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Major Redesign of Higher Education Needed for New India

Authored by: Prof. P.B. Sharma, VC, Amity University Gurugram

For a long time, we in India have been hankering about talented school pass outs opting to go abroad for higher studies in Universities in US, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Ukraine and Europe. Lately China has also emerged as a major destination for quality higher education and research in Science, Engineering and Medical Sciences. Not much, however, could be achieved during the last 20 years in heralding this exodus of young India. It makes a shocking revelation that as per the official response to a starred question in Rajya Sabha as many 11,33, 749 Indian students have been reported as studying abroad while USA with 211930, Canada 215720 and UK 55465 remain as major attractions in the west for higher studies, UAE with 219000 has recently emerged as the single largest destination for higher education abroad as per the July 2021 data of the Ministry of External Affairs.

The Covid-19 did cause a major disruption but could not deter Indian young minds from opting for higher studies abroad. As such, we need to seriously ponder over what is that which attracts the talented young India to opt for higher studies abroad. Firstly, the universities abroad have over the years created a culture of quality education and research and have modelled their degree programs to offer higher flexibility and autonomy of learning. While here in India we are still preparing to respond to the challenge of major reforms in higher education system.

The Pandits of New Education Policy, NEP-2020 may argue that the new policy offers a major solace in this regard but forget that the young India today requires more than a policy, an environment to innovate and excel. The structured framework of curriculum offered at the national level is not the solution, rather the wisdom of the university academia should recognize and realize that new age education is radically different than the education system we have practiced in our universities so far. The learners today do not want to go to a classroom to learn what already exists in the books of knowledge and in the e-knowledge reservoirs that are easily accessible to the young minds so well accustomed to use technology for learning. They are not to be told what to learn and how to learn. They are looking at the university education from the point of view of obtaining a greater insight into the realms of existing knowledge and draw inspirations to sketch and scale new horizons of knowledge and technology innovations that arise from such an insight, says eminent academician Prof PB Sharma, who has been the Past President of AIU.

The young India is also highly conscious of the role of the universities to empower them with the capabilities to scale the unscalable and not only develop capabilities to solve today problems of hunger, unemployment, heaps of air and water pollution as also to create a world of good governance, sustainable and inclusive development that guarantees everlasting peace, harmony and happiness in abundance. For the young India that comprises of over 600 million below the age of 25, mere promises and policy frameworks are no attraction. They want an environment to flourish as 21st century professionals who shall create the future they want to live in New India. Unless India and its luminaries in high offices recognize these aspirations of young India, the exodus of talent and brain-drain from India will not be heralded.

It further, becomes difficult to digest that on one hand for 11 Lakhs plus students, India is prepared to spend Rs 2,06250 Crores (assuming that on average 25000 US Dollars are spend by each student studying abroad) annually while the annual budget for education in India is at Rs 1,04278 Crores which covers primary, Secondary as well as university education that includes a hefty amount for the IITs and other institutions of eminence. Just imagine if we spend the 6% of GDP on education and allow philanthropy from society and corporates into education and motivate our luminaries in the universities to redesign university education in India to respond to the new aspiration of young India, India would not only divert its young India talent towards India, but shall also create Advantage India in higher education that Mother India needs to make education a powerful vehicle of transformation of the Nation and the society.

Let it also not be forgotten that higher education is no longer for enlightenment as in Astoma Sadgamya, Tamsoma Jyotirgamya, it needs to go beyond to create capabilities competence, character and attitude to create a bright, green and sustainable future for the people of India and the humanity at large. The young India is looking at education as a valid means of higher-end employability and wealth creation through self-employment and startups.

The object of the universities in this new age of knowledge and innovation cannot thus remain confined to the dissemination of information and knowledge. The universities in true sense have to be redesigned as centers of education excellence, Industry and society relevant research, fostering an environment of a greater insight into the existing knowledge and inspiring students to engage in translating knowledge into know how and giving accelerated rise to startups in plenty.

In Amity University we are conscious of the aspiration of young India and have seriously engaged our academia to offer a flexible curriculum that nurtures interdisciplinary perceptions apart from engaging into cutting edge research and innovations even at UG levels. Our directorate of R&D ensures sustained focus on outcome of investment on research and its relevance to industry and society, says Prof Sharma.

A radical departure in the way education is imparted and research is carried out in Indian universities is called for to retain talented young India in its universities as also to attract a good number of foreign students who are desirous to come to India, India can and thus should not fail to offer a cost effective, quality higher education and avenues for research while at the same time value adding its education with its age old Vedic tradition of truthfulness, compassion, peaceful coexistence and respect for diversity for which India has been known from the time immemorial, says Prof Sharma who has been the Founder Vice Chancellor of DTU and RGPV and a Former Professor of IIT Delhi.

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