Tuesday, June 23, 2009


No country would be proud of being told that its higher education system is a " mask of phantom" as pronounced by no less an authority than the Supreme Court while considering the rot that has set in because of neglect by the successive governments. The provocation was the rabid commercialization of higher education by the private sector education mafias, many with high political connections. Is there no way this country can get out of the quagmire that is slowly devouring the very moral fiber of our society? It would have been an opportunity for the new government with a lawyer minister in charge of HRD to go for an introspection to understand what has gone wrong so far and what can be done to rectify the situation. But it may be too much to expect any thing dramatic in the immediate future as the priorities of GOI seem to be else where. There is speculation that GOI might scrap the ineffectual overseeing bodies like University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Committee for Technical Education (AICTE) and create another "Authority" in the hope that things will improve.

It is unthinkable how any educational institution can charge a capitation fee of Rs 5 million for a "seat" in their college when there is a structured fee regime approved by the GOI which is meant to be followed by all. The same Supreme Court had directed all private technical colleges not to levy any fee beyond what is laid down by the government. That many private players blatantly violate this rule must be due to their political and financial clout and helplessness of the student community. Imagine the mindset of a doctor physician coming out of such a college and probably he might justify unethical practices while serving innocent patients since he has to recover the 'investment' made on his education! Wide prevalence of mal practices by the medical profession in India, as reflected by many reports in the media, probably can be attributed to this 'cancer' in our education system.

UGC and AICTE have been blamed for granting recognition to new universities and technical institutions without proper scrutiny of their credentials under political pressure and those who set up educational organizations without prior permission are allowed to get away scotfree under the pretext that the future of students already enrolled would be in jeopardy if recognition is not granted. On the other hand good and reputed universities, which are far and few, are hamstrung by lack of academic freedom and too much centralized power vested on the overseeing bodies at Delhi. There does not appear to be any quality check on the teaching community and promotions are decided more on seniority than the intrinsic merit or academic achievements of the faculty. It is time an institutional mechanism is put in place like the Public Service Commission to evaluate the credentials of teaching fraternity for promotion into different grades of professors.

What is true with UGC and AICTE applies to scientific establishments also where corruption, red tapism, plagiarism, false and bloated claims and favoritism are eating into the vitals of the system. Borrowing a leaf from the bureaucrats, scientists are also becoming class conscious and the hierarchical ladder put in place for career improvement, is too alluring before them to climb at any cost to reach the top without really deserving it. Except for a few scientists in ISRO, DRDO and BARC, others have not exactly covered themselves with glory, measured by any yardstick. Patent system has been distorted to such an extent that they have become just numbers decorating the biodata of the so called inventors. The recent announcement by one of the ministers in GOI that the country has lost opportunities to file 2000 patents due to negligence by the scientists goes to show our mindset, viz 'get a patent at any cost'! As for academic research, less said better it will be. Policy makers must ask themselves the question as to why in the post-independent India, no scientist has been able to get the coveted Nobel price even once, in spite of the existence of one of the largest scientific communities in the world! It is time for introspection indeed.


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