn to respect themselves for who they are. Our scriptures, particularly Vedas, Upanishads, and Srimad Bhagwad Gita should be a natural and integral part of education. The problem with Indians is their hurt sense of pride due to centuries of colonial rule. The thinking Indian has gone. What we have today is an Indian without proper civic sense and sensitivity. Loudspeaker religion has taken the place of meditative religion. People are busy beating the eardrums of others. Religion has lost deeper meaning. Our Sanatana tradition is basically a spiritual and sensitive tradition where meditation, thinking, vegetarianism and respect for fellow beings and flora fauna is deeply embedded. That form of religion is lost. Blaring loudspeakers and glaring show-off have made religion cheap. Torturous bhajans sung on cheap film song tunes have become the norm. It is for the education system to re-establish the thinking Indian. The best part of Sanatana thought is that it is flexible. It is not rigid. It is not coded. We can have our own Isht Dev. We can start our own clan, gotra. This level of modernity is inconceivable in other religions. That sense of self-worth must be reinforced. We must prepare generations who are sensitive towards their duties, climate, gender, children and old people. We must create an environment where sensitivity comes naturally. Religion is not cacophony. It will come only when inferiority given by colonial rule is erased. A person suffering from inferiority hurts others most. She or he hurts the environment most.
It is therefore imperative that we erase colonial imprint and establish self-respecting, thinking Indian. Common public often listens to Katha Vachaks. Institutions of higher learning can think of preparing new age Katha vachak who include national pride, gender sensitivity and climate issues in their discourse.
"The Harvard Business School's Laxmi Iyer did a formal study on the colonial legacy in India and found it lacking... Controlling for selective annexation using a specific policy rule, I find that areas that experienced direct British rule have significantly lower levels to schools, health care and roads in the post-colonial period. I find evidence that the quality of governance in the colonial period has a significant and persistent and often negative effect on post-colonial outcomes."
Art can play a role in transforming society. Lawrence Ferlinghetti says, "I really believe that art is capable of the total transformation of the world and of life itself... if art 9s going to have an excuse for - beyond being a leisure- class plaything - it has to transform life itself."
Students of all streams should have a feel of some art form. We can give our students projects like preparing their family tree. They will know about their ancestors and family pride. They can be given painting, and / or writing projects that improve national sense and commitment.
Transformation through higher education is a noble aim. We should pursue it. We must have a dedicated set of Professors and institutional heads who are ready for change. They must understand the functioning of silent, gradual and definite change. Higher education can and should work as a catalyst in the rise of India.
* Modern Technologies for Reshaping Libraries in the Digital Era 2017 . Sivasankar Prasad ed. grin.com.
*Long term Impact of Colonial Rule: Evidence from India - MIT web.mit.eduiyer
*Was British Colonialism Good or Bad for India - Max Fisher November 17th, 2010. fromtheatlantic.com
*Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Beat Poet and Small Press Publisher, February 23rd, 2021. npr.org
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