Former Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju has called for a re-evaluation of the higher education system in the country.
Earlier this week, Katju delivered the keynote address at the inaugural session of the North Zone Vice Chancellors’ conclave, in which he expressed his disappointment in the level of research carried out by many Indian universities and the rampant levels of plagiarism, which he felt raised a number of questions concerning the level of professionalism being maintained across higher education in the country. He continued by saying that despite the large amount of money being put into the education system, the standard of living has not seen an increase among the masses.
“The time has arrived to re-evaluate the functioning of our institutions of higher education so that they can benefit all sections of Indian people,” he said.
“Most of the money spent in India is going to institutions of higher education like IITs and as a result there is hardly any money available for primary and basic education, particularly in rural areas. The level of facilities in primary schools is reflected in the pathetic level of classrooms, and working conditions of teachers,” he said.
While the theme of the conclave was ‘Research for the betterment of the human society,’ Katju felt that the majority of research being conducted at Indian universities were on topics that hold “no relevance whatsoever to the myriad social, economic, scientific and technological issues faced by the country”.
The guest of honor, Lt. Gen S S Mehta, former director general, Confederation of Indian Industries, followed Katju by suggesting the six fields that research should be focused on include water, energy, health, education, employment, environment and technology, in order to “add to national security.”
Indian students across the country are leaving, lured away by a better academic environment and higher quality teaching. One student, Ankit Khullar, left Delhi University after being unable to find a course he wanted to take, choosing instead to finish his degree in finance in the US. While he did return to India to complete his masters degree, he said he returned to the US after “two wasteful years.”
“The primary reason (to go back to the US) was the low perceived quality of education offered in India and my interactions with graduates from various universities. The idea was not just to attain a degree, but to learn,” Khullar told IANS.
In addition, he said that MBA courses offered in India were on topics covered as part of his bachelor’s degree, or were “outdated” in comparison to those offered in the US.
However, even once Indians have that education, finding a job is yet another hurdle. According to 2011 census data, around 47 million young Indians between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed.