REFORMING INDIAN HIGHER EDUCATION
FOR VISION 2020
Dr. Padma Shankar
Head, Dept. of Commerce,
Faculty of Science and Humanities
India has the third largest higher education system in the world, third only to the
USA and China, catering to about 10 million students through 0.5 million teachers and
more than 16000 higher education institutions. There were only 20 universities and 500
colleges at the time of Independence. There are 369 Universities at present comprising
2. 222 State Universities, 20 Central Universities, 109 Deemed Universities, 5 Institutions
established under States legislations and 13 Institutes of national importance established
by Central Legislation. Four new Central University Acts are in the process of being
brought in to force. In addition, there are 18,064 colleges including around 1902
women’s colleges. At the beginning of the academic year 2006-07, the total number of
students enrolled in the universities and colleges was reported to be 110.28 lakhs.
For the last one and half decade higher education in India has been facing crisis. The
crisis has resulted from the emergence of all kinds of mismatches between the supply and
demand of knowledge in the Knowledge market. Despite some efforts by AICTE,
NAAC, UGC, etc to maintain the quality, overall standard of higher education has
continued to deteriorate, thus reducing the value of academic degree from most
institution of higher learning. Education according to WTO enables students to face the
challenges of technological change and global commercial integration. Through its
capacity to provide skills and enable effective participation in the work force, education
is crucial to economic adjustment.
The researcher lays down certain reforms which can be taken up with earnest by all the
visionary top leaders of higher education. The points mentioned below may not be any
thing new, but it should be given serious attention by the leaders in Higher education.
Setting up more Universities, or colleges is essential to increase the access to higher
learning, but along with it the overhauling of the existing institutions is a dire necessity to
compete with global standards. With the government opening up the gates for FDI in the
Higher education sector, there are already 700 higher education institutions from all over
the world to set up office /shops in India. If the existing higher education institutions do
not undertake revival programme the sick educational institutions may have to close their
institutions. All ready many higher education institutions have closed down some of the
non viable departments because it is not economically feasible.
Reforms in Examination:
Evaluation is an integral part of learning process; it forms the basis for admission,
promotion and also influenced the selection in jobs. The evaluation system has been
3. reviewed by various committees like University Education commission (1948),
Education Commission (1964-66), National Commission on teachers (1983-1985);
Ishwarbhai Patel committee (1977); Acharya Ramamurthi Committee (1990) and the
major drawbacks cited are:
Annual System of examination in many Universities;
Measuring on Rote memory;
The present examination system provides grades and certification, but no
Validity and reliability of results are questionable;
100% option is still used to a large extent in essay type questions.
The University Education Commission in 1948 stated, “If we were to suggest a single
reform in education system, it would be of examination.” Till date there has not been any
remarkable improvement, despite various recommendations like internal assessment,
continuous evaluation grading system, semester system, national examination and open
book examination. Though 48.57% of Universities follow semester pattern and 32.86%
follows internal assessment, lacunae still exists. Continuous evaluation is meaning full
and it enhances the learning of students. Peer evaluation may also help to enhance
student achievement. Open book examination maybe considered as an innovative
practice. “Education plays a vital role in the formulation of the cultural environmental of
a society. It also acts as one of the main determinants of competitive advantage of
societies and nations.”
Students from institutions of higher learning are churned out to meet the following
industry needs from the Undergraduate and Post graduated students:
Ability to work in a team, Performance focus, Leadership skills, Analytical ability, Self
confidence, Risk taking, Capability to sustain work pressure, Flexibility, Interpersonal
skills, Ability to priorities, Dealing with an ambiguous situation, Global mind set,
Problem solving, Managing diversity and conflict, Communication and Presentation
skills, Thinking on their feet and Negotiation skills. The present examination system
does no have scope to test these abilities. The examination systems are to be designed to
test the ability and knowledge of students so that their future becomes ethical and
valuable to the society.
Examination centers reveal some common problems:
Question papers are not received on time.
Wrong question papers received
Inadequate remuneration to the examination staff.
Advance is not received on time or meager amount is received.
Senior faculty in many colleges refusing to take up Chief Superintendent Job,
because of loss of holidays or insufficient compensation.
Subject teachers teaching wrong syllabus and leaving the students panic stuck and
Sometimes Question papers reaches to the examination center at 10 pm in the
night, non availability of responsible staff to receive the papers.
