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Emerging Role of Quality of Higher Education Institutions in Indian Education Ecosystem

A Note based on the deliberations and ideas generated in the “BW Higher Education Conclave” held at Bengaluru, on 1st September 2017.

BW Conference1 01092017

I must congratulate the organizers of “BW Higher Education Conclave” to catch the latest conceptual phrase of ECO-SYSTEM. We have gotten into the habit of thinking in clichés and this one is the latest one. Probably it means ecology of education, Or the interconnections, connectivity and inter-relationships which affect each other at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of all happenings in education in the country. Let me divide this dynamic structure in three parts for the sake of understanding:-

1. Environment that impinges upon higher education;
2. Factors impinging upon the quality of higher education; and,
3. Cultural factors encouraging or retarding the needed change.

As far as the Environment of education is concerned we have the following;
1. UNESCO statistics state that India has enrolment number of 28.6 million students against the US number of 20 million and China number of 34.1 million. A good number indeed. But when you break the Indian number of students you find that of the total enrolment number, 79.87 are enrolled in the Under Graduate classes and 11.45 % in the PG; only 0.34% are enrolled in M.Phil. and 0.10 are in the Ph.D. This is a strong indication of the dismal position of research-led educational degrees in the country which stands always, in every society, in direct proportion to the scientific research being conducted in the country. India shows a big time lag in its educational achievements, and that is where we all have come here to think where to go.

2. What affects economy of the country also affects the education. What the mixed economy did to India in the sixties and the seventies in the context of development; and which perhaps was the most needed thing for a newly independent nation like India to do; it also did to education. As a result, the country rightly has the right to boast about excellent beginning in engineering education, medical education, number of institutions etc. but all under the government investment but with the happy trend of free education. This investment is paying off today in having a vast army of our engineers and scientists nourishing a global economy, which is slowly turning in favourable aspects of the Indian side. But as much as the Indian economy remained under the control of the government, so has the education administration. As a result of this, private education could not be profit-oriented; and to this day remains an area of charity, free social work or an action of altruism. As a result of this, many times professionalism and economy of such ventures suffer.

3. Historic changes and impacts of technology on every aspect of individual, social and national life resulting in:-
a. Overall heightening of aspirations of the dominant population which is constituted of youth. Never ever before in the country’s history has there been so much HOPE; yes, hope of perceived opportunity with which comes a vibrancy in society that constitutes a formidable social capital;
b. Industrial growth, mainly in the small and medium industry- sometimes organized but mostly unorganized sector;
c. Widening of services sector of economy, and of Commerce; not only in their economic aspects but also of the initiatives linked with legal and legislative measures;
d. Changes in Lifestyle with new dimensions in entertainment, expenditure, consumption patterns and informal spread of knowledge and technology-savvy interaction and communication; and,
e. Several connected issues of transformation and change in society that all converge on the need and result of more education, information and knowledge.

4. The great divide. The great Digital divide; Technology divide; Literacy and Education divide; Prosperity divide etc. All these divides show up in widening of disparities in the country resulting in angst living side by side of the great Hope in this great age of Anger today.

5. Changing economic and employment relationships; and,

6. Assertion of the felt need of Quality Assurance, Accreditation, Ranking etc to mark, indicate and create a hot environment of competition, quality assurance and new compulsions to survive in an atmosphere of faster life style. It is also visible quite blatantly in the matter of higher education today.

Factors impinging upon the quality of higher education are too well known;
However it would be useful to revisit them not in a way of what lacks in our universities and higher education by way of measuring lack of quality but by reviewing on factors that lie behind the success of world class universities. Literature on education have mentioned time and again several such factors. However, the most important ones that have a way of providing high inspirational impetus to our institutions are:-

