Highlight the structural flaws in India’s higher education system which is affecting the innovation and human capital of the country and is cheating the largest demography of its potential.

Published: December 5, 2019

The latest ‘India Skills Report’ highlights that only 47% of Indian graduates are employable. This raises questions about the Indian education system which is structurally flawed and underfunded. All this affects innovation, productivity and thus GDP growth.

India’s mammoth education system needs an overhaul and better understanding rather than looking at superficial data. For example, the increase in women’s enrolment does not necessarily transform into better outcomes. 

Problems with the system – 

  • Shortage of faculty : On an average faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50%. A gathering of 63 deans from top-tier institutions reveal that 80% of the faculty lacked quality. 
  • Increase in demand & stagnant supply : There has been a surge in institutions since the 2000s, while the number of students doing PhD has remained constant. There are over 1 lac Indian born PhDs in universities around the world who stay away due to the lack of salaries coupled with poor funding. An example to attract PhDs has been done by China where PhDs move back home with salaries in dollars and monetary incentives for published research. 
  • Lack of monetary incentives : The monetary incentives for academia are non existent with the Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP being one of the lowest in emerging economies. As a result the Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching.

What needs to be done ?

  • The government needs to recognise that higher education’s role in innovation and human capital is not ignored. 
  • The workers of tomorrow need the infrastructure to transition to the formal, non-agricultural sector, armed with higher education credentials. 
  • The Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) released in June 2019, aims to double education spending to 6% of GDP, and close the research-teaching divide in higher education. DNEP coupled with an ‘Institutions of Eminence’ programme started in 2018 will provide increased funding to some research universities. 
  • There is a need for a strong political will coupled with educational reforms to close in the education gap.

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