The quality of education is denied as the one which provides an individual with an
enjoyable, stimulating and challenging environment in which ones knowledge is
furthered and is tested against nationally and internationally recognized standards. In a
study conducted in Karnataka University, to understand the perception of students on the
system of evaluation, 38% of professional courses students and 45% of non professional
course student viewed the current system of examination as inappropriate. They
suggested more frequent examination and an examination that tests all the knowledge and
similar to the ones adopted in other competitive examination. They also suggested more
transparent and accountable method of evaluation. The system of having internal
examiner in autonomous college should not be allowed because they tend to influence the
external examiner while evaluation. There should be uniform question paper pattern in all
universities and the examination should be conducted at the same time.
Examinations are like Damocles Sword above the students head. The student inculcates a
feeling of fear instead of a love and understanding for the subject. These days’
examinations are stress test and lack test of understanding, application and creativity.
Large number of really successful people, who have greatly contributed to the humankind
either failed their examination or barely managed to pass. Universities are merely
functioning as conductors of examination. Hence this job can be decentralized and
entrusted to the affiliate colleges laying down certain norms so that there is no bias. Test
or examination must test the application, knowledge like case studies and in case of law
5. creative argument should be examined. More of objective questions need to be
introduced so that the student read the chapters thoroughly.
The teachers must verify the syllabus and code with their respective universities time and
again and provide the correct information to the students. Valuation is not done by
competent persons. Some professors are doing valuation of 40 papers in half an hour.
Teachers, who have no knowledge of a particular paper, value those, answer papers.
Once a Xerox copy of an answer script revealed that the student has been awarded ‘zero’
for the correct solution to a problem. What a disgrace for the teaching fraternity when
the student sees such careless valuation. Hence this dilemma should be properly
streamlined to ensure quality and develop knowledgeable Young Indians.
India can boast of an exponential growth of engineering institutions in the recent past but
NASSCOM estimates only 10% if the engineering graduates are employable. This clearly
indicates that curriculum are devised and formulated with out considering the Industry
“Needs”. It is essential to include an industry person in the panel responsible for
formulating the curriculum. Curriculum should indicate, the teaching methodologies to
be adopted, -- Lecture mode, seminar method, group discuss method, workshop method,
tutorial methods, role-playing and simulation methods. The aim is to have effective
learning session. Thus the class rooms with students at age of 16-24 years are ignited to
become creative. These methods if not mentioned in the syllabus the teachers tend to
follow only Lecture Method. These methods will also ensure intellectually charged
climate. Curriculum should be devised with the objective that a “lot is taught and lot is
learnt.” These methodologies also develop certain skills, like team work, interpersonal
skill, and presentation skill among the students. “Students cannot be effective in
tomorrow’s world, if they are trained in yesterday’s skills.” Tony Blair. Curriculum is
expected to facilitate the students’ basic purpose of “learning to know and learning to
do”. NAAC indicates core values to be attained through curriculum contributing to
national development: fostering global competencies among students, inculcating value
system, promoting use of technology and quest for excellence.
Curriculum in Indian Universities lack challenge and opportunities for advanced learners.
Curriculum should provide applied and vocational components in the relevant subject. It
6. should also provide scope or interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary components. These
changes are not practiced because some faculty members may not have workload. The
faculty members may be trained to keep abreast with the latest developments so that they
A faculty is rated only for the academic pursuits and research and not for teaching
effectively. Teaching is the noblest of all profession, it involves significant contribution
to the world and helping the young to grow and develop. Teachers should be well
equipped to respond appropriately to the complex and constantly changing condition of
the classroom. Teaching in higher education is very demanding. It involves diverse
modes of instruction delivered to young adults. It is a creative endeavor encouraging
students to think for themselves and to promote intellectual curiosity. Teaches must keep
themselves intellectually active, by reading academic journals of their subject interest,
attending conferences and presenting challenging research papers for discussion. The
students must feel stimulated to think. The teacher should use appropriate teaching aids
and speak with clarity in simple language so that everybody may understand. Very
important is, English being the universal language, a University teacher should always
speak effectively in English. Use of vernacular language should not be permitted inside a
classroom. A University teacher should speak fluently, making eye contact with the
students, displaying a relaxed mood. The teacher must be dynamic and enthusiastic.
