Education Blog 2016-11-09

How policy reforms can improve education quality: Industry leaders speak

The main cause of concern is to ensure quality across all educational institutions. Bringing all of them together towards a particular strategy is not an easy task.

How policy reforms can improve education quality: Industry leaders speak

India holds an important place in the global education industry. The country has more than 1.4 million schools with over 227 million students enrolled and more than 36,000 higher education institutes. India has the third largest higher education systems in the world. However, there is still a lot of potential for further development in the education system.

India has become the second largest market for e-learning after the US. The sector is currently pegged at $ 2-3 billion, which is expected to touch $ 40 billion by 2017. The distance education market in India is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 34 per cent during 2013-14 to 2017-18. Moreover, the aim of the government to raise its current gross enrolment ratio to 30 per cent by 2020 will also boost the growth of the distance education in India.

At the India-UK Higher Education Summit on Higher Education Policy Reforms & Internationalisation, some of the bigwigs of the education sector in India and UK including Prof. Furqan Qamar, Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities; Prof. Anton Muscatelli, Vice Chancellor, University of Glasgow; Dr. Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council; Sumita Dawra, IAS, Principal Secretary- Higher education, Government of Andhra Pradesh; Prof. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Universities UK; Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British council India and Vijay K Thadani,, Chairman, CII National Committee on Higher education &Vice Chairman & Managing Director, NIIT Ltd spoke on how policy reforms can be used to transform education quality.

The overall scenario of higher education in India does not match with the global standards. Hence, there is a need for an increased assessment of the Quality of the country’s educational institutions. Traditionally, these institutions assumed that Quality could be determined by their internal resources, namely faculty with an impressive set of degrees, number of books and journals in the library, an ultra-modern campus, and size of the endowment, etc., or by its definable and assessable outputs, like efficient use of resources, producing uniquely educated, highly satisfied and employable graduates. This “value-addition” approach, does not measure the competencies students develop through the courses offered. The competencies are recall, understanding, and problem solving.

Talking on the quality of higher educational institutes, Prof Qamar said, “The main cause of concern is to ensure quality across all educational institutions. Bringing all of them together towards a particular strategy is not an easy task. First, 27 per cent graduates from higher education institutes do not have decent jobs. There persist a high number of graduates who are unemployed or underemployed, the reason for which is poor quality. Second, educational institutes should have an adequate number of faculty. The cost cutting measures adopted by institutes also impacts the quality of an institute as the cost cutting begins with removing the faculty. This problem arises due to unavailability of sufficient funds. Thus, this poses a grave problem.”

“There is also a need to upgrade our infrastructure and give freedom to operate to the concerned departments,” he further added.

Giving the international perspective on the quality of education, Jo Beall said, “The demand for international education continues to rise and thus they face many challenges relating to quality. Rankings play an incredibly important part in attainment of quality and have been very useful. Many institutions in South Africa and other countries go in for self-assessment procedure by benchmarking their own quality against year-on-year performance. This is a very interesting approach in improving the quality. Shortage and lack of qualified teachers is another aspect for judging quality of an institute. Places like Finland insist on masters’ degree for teachers. They pay high salaries and give respect to teachers which actually leads to improving the quality of education.” She further added, “National system should be respected and recognised internationally if the quality needs to be improved. The more national systems speak to each other, the better they become.”

As put by Vijay Thadani, “Industry academia relationships are key to providing quality in education. Quality is not defined by getting into a job but by the ability to grow in that job. Curriculum should be balanced and practitioners with industry experience should be hired.” He summated his contribution by saying that, “Universities should have industry insights and industries should have university insights.”

Thus, policy reforms are very important for improving the quality of education. Tie-ups of organisations with universities for research are highly likely to bring about changes in education all over the world.

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