"Access to higher education is uneven with multidimensional inequalities in enrolment"

"Access to higher education is uneven with multidimensional inequalities in enrolment"
Abhay Anand | May 8, 2018 - 5:53 p.m. IST
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Abhishek Mohan Gupta, Pro-Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University, shares his thoughts on the role of private sector in providing quality education…

A globalized economy and the privatization of education institutions have transformed the nature of academia. It is acknowledged that education can break the intergenerational cycle of poverty within the lifetime of one generation by equipping people with relevant knowledge, attitudes and skills that are essential for economic and social development. The Indian higher education system is going to face an unprecedented transformation in the coming decade. This transformation is being driven by economic and demographic change. By 2020, India will be the world’s third largest economy, with a correspondingly rapid growth in the size of its middle classes. Despite significant progress over the last ten years, Indian higher education is faced with four broad challenges:

The supply-demand gap: India has a low rate of enrolment in higher education, at only 18 percent, compared with 26 per cent in China and 36 percent in Brazil. There is  a demand for higher education. By 2020, the Indian government aims to achieve 30 percent gross enrolment, which will mean providing 40 million university places.

The low quality of teaching and learning: The system is beset with issues of quality in many of its institutions: a chronic shortage of faculty, poor quality teaching, outdated and rigid curricula and pedagogy, lack of accountability and quality assurance and separation of research and teaching.

Constraints on research capacity and innovation: With a low level of Ph.D. enrolment, India does not have enough high-quality researchers. There are opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary working, lack of early research experience; weak ecosystem for innovation, and low levels of industry engagement.

Uneven growth and access to opportunity: Socially, India remains highly divided; access to higher education is uneven with multidimensional inequalities in enrolment across population groups and geographies.
The three central pillars of the government’s plans for education reflect these realities: expansion, equity and excellence. The Indian government is planning huge expansion at all the levels of education.

The education system is beset with issues of quality, access and equity, and the change is happening much faster in some states than others. The general standard of education in India is low. There are not enough places in schools, colleges or universities to cope with the enormous and increasing demand. Traditional approaches to meet this demand will not be sufficient in the time-scale needed.

With the rise of the middle classes, an increasing number of people need not rely on the state to provide an education service. As a consequence, India has seen a dramatic shift towards private provision across the entire education spectrum, including higher education.

The private sector is already playing a significant role in the development of education in India, and its influence and presence will increase substantially.

The private sector will continue to be crucial in the growth of higher education in India and already comprises 64 per cent of the total number of institutions. Currently, private universities are growing at 40 percent per annum and worth $6.5 billion. The private sector, which currently accounts for 59 percent of all tertiary enrolment, continues to grow rapidly, providing most of the professional courses, particularly engineering and management.  

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