Students must be encouraged to explore experiment, innovate and experience the joy of
innovation. A teacher can display all this only if he or she is competent. Doctorate or
presenting more researchers papers cannot make good teacher. If the teacher is good in
the subject, confident in the disposition and manages the class with ease, then every
student will ensure not to miss that teachers class. To have such teachers is “students’
An important component in any education system is the faculty. “Continuous
enhancement and up gradation of a conceptual knowledge, practical skills and
competencies of faculties in their respective specialized subject in order to endure a
quality education to younger generation has obviously become the great concern of all
the academic institutions across the globe.” Rabindranth Tagore said: “A teacher can
7. never truly teach unless he/she is learning himself/herself. A lamp can never light
another lamp unless it continuous to burn its own flame.” After acquiring degrees/ or
University titles college teachers cannot put a full stop to learning. With the information
revolution there are abundant sources for self learning. Teachers may be permitted to take
sabbatical leave to gain industry experience. It will be a pride to the teacher when the
taught succeeds and settles with good career, interaction with such student will provide
new knowledge to the teacher. Some time fruitful interaction with colleagues and
subordinates provide new knowledge and skills which may be adopted in a teaching
environment. Seminars for faculty development provide knowledge for up gradation
regarding new conceptual development in subject areas, teaching methodologies and
evaluation techniques. Teachers in addition to teaching should undertake research and
consultancy services. They can extent their technical knowledge to business enterprise
which benefits them most. Teachers should undertake collaborative efforts with other
educational institution within the neighbor hood to enhance their wisdom. Live projects
with NGO’s can also be undertaken so that the society is also benefited by their expertise.
For such extension services teachers must be provided some incentives.
Reforming Value education:
Why is it that the students when they reach college are not instilled to stand up, when the
teachers walk in or when a guest arrives for a pogamme? This is the basic mark of respect
that can be expected from a student. Punctuality, honesty, integrity, sincerity are some of
the intrinsic value which a university students must develop.
“The Ramamurti Committee report (May 7th, 1990) of GOI accorded highest priority to
education both as a human right and as the means for bringing about transformation
towards a more humane and enlightened society.” In the words of John Sloan Dicky:
“The end of education is to see man made whole, both in competence and in conscience.”
Alarming daily reports of crime, terrorism and suicides by the youth indicate that some
where our education system has faulted. Dr. Radhakrishnan said, “Education is not
limited to the imparting of information or training of skill. It has to give the educated a
proper sense of values” Higher education is preparing the youth to contribute to wealth
generation and to overcome physical, mental, social, moral, national and international
crisis. Every institution has ethical values as their motto but neither the teacher follows it
8. nor inculcated among students of higher education. Students must be made sensitive to
human issues. Though NSS, Rotract clubs, Quality clubs and other ethical related club
exist but these are only doing the routine programmes like, blood donations, health check
up giving water on days of function and so on. Every class should set aside one day in the
curriculum for value education through field works. They should be made sensitive to
elderly issues. In this commercial world much importance is given to self and we live in
an age of confusion—faith do not hold the same relevance, conflict between thought and
action , theory and practice, intuition and reason. Some where down the line, values took
a back seat. Only commitment, contemplation and sacrifice from the teaching fraternity
can bring about a transformation. Massification of education without quality will only
lead to chaos and an uncivilized society. India offers an edge in cultural heritage and
value systems compared to other developing countries, this needs to be strengthened.
Vivekananda believed that the means of work are as important as the end – if the means
are ethical, the end is bound to be productive. Curriculum in higher education must
harness youth creatively without extinction of human values. To meet these ends
teaching fraternity may have to work beyond 180 days in a year. The researcher has
observed a few institution working only 27 and half hours a week (just one day and 3
hours in a week). The time is just sufficient to give briefing on the syllabus. If school’s
can work for more number of days in a year, why not the institutions of higher learning?
The role of a modern teacher is that of a philosopher, guide and friend and not merely
instructors. They are primarily responsible with iron hands. Teachers must teach
tolerance, coexistence and mutual respect. Every learning institution should have core
values which need to be percolated from the head of the institution to the teachers and to
the teachers and to the students. Teachers and administrators of higher education
Institution should be role models while inspiring and instilling values.
