This Article is From Jun 16, 2014

Budget 2014: Hike Spending on Higher Education, Make it Graft-free, Say Experts


The Narendra Modi government should spend 8 per cent of GDP on expansion of higher education in the country and free the sector from the malaise of "capitation and corruption", education experts observed in Pune on Saturday.

"Based on our experience, we want drastic changes in the country's education policy aimed at expanding higher education and making it free of capitation and corruption," Dr G Vishwanathan, president of  the Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI), a premiere institute which aims at setting standards of quality education, told reporters.

Briefing media on the deliberations at an EPSI Western Region meeting held here, he said the recommendations made during the EPSI interactive session with experts in the field would be incorporated in a policy note to be submitted to the Prime Minister and HRD Ministry before the budget session.

Highlighting an urgent need for expansion of higher education, Dr Vishwanathan specified the medical sector saying there was a staggering shortage of medical as well as nursing education seats in the country, prompting students to go abroad.

"Only 50,000 medical seats (for MBBS) are available against the demand for 5 to 6 lakh. The situation in nursing segment is worse with a shortage of 20 lakh seats," he added.

The aspirants for medical education and nursing training in the country, were leaving the Indian shores and travelling to China, Russia and East European countries to fulfil their ambition, Dr Vishwanathan said, adding, "In the troubled Ukraine, there are 5,000 Indian medical students facing hardships."

Even after coming back to home country, it becomes difficult for the students who study medicine abroad, to start their practice due to the technicalities involving the eligibility tests here, he noted.

Listing the ills plaguing the country's education sector, Dr Vishwanathan said a forceful plea would be made in the EPSI memorandum to the new government for granting autonomy to the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Citing an example of interference with UGC recommendations, he noted that the Tandon Committee set up by the previous UPA government under HRD minister Kapil Sibal overruled certain UGC findings in respect of improper functioning of the deemed universities in the country.

The EPSI has also proposed abolition of the present system that offers higher education in affiliated colleges where the infrastructure is not conducive to quality education.

"All over the world higher education is offered on university campuses except in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The government should abolish the affiliating system and grant autonomous status to the colleges that have completed ten years," Dr Vishwanathan stated.

This would enable these institutions to revise their syllabi and update knowledge to the global level, he added.

Referring to the gross enrolment ratio (GER), he said it too stood at 18 to 19 per cent in India as compared to the world average of 27 per cent. This applied to even educationally advanced states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

"We have 14 crore youths aged between 18 and 23, out of which, less than three crore are enrolled in 700 universities," he noted.

The government should also discuss the miserable ranking of India in a global report on Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) in Parliament to seek remedial measures, he said.

He also said the issue of fixing the fees should be left to the educational institutions and not to state governments, with an emphasis on transparency in the fee structure as only competition in the sector would bring down the cost of education.

Mr Vishwanathan, joined by EPSI chairman Arun Nigvekar, strongly advocated a "single window approach" at the government level to facilitate easy clearances on matters concerning educational approvals and institutional recognitions.

"In professional education we need to convince the present government to adopt a single window coordination system for all educational councils," said Mr Nigvekar, who chaired the session attended by various institutional representatives.

Mr Vishwanathan expressed confidence that it would be possible to unshackle the educational sector from the menace of capitation and corruption if central and state governments as well as private institutions made a coordinated effort to achieve that goal to make India a world leader in education.

The EPSI's current exercise of interacting with the stakeholders in various parts of the country to elicit their views for incorporating them into the proposed memorandum to the central government concluded with the last meeting in western region held on Saturday.