1. Pursuit of excellence; pursuit of the most ideal forms of learning, teaching and doing research. And here by excellence I mean what I said in an interview with Competition and Success Review sometime back:
“…….. excellence in education lies in our ability to elicit students’ quality response to our teaching. And in order to have better student response, the teacher will have to connect himself with students. … The intervening factors between a teacher and a student are not ignorance or lack of information alone, but a lot of other factors like culture, values, methods and above all integration. So the connection, the integration, ought to be complete…”
Student’s response to teaching carries whole gamut of possibilities and norms like questioning the cause, existence, volume of education, extant of possibilities to do more in one’s chosen field; and Research. Education is for the student and the researcher. It is all about making a student capable of crossing the Rubicon of one’s ambition or life goal. This is possible when the STANDARDS ARE VERY HIGH. So comes with “excellence” in education is the standard that our society will set with education. If our standards remain frozen for a long time, and if we do not revise our syllabi, modes of learning, interactional patterns, collaborations with other institutions of excellence and funding structures and methods, then we simply go “out of date”. Nothing in the world is worse than being called outdated! So, the first lesson lies here: GO FOR A NATION-WIDE REVISION OF SYLLABI AND RESEARCH NEEDS.

2. Finding new avenues of research; and being probing and creative in finding leading positions in our Science and Technology research. If we do not have this culture and apparatus of research, then we lag behind. Time, in the manner it is moving in the field of technology, is in utmost shortage today. Any time lag between our knowledge load and the best that has been achieved already, will put your institution down not by the measure of the lag but many multiples of that. Time lag works in its result in geometrical proportion. So, the second lesson is: BE LATEST. Revise the books, collaborate as much as possible; get, import or buy the latest knowledge posts and train our teachers to avoid time lag.

3. An excellent university selects, retains and incentivizes best teachers, researchers and students. Means are important for doing this. Let there be a nation-wide debate about how it is to be done. If there is a shortage of teachers in the country on a subject, we find ways of getting more.

4. Excellent institutions of higher education are not objects or products. They are evolving beings in an ecosystem of mutual benefit and cooperation. They have certain integral system of competence and capability of not only creating knowledge and information but also wealth. Patents, industrial inroads and collaborations, research-for-profit, knowledge production in forms of papers and books are some of the hallmarks of a productive ecosystem of knowledge and wealth. This factor of excellence in education demands a very intelligent policy response from the government and a positive attitude of civil society towards the profession of teaching. Do we rate the teachers high and give them the respect in the manner Germany and Japan does, or we treat them like salaried employees come to teach as the last resort of failures in the job market? Or have we created that situation for them?

5. Excellent institutions stand in a society that gives them full autonomy to work, to plan, to think and to execute their plan.

6. Excellence in higher education also demands excellence in education at primary and secondary levels of schooling. So, by implication, the factor that impinges upon the quality of education is a holistic way of improving education from the beginning.

Cultural factors encouraging or retarding the needed change in quality;
1. Attitude of society to education. This factor can best be dealt with by answering following questions:-
a. How do we rate our teachers? How do we rate them in terms of their salary, respect, autonomy in decision making and pursuing of excellence?
b. How does society- including government-respond to the new investors in education by law, by new legislations and by the proposition of equality in status Vis a vis the pre-established set up of higher education. Do we make the private universities- comprising whopping +31% of the total number of universities- feel at home in status and government rules! Here, while I maintain this question, I am also aware of the fact that excellence of its own has a strength of attraction. Some private universities in the country have begun well in the quality measure of education and standards. So, given the space, private investors in education have been able to create a new environment of excellence in education.

2. No change in any society is possible unless there is a consensus on what we wish to achieve. This consensus is somehow implicit in our democratic set up where legislation is done in the state or in the centre and initiatives are taken by both- the government as well as the people. Nothing works more and better than the collective will of the people which eventually turns into cultural mores. Agreeing with Dr. Mashelkar who in his famous book Re-inventing India gives a wonderful recipe for creating world class Research-led universities and institutions in India, I’ll list out a few cultural imperatives for our society and government to follow:-

a. High Political Will, Ambition and massive Funding like China has done;
b. We have got to agree that India needs still more than 31% investment in education to make education sector as a creative and self-sustaining for-profit sector of economy as well, and not just a matter or part of residual social work. Yes, the matter of plentiful of scholarships can be made a matter of not-for-profit especially for a number of students who do not wish to avail loans. India must be open to the idea of having more university campuses of excellent foreign universities.