Reforming the infrastructure:
An institution for higher learning needs to have certain amenities like ventilated clean
class room with sufficient fans, blackboard / unbreakable chalk, clean toilets, and
equipments to do experiments, availability of consumables at the appropriate time, safety
from fire etc. Many institutions have cosmetic exteriors but when we walk through
9. certain corridors, we are charged by urinal smells, dusty offices (place where the non
academic employees sit may be diagrammatically clean) and piled up papers of yester
years. Many institutions do not have safety system in place from fire, but have been in
existence for a number of years. There is no drinking water facility; if available the tank
would never have been cleaned for years. Fans may need patting or tapping to rotate.
During rainy season there may be water logging inside the institution sometimes the
toilets are also clogged. The Supreme Court has ordered that environmental science is a
compulsory paper for the undergraduate students – management of various institutions do
not take measures to keep the environment inside the campus clean. It is kept
meticulously clean only during important events to show case. The library racks would
be dusty giving the reader persistent respiratory problems. Updated books or more
volumes of books are not purchase on time. Teachers generally depend on specimen
copies by publishers for teaching and references. Playgrounds are used as parking lots.
In this information age computers and internets is a must for all knowledge disseminating
institutions. But the same may be available in the office and computer lab. Internet
facility may be available only partially. There are innumerable paper work and record to
be maintained in every institution of higher learning. These can be simplified by
information technology. Some institutions do not have even OHP/LCD for presentation.
If at all it is available it may be one or two which is insufficient and available to favorites
of the Head. In some colleges’, good quality food is not provided in the canteen or
hostel. The food must be tested periodically by competent authority. If found not suitable
for consumption then license must be confiscated.
Higher educations are the back bone for wealth creation. The number of students getting
enrolled must be enhanced. More Universities and colleges must be opened. Local
private partnership may be sought to open new institutions of higher learning. Top
management must take all steps to ensure that teachers are motivated and contribute to
the enhancement of quality. The government is appointing many commission and
committee to study the lacunae in the system of higher learning time and again. The
suggestion given by the committee are not implemented or delayed. Ultimately the end
user – the students suffers. With globalization and availability of easy loans for
10. education the student have a wider choice and do not hesitate to go abroad to undertake
Higher learning. If India wants to accomplish Vision 2020 this brain drain is not a good
The reforms suggested above are problems undergone in the ground level and though
these are highlighted time and again nothing much has been done to bring about a radical
change. The National Knowledge Commission has laid down a lot of concrete
recommendations. But will these recommendations be implemented or will it remain to
be a study for researchers? Will these recommendations be overlooked for political
advantage? The country failed to give significant attention to higher learning since
independence though it was emphasized repeatedly. Hence the countries intelligent
knowledge capital was lost to Silicon Valley.
Will the higher educations Institution provide a favorable ambience for study, research
and development? Will these be immediately corrected and Vision 2020 is achieved?
Only time can say whether the contents of this research paper will be eradicated or
rewritten again as another research paper again after a decade.
1. NAAC Report
2. Annual Report, 2006-2007, Ministry of Human Resources Department,
Government of India.
11. 3. Chandra B P Singh, “Reinventing Indian Universities: An Approach”,
Universities News, Volume 45, No-41, October 08-14, 2007.
4. Kumar S, Patel R C and Mehta A K, “ Experiments with continuous evaluation
and open book examination”, University News Volume 45, No: 29 July 16-22,
5. Mony R V S, “Environmental concerns on Quality of Higher education”,
University News Volume 45, No: 2, Jan 8 -14, 2007,
6. Shitole G.V, “Vigilance Squad and university Examination system”, University
News, Volume 44 no 46, November 13-19, 2006.
7. Bagalkoti S T, Bhramarambika Devi,Naveen Hegde, “Students Perception of
Quality in Higher Education : A Case study.”, University News 44 No: 46, Nov
8. Anil K Agarwal,” Beyond examination reforms” University news, Volume 44 No:
28, July 10-16, 2006
9. Sridhar M K , Ramesh N; “Academia-Industry Intervention: Towards A
conceptual Perceptive.”, University News, Volume 45, No: 19, May 7-13, 2007
10. Sungoh S M, “Effective University Teaching” University News Volume 44, No:
50 Dec 11-17, 2006
11. Patel M.R; Arolkar D B , “ Faculty development : An avenue to Quality
enhancement I the Higher Education” , University News Volume 44 No: 25 June
12. Kurup M. R, “Curriculum Design: A reality check in affiliating universities “
University News Volume 44, no: 50 Dec 11-17,2006
13. Sukhjeet kaur ad Sini S K, “ Value based education: solution of today’s
problems”, University news 44 no: 49 December 4-10 , 2006