Mass Student Exodus Means Crisis for Indian Higher Education

World Bank warns of a global “learning crisis” as millions of young students in low and middle-income countries face the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life due to failing schooling systems. Source:

Vineet Gupta, co-founder and managing director of the oldest classroom preparation institute in India, has shared his growing concern regarding the shortage of credible higher education options in India.

Gupta’s organisation, Jamboree, offers comprehensive preparation programmes for exams like GMAT, GRE, SAT, TOEFL and IELTS, and is also the most trusted name in India for helping students gain admission to foreign universities.

The company was founded in 1993 as an attempt to bridge the information gap on education overseas, and began its operations from an inconsequential garage in Delhi. Now, Jamboree coaches more than 15,000 students from centres in 14 cities across India, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kathmandu.

In recent years however, more and more talented Indian students are choosing to leave their native country in favour of a reputable education overseas. Concerned at the rising exodus and decline of opportunity in India, Vineet Gupta became involved as founder and trustee at Ashoka University.

In February this year, the Indian government planned to increase the higher education participation from 18%- a relatively low level compared to the 26% in China and 36% in Brazil- to 30% by 2020, a target that would require an increase of 14 million spaces over the course of six years.

Meeting this ambitious target is no mean feat and the British Council observed that, “By some estimates, even if India succeeds in its target of 30% [gross enrolment rate] by 2020, 100 million qualified students will still not have places at university.”

Over the past three decades, the Indian government has increased the higher education budget, boosted teacher salaries and placed significant investment in the number of colleges and universities throughout the country in an attempt to improve its education system.

Despite this, the country continues to see a staggeringly high number of student drop-outs, paired with an ever-growing number of educated unemployed and mounting concern regarding the country’s declining standards of teaching.

From this we can draw two conclusions: the productive capacity of the system has gone up whilst the relevance of the product has gone down. The teacher has been rehabilitated, but the degree has been devalued.

The soaring irrelevance of the degree in India is not due to the degree itself; it is a problem that is ingrained deep within the system. Indian higher education is dictated by a structure that focuses on quantitative extension as opposed to qualitative administrative or structural change. Such substantial investment in education infrastructure not only fails to address the integral flaws in the system, but also masks and, arguably, even intensifies them.

Vineet Gupta spoke to Business Standard about the trends in foreign education options, the numbers and the lack of regulation for private universities in India.

He said: “As per our assessment, at the undergraduate level around 40,000 students leave in a year. This was around 15,000 in 2008…In the early-to-mid-1990s, it may have been a couple of thousands.

“Affordability, loan availability, exposure and the inability to make it to universities here are some of the push factors.

Via Forbes

“At the undergraduate level for a certain socio-economic lot, applying overseas is almost a back-up. It’s a given. Our own system is to blame.

“What do you do with a student who gets, say, 91 per cent or even 85 per cent? The country has virtually no education to offer them. Then if the option is between say, a Rajdhani College or Wisconsin or UC Berkeley, there is a stark difference in the education gained.

“It’s a classic case of being over-regulated but not governed. The law is there. But there is a problem with the criteria for evaluation itself…It is an input-based evaluation and that too quantitative, not qualitative.

“We need output based evaluation of these universities. There is too much focus on building, infrastructure and the number of teachers (as opposed to quality), number of laboratories and so on. If the focus shifts to quality, many new universities will face problems in getting notified.

“With 60 per cent of high education in private hands, it’s high time someone started looking into this…the government’s attitude is: “Oh, it’s private. What can we do?”…Why can’t we have an Education Regulatory Authority of India?

“I personally believe we have a huge crisis when it comes to higher education in India on our hands.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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