3. Innovation is the key of Science and technology research. Society, industry and the University together will make a network of efforts to create demand for this, so that, in turn manufacturing can be augmented. So there will have to be ways of such collaborations as will dovetail our research and development into the industrial output.

4. Quality education demands quality teaching. As I have said earlier, if we do not have enough of quality teachers we should be open to hire from other places in globalized society. No globalization is complete unless the global ethos comes closer to portals of learning.

5. Inclusion of the kind suggested above, excellence of the kind demanded of the time, and expansion of the kind envisaged in the demand of education for the burgeoning youth population in the country—are all possible only if there is collective and political will in our governments, in our administration, and in our economy.

I have come across recently a paper circulated by the Yes Bank that emphasized on the term Glocalisation for quality improvement in education. This term GLOCALISATION, I think means thinking global and doing local simultaneously. You may find any number of votaries on this thought. However, we must be on guard about one thing, that the knowledge in its ultimate and eventual manifestation may not always be euro-centric. It is often said and emphasized on the name of quality excellence in teaching that the teachers are responsible for creating universal values among the students. Some modernists argue that the teaching should be value-neutral and that the teachers should most (and at least) fill the student’s mind with clarification about values while emphasizing that the facts ought to be value-neutral. But we also know that science and technology is value-neutral. Hence the only value that eventually ought to prevail is the value of unity in diversity where the world is one big family: vasudhaiva kutumbakam.

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Existence flows: Don’t compete; learn to cooperate!

We come with empty hands and we will go with empty hands, so what is the point of claiming so much in the meantime? But this is what we know, what the world tells us: Possess, dominate, have more than others have. It may be money or it may be virtue; it does not matter in what kind of coins you deal– they may be worldly, they may be otherworldly. But be very clever, otherwise you will be exploited. And every school, college, university, is rooted in the idea of competition.

A real education will not teach you to compete; it will teach you to cooperate. It will not teach you to fight and come first. It will teach you to be creative, to be loving, to be blissful, without comparing yourself to others. It will not teach you that you can be happy only when you are the first– that is sheer nonsense. You can’t be happy just by being first, and in trying to be first you go through such misery that by the time you become the first you are habituated to misery.

By the time you become ‘somebody’- you have gone through such misery that now misery is your second nature. You don’t know now any other way to exist; you remain miserable. Tension has become ingrained; anxiety has become your way of life. You don’t know any other way; this is your very lifestyle. So even though you have become the first, you remain cautious, anxious, afraid. It does not change your inner quality at all.

A real education will not teach you to be the first. It will tell you to enjoy whatever you are doing, not for the result, but for the act itself. Just like a painter or a dancer or a musician…

You can paint in two ways. You can paint to compete with other painters; you want to be the greatest painter in the world, you want to be a Picasso or a Van Gogh. Then your painting will be second-rate, because your mind is not interested in painting itself; it is interested in being the first, the greatest painter in the world. You are not going deep into the art of painting. You are not enjoying it, you are only using it as a stepping-stone. If you are too interested in the result, the ultimate result– that you have to become famous, that you have to be the best painter in the world, that you have to defeat all other painters hitherto– then your interest is not in painting; painting is secondary. And of course, with a secondary interest in painting you can’t paint something original; it will be ordinary.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says: Don’t think of the result at all. It is a message of tremendous beauty and significance and truth. Don’t think of the result at all. Just do what you are doing with your totality. Get lost in it, lose the doer in the doing. Don’t “be”– let your creative energies flow unhindered. That’s why he said to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because the way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.”
Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”

Real beauty is never created by you but only through you. Existence flows; you become only a passage. Don’t compete with existence… allow it to happen, that’s all!

