Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rahul Gandhi at FICCI on education – Visionary speech on building modern India

Rahul Gandhi’s speech in FICCI evoked a debate over corruption, since it is convenient for any opposition leader to attack Rahul Gandhi forgetting the fact that he has a convicted (please note it’s not accused, but convicted by court) cabinet minister and other few charge sheeted. It’s pretty ironic that the same person speaks on a length about corruption, forgetting that he never even attempted to appoint a Lokayukta in his 10 years government. 

However, I am not going to be writing about double standards displayed by the opposition party and its leaders on corruption since, it is been discussed all over the media numerous times.

In these sound bytes over corruption, many are missing the visionary ideas of Rahul on education. As many visionaries have stated in many contexts, and one that came across my attention in the recent past is what Nelson Mandela stated once “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

In my opinion what India needs today is a weapon, to change, change to be a greater nation, which is only possible through a better education system in place. We are a country with immense potential. As a developing nation human resources is our greatest asset, as one foreign diplomat pointed out , manpower is an asset for India (50% of Indian population is below 25 years of age)  like crude oil for Saudi Arabia .

Are we really using this asset effectively? Probably no; I say so because the Government data suggests that only one out of every seven children born in India goes to college. This nation suffers from both a crippling quantity, as well as a quality challenge when it comes to higher education.

India’s huge pool of youngsters is its biggest strength. Unfortunately, India is far from having its act together to better educate the youngsters; most of our initiatives in the aspect of education are literacy oriented. Our focus have been always to make our country a literate nation, while that is important, its equally important to create leaders, socialists , scientists, visionaries so on and so forth. And these have to churn out in big numbers if our nation needs a change, a change to create history like Kabir, Tagore and Ramanujan’s. This is only possible through inducing a vision in every individual from the inception of their education.

Like 3D visions are always better in terms of clarity and depth, we require a 3 dimensional approach; dimensions that involve the Education system, Industry and the Government, equally involved and responsible for building a brighter nation.

I echo what Rahul Gandhi rightly pointed out, while responding to the question on skill set requirement Vs availability of the same. The biggest challenge India is facing in terms of the quality of the output in our education system is that the Government, the industry and the educational system are acting parallel. While it’s very important; that we need to rid ourselves of the idea that academia and industry are separate silos.
I echo what Rahul Gandhi stated “we need to rid ourselves of the idea that academia and industry are separate silos”. Each sector (Government, Industry, Education system) have its vital role play, collaboration is the key.

The sad part is, we are ready to collaborate with some of the best institutions in the world but we do not want to collaborate within ourselves. There is a lack of synergy between institutions within the country. Researchers performing outstandingly well abroad, lose their willingness to perform as soon as they land in India. Indian education will not progress, develop or evolve into a dynamic field unless the problems inherent in it are identified and solved.

While majority of us point fingers at government for any fall outs, however in terms of education and skill development, government alone cannot be blamed, all the sectors have a role to play

Industries need to collaborate with different educational institutions; go hand in hand in developing individuals with at most caliber. We do see in some pockets, industries do collaborate with educational institutions; predominantly it is in terms of campus recruitments. However, this is at a stage where the output (candidates) is ready, and any change to the quality of the individuals cannot be impacted. Therefore many a times the industries compromise on the quality of the recruits, to meet the demand of the workforce required. The major fall out occurs here, where the man power is not effective or efficient enough to develop the industries, hence impacting the nations growth.

These can be curbed to a greater extend by Industries being part and parcel in the development of the students from their inception in to an educational institution. A tie up with certain number of colleges in playing a vital role in building careers for students. They can help the education system develop curriculum that are in sync with the current market/industry requirements, keep a check on the quality of the students year on year, and collaboratively churn out individuals who would fit the demand.  This would in a big way help our country retain the interest of the students, since they have a career path laid. And in turn help us retain the talent within the country.

Statistics says “India's research output as global share of scientific publications was a mere 3.5 percent in 2010 whereas China's share was 21 percent in 2007”. Industries do have a major role to play in terms of increasing the expenditure on R & D.

Today’s education system / educational institutions, are majorly concentrating on the success percentage of the students, in relation to marks they obtain in the exams. And these success percentages to a greater extent are used to advertise the school/college to get more admissions in the coming year.

 Educational institutions have much bigger role to play, precisely to say more responsible role to play in bringing up highly skilled individuals. Today we encourage memorizing not conceptualizing. There is very few understanding the subject, however majority just knowing the subject.  This has led to many degree holders in different fields of education, however the standard of these educational qualification being poor. We cannot have innovation, simplifications and effectiveness in any field of work, if we do not have individuals who are not conceptually strong on the subject or the field they are working in.

The education system need to change the outlook of the education pattern today, it should shift from more of theoretical, to more of practical education based on the industry requirement. Bring in the latest technologies to provide arena to the students to develop their skill sets. Look out for tie ups with industries to understand the requirement at a work force level, and bring in curriculums based on the market requirements. The QS World University Rankings, an annual listing of the world’s top universities, had no Indian institutes in the top 200 of its recently released global list for 2013. Education in India stands at the crossroads today. Neither normal linear expansion nor the existing pace and nature of improvement can meet the needs of the situation. We are not aspiring for excellence; we need a change and change at the earliest, having such a big pool of youngsters and not being able to be the best on educational aspect is a bad state a nation can be in.

While Industry and education system have its own major and collaborative role to play, the government has to act as a catalyst to facilitate the requirements.

The government of India has always been actively present in terms of educational aspects. Drawing on Nehru’s vision, and articulating most of his key themes. He concentrated on higher education, which would drive quality engineers, scientists and researchers, as a result are the IIT, IIM, AIMS and IISC. He also focused on secularism and national integration through education. Post which the Kothari Commission (1964–6) was set up during Indira Gandhi government to formulate a coherent education policy for India. The Indira era concentrated more on science. The Kothari Commission: education for modernization, national unity and literacy.  In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi announced a new education policy, the National Policy on Education (NPE), which was intended to prepare India for the 21st century. The National Knowledge commission by the UPA government that focused on five key areas of the knowledge paradigm – access to knowledge, knowledge concepts, knowledge creation, knowledge application and development of better knowledge services. 

Yashpal committee in 1993, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, set up a National Advisory Committee, with Yash Pal as Chairman, to go into the issue of overburdening of school children. The report of the committee, entitled "Learning without Burden", is now regarded as a seminal document in Indian education. In 2009, MHRD set up a Committee on Higher Education with Pal as the Chairman. In its report, the Committee laid emphasis on the idea of a university, and advocated a number of major structural changes

While most of it is in place, majority of the recommendations are on implementation stage or the phase of these initiatives is at a snail speed. The Kothari commission suggested 6 percentage of the GDP has to be spent on education however it never happened and the latest is 4 percent. If we could have implemented the same, India would have been far ahead in terms of education as well as the quality of individuals. Government should increase their investment in building more research centers, educational institutions. This would help in widening the talent pool and increasing the opportunity in India.

Industry, government and education system has a common responsibility in recent decades in the preparation of a highly skilled workforce to preserve the nation’s competitiveness and economic opportunity in response to rapid technological change and increasing global competition. Everyone has a role to play. Its time to stop passing the bug and start preparing to kill the bug.

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