India has a decrepit education system. The government run schools are so bad that only the poor want to send their children to them. Amir Khan’s show presented an ugly picture of India’s schools: schoolgirls from a lower caste are forced to clean toilets. The colleges and universities have great infrastructure but remain cesspools of politics. Still, they maintain certain standards, but are also woefully inadequate to serve the population.
Private colleges and universities do not. I worked with a small institute, Gian Jyoti Institute of Management and Technology (GJIMT), Mohali, for a while and was amazed at how it functioned. Unqualified staff, awarding marks to students who had never attended classes, filling the library with useless books that were thrown away by other libraries… the list is endless.
To get rid of the budgetary support that the government provides to Indian colleges and universities and also to increase the number of institutes, many private colleges and universities were allowed to come up. The hope was that the private sector would lift educational standards just the way it has transformed India’s telecom, automobile and other sectors that were opened up to private investment during a wave of reforms.
The hope has not been justified. Leaving aside institutes started by big industrial houses, India’s private universities and colleges are an unruly lot, awarding degrees and churning out a large number of engineers and managers who are seen as “unemployable” by industry. They lack skills, are taught by unqualified teachers, and are unable to find jobs. Government institutes, for all their faults, still maintain a lead in education: an engineer from IIT or state engineering college is seen as a much better bet than an engineer from a private institute.
Why did the private sector in India fail in education? Several reasons can be attributed.
1. Failure of regulatory agencies: The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), that is supposed to regulate private education, is a toothless dog. It has awarded permission to open colleges to anyone who had a little money – from automobile dealerships, sweet shops and school owners. Without any commitment to education, they used to opportunity to corner land allotted to them by the government at subsidised prices. Far from providing education, the owners of colleges and universities wanted to make a quick buck by churning out graduates as fast as they could, whether they learnt anything or not.
2. Confusion of roles: The private sector cannot decide whether the student is a learner or a customer. Most treat their wards as the latter. As a result, neither the student, nor the institute, wants to go into academics. Treating their students as customers, institutes try to please them in every way so that they do not create trouble while they are with the institute.
3. No investment in knowledge: It is not strange that all the commercials of private colleges on television and in press only talk of “ultra modern” campuses, big buildings and the numbers of acres of land they have. There is no talk of knowledge dissemination or academics.
4. Unqualified teachers, sub-standard inputs: To cut costs, universities appointed unqualified and untrained teachers. It is possible to find young teachers with salaries of Rs 8000-10,000 per month at many private institutes. Very often they are graduates of the same college. Teaching is conducted by giving notes to pass exams, there is little learning.