Quality education: Karnataka has a long way to go

BENGALURU: Although Karnataka is expected to soon become a hub for higher education with the number of higher education institutions increasing three-fold in the last 10 years, major challenges need to be tackled to bring them on par with international standards to ensure quality skilled and technical manpower. Not just professional, even colleges offering under-graduate courses, and the number of universities — both public and private — are growing in numbers.

But, when we assess their quality and capacity to cater to the students and compare these with the list of world class institutions, they fall short. Despite having hundreds of higher education institutions and state-run public and private universities, only seven from the state were able to apply for the Prime Minister’s Office’s scheme to establish institutions of eminence.Although the number of engineering colleges is high with the state producing over 60,000 engineering graduates every year, not all of them are employable, as per a public statement given by the state higher education minister at a recent event.

One of the important challenges before the state is to bring public institutions on par with private institutions, both in quality and infrastructure. According to Prof R S Deshpande, director, Ambedkar School of Economics, “We are degrading the state education system and making it second rate, not just in higher education but even in primary and secondary education.”

Another major challenge before the state is to increase the number of private institutions even while restricting rapid commercialisation of education. “There necessarily is no objection to higher fees and (influence of) strong commercial forces, but the education institutions are impoverished both in terms of resources as well as in terms of intake,” says Deshpande. “Over time, the public educational system has been degraded as second rate system to private/autonomous systems.”

He says the Karnataka education policy by Jnana Ayoga promised to create a high quality education system with advanced motivational teachers, and technology with seamless network of education institutions. “It is necessary that the state significantly invests monetarily and in terms of human resource in the education sector to bring it on par with private educational sector so that fair competition is created,” explains Deshpande.

The quality and pursuit of excellence in educational establishments, delivery of education as well as its outcomes are questionable despite these efforts. Even in the private sector, the quality of education is not given as much attention as is given to its flashy programmes and fashionable events. These are far drawn away from the needed knowledge depth.

Even the child care institutions in the private sector are known to be money-spinning enterprises with the least efforts to build the child’s personality. Not that these issues are unknown to policy-makers or that they do not find mention in official documents; but even today, education features the exclusion of children from socio-economically backward sections who remain on the periphery, say experts.

VOCATIONAL SKILL DEVELOPMENT

Another field is vocational skill development, and it is true that in the recent past, we are talking about ‘employability’, ‘skill development’ and ‘vocational training’. And yet, experts say, we cannot build a bridge between private skill-imparting institutions with the state-sponsored skill development institutions. Today, it is official that development of skills — both soft and employable skills — need to be focused on. We are, however, far from achieving this and the state government is doing little in this direction.

PRIVATE Vs PUBLIC EDUCATION SECTORS

When it comes to primary and secondary education, the biggest challenge is commercialisation of the private sector; and public schools shutting down as 15% of the government school children are getting admissions in private schools under the Right To Education quota. Even government-run pre-university colleges are struggling to compete with private players and experts feel that even they will be forced to shut due to an increasing demand among students to get admitted to private colleges. According to the experts, in the future, the state needs to focus on providing quality- and skill-oriented education; encouraging pure and basic sciences; stopping the mushrooming of universities, both public and private; providing infrastructure at public schools and colleges, giving importance to research; and controlling private players from primary level where the mind is set on commercialisation.

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