Prof Prem Vrat¸ Professor of Eminence¸ Management Development Institute, Gurgaon; also the Founder- Director of IIT Roorkee & former Vice Chancellor, U P Technical University, talks to Sheena Joseph about his vision for higher education in India.
Indian Youth Poised to Stir Global Market….
India’s demographic advantage has long been talked about, with 24 being the average age of India today. Can you elaborate on what will be the future scope for India in this regard?
The mammoth youth population of India can be seen as a demographic dividend – provided we make good use of this opportunity. In the context of the aging population of the developed countries, where majority of the wok
is mechanised, we can foresee a future where there will be a tremendous requirement of trained youth population in these developed countries.Manpower crunch will be crucial in the coming years and every country is gearing up to meet this requirement. We can cash on this opportunity by making available trained youth population from India. In this context, the Indian youth can make
their presence felt even in western countries. I call this the demographic dividend potential.
If we convert our youth population into a skilled workforce, we can meet the workforce requirements all over the world. The large number of youth population will then be globally empowered and be gainfully employed. The demographic dividend would otherwise become
a demographic liability There is a need to nurture and build Indian talent. Skills training forms only one aspect of the process. Several other aspects have also to be taken into consideration. These include inculcating knowledge and attitude. Theoretical knowledge without hands on experience will be incomplete. Positive attitude would mean having attributes like understanding, leadership and, team work. Nurturing talent involves holistic
development of an individual’s personality which is groomed for the competitive world requirements.
What are the internationally acclaimed and unique best practices
that India is implementing in the field of skills training?
Foreign educational models do not necessarily have to be blindly emulated since India also has several best practices that
can be replicated. Perhaps a focus on excellence and quality standards have to be benchmarked. IITs in India have created a brand for itself. Their quality standards can be set as the yardstick for higher education institutes across India. Elements of a successful academic process and qualities for excellence would include visionary academic leadership, very committed and talented faculty, outstanding students, efficient academic processes, remendous transparency in all processes, merit driven functioning and achieving global standards. Liberal funding and greater degree of autonomy in decision making has to be ranted to educational institutes.
The higher education sector is undergoing a massive overhaul with talks going on for replacing the existing regulatory authorities. How would it impact the education system in India?
Several regulatory bodies do exist in higher education currently in India. Proper synchronisation of their efforts would add value and do good to the higher education sector. Multiple agencies can work together to bring out a coordinated outcome. The structure must be efficient and should not get bogged down by bureaucratic frameworks. Nurturing quality in education is important. There is also a concept called ‘Quality Paradox’. This is a situation where quality is made the custodian of a single regulatory body resulting in quality itself becoming a casualty. Therefore, be it a case of single or multiple regulatory authorities, there has to be a well thought out and coordinated effort to maintain and sustain quality in education.
The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill 2010 allows foreign universities to set campuses in India. Will this serve as a panacea for the problems plaguing higher education or will it further add to problems in regulation?
The bill has its own pros and cons. We have to see the context in which the bill has been introduced. There will be opportunities for foreign educational institutes to come to India and do business and perhaps create a sense of competition among their Indian counterparts
to improve and compete with each other When top grade universities from abroad come to India, they will benchmark best practices that will be utilised by Indian educational institutes to analyse and compare faculty competence, compensation, research, student performance, more focus on industrial interaction, and thereby enabling Indian institutes to wake up to the actual needs of the student community.
Liberal funding and greater degree of autonomy in decision making has to be granted to educational institutes
India’s capacity to attract best quality foreign institutes is a critical factor. Secondly, if these institutes come, obviously they will be able to provide much better compensation packages to their faculty. It will then raise the cost of
education since Indian education institutes will also have to match up to their standards. If we do not compensate our faculty on similar lines, it will result in large scale faculty exodus. The idea of bringing foreign higher education institutes is to bring in competition, but simultaneously it is also necessary to nurture inhouse institutes.
What role do you envisage for ICT in promoting quality in higher education?
Technology has a very important role in education, since it is an engine for bringing about quality, efficiency, effectiveness and outreach. With the shortage of quality faculty, ICT enabled education is now a necessity. It can address the gap by taking classroom lectures to a wider audience across boundaries.
Technology enabled classrooms is an element that can obviate faculty shortage in the country. National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is an outstanding initiative for spreading higher education. As of now, our Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) is 12.4%, and we want to increase it drastically. We can do this by leveraging technology effectively.