(Inspired by Bhagvad Gita and Osho readings)

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Speeches and talks

 

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Time to redefine education: Children need to be taught ‘How to think’ not ‘What to think’

Time to redefine education:  Children need to be taught ‘How to think’ not ‘What to think’

 “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

“Education” means: to draw out that which is within you, to make your potential actual, like you draw water from a well. Education should prepare you to be yourself. Education is a bridge between the potentiality and the actuality. Education is to help you to become that which you are only in a seed form. Education should give people better ways of life, how to live more totally and more intensely; better ways of loving, better ways of beautifying existence — without any comparison with others — just for your sheer contentment.

Swami Vivekananda points out that the defect of the present-day education is that it has no definite goal to pursue. A sculptor has a clear idea about what he wants to shape out of the marble block; similarly, a painter knows what he is going to paint. But a teacher, he says, has no clear idea about the goal of his teaching.

Right now education prepares you to be an imitator; it teaches you how to be like others. This is miseducation. Right education will teach you how to be yourself, authentically yourself. You are unique. There is nobody like you, has never been, will never be. This is a great respect that God has showered on you. This is your glory, that you are unique. Don’t become imitative, don’t become carbon copies. But that’s what your so-called education goes on doing: it makes carbon copies; it destroys your original face. But never, even by mistake, does it says to you, “Just be yourself; relax and enjoy your being, and bring your potential to its maximum unfoldment.”

Today, all education remains part of the mind; it does not make you more alert, more conscious, it simply fills you with information. It treats you like a computer. It gives you a livelihood, but it does not give you life, and it does not give you love. Our whole education system is based on giving ready-made answers. Because of those ready-made answers you never develop your intelligence; there is no need. You ask the question and a computer teacher answers them.

Education is not bringing peace and silence and blissfulness to people. There is something missing in it; it is only education in subjects which do not touch your interior being at all. They may make you doctors, engineers, professors, but they do not give you the insight that can create a good human in you. Why from outside, borrowed knowledge is being forced into the minds of innocent children.

You go on accumulating degrees and inside you remain empty. Your degrees can befool people, may even befool yourself, but you cannot have the joy, the blissfulness, the peace, the silence, and the compassion. And unless education has two wings, it cannot fly in the sky in total freedom. Right now it has only one wing; the other wing is missing. Why is it missing?

We need an education which is nonviolent, education which is not only informative but also transformative, an education that will make you more of an individual and bring the best in you to its flowering. “Know thyself” must be the most precious education, and then you can become acquainted with everything else.

One-third of our education should be concerned with livelihood; one-third of our education should be concerned with our well-being — body, health, ways to stay younger and live longer. And one-third — the last and the most important — should be concerned with love, with death, and the secrets of life itself. Only then will we have a wholesome education. And through that education, we can create a man and a society which will be healthy, youthful, loving, soulful, overflowing with joy, always ready to share with anyone — because nobody is a stranger on the earth; the whole earth is one family.

An education is complete when it is inner and outer both. We have to find a human kind of education in the world; the education that exists is very inhuman. We have to find ways so that children can play in the sun and still learn a little arithmetic. That can be done — once we know that arithmetic is not so important as playing in the sun, once that thing has been decided, then we can find ways. A little arithmetic can be taught, and a little is needed. Everybody is not going to become an Albert Einstein. And those who are going to become Albert Einstein, they won’t bother playing in the sun — their joy is arithmetic, that is their poetry. Then it is different, then it is totally different; then the growth is not hindered and guilt is not created.

“Real education need to bring out what is hidden in you… what God has put in you as a treasure… to discover it, to reveal it, to make you luminous. Education is to bring you from darkness to light.”

(Inspired by the Talks of Swami Vivekananda and Osho on education)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Speeches and talks

 

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Quotes I Quote: a reflection of my learning journey

Since last few years, I had been sharing quotes on my Facebook wall.

Every quote has an originating past and a history behind it.

Recently, I compiled 365 of my favorite quotes.

On New Year, I am sharing the same with my fellow travelers of this virtual world…

you have helped me in learning a lot new in my life.

 Quotes I Quote” is a thankful note

to all teachers of my life!

QiQ (Quotes I Quote) - An eBook by KSV_Page_001

 

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