A regulator needs to constantly evolve, says AICTE Chairman Dr S S Mantha. In an interview to K S Narayanan of Elets News Network, Dr Mantha asserts that the AICTE is here to stay – to protect vulnerable people from being exploited and to facilitate those doing good work
Where do you see Indian technical education ten years from now?
Conventional education system will remain. But the applications would certainly be changing and the entire technology paradigm would move towards application and new technology creation. I hope some of the Indian institutions would come in the top bracket of 100 institutions. The teaching and learning process in India is as good as anywhere in the world. What is lacking is research and industry interface. In the next ten years, with the kind of initiatives being taken now, these two things will change. Industry interactions will increase and with new industry in place, a lot of research would be centered around creating new products and process improvements. Another area that will gain currency is the entire demographics moving towards the younger population. This will drive the employment market which will essentially be based on skills. So, we need to invest in skills today.
The employability quotient of Indian graduates has been a matter of concern for the industry for quite some time now. What is your view on this and how does AICTE plan to address this challenge?
I believe that the employment of Indian graduates is fairly good. Having said that, we should know what ails the sys tem. There are several reports published either by Mackenzie, Ernst & Young and Assocham. However, they are all created with a certain sample size and for a certain job role. Let’s say I am looking for Java programmers or C# programmers and I advertise for that post. I may receive 100 applications and I find that 25 to 30 are good. I may not be in a position to employ the rest. This does not mean that 25 or 30 per cent is the standard employability rate across the sectors. I have a million graduates passing out every year and assuming that the employ ability is 25 per cent, 7.5 lakh students every year are out of the system and not finding jobs. This does not seems to be is a lot of underemployment. It is a serious problem because one does not get a job commensurate with one’s qualifications. We also need to find out whether the Indian industry is growing at a rate where I can guarantee a million jobs every year at that level. I should be able to map the available positions within the industry sector to graduates I produce.
In this, there is another problem area. The minute we match these two and if the industry is not doing well, should we not have more people graduating? But this is a poor way of looking at it. Instead, we need to raise the general enrollment ratio, improve supply-side dynamics, better students must get into the system and we need more colleges. At the same time, in order to absorb them, we need a different skill-based education paradigm. We need to massively increase employment opportunities.
“The teaching and learning process in India is as good as anywhere in the world. What is lacking is research and industry interface”
With the government’s renewed focus on job-oriented training, is AICTE in any plans to modify content for courses that come under the purview of the AICTE?
We have created several opportunities. We are working with Confederation of Indian Industries. We have recently initiated several skill initiatives and have come out with a framework in this regard. We have mandated all our institutions to run one division with 100 students will skills. We are funding institutions to set up research labs and industry interfaces. We are conducting a survey with CII to find out the best educational institutions in the technical space. We are currently in the third survey. More and more institutes are partic ipating in it. We have also found expert groups within every industry sector. They have actually created the content. We have created 16 sectors constructions, para-medical, automobiles, IT, communications, retail, water sports, adventure sports, etc. In all the 16 sec tors, we have created content from level one to seven for 80 different specialisations and are available on AICTE website and can be downloaded for free.
Privatisation has come into the education industry in a big way. In this changed scenario, how does a monitoring authority such as the AICTE maintain its relevance?
We fundamentally believe that any regulation beyond a point is counter-productive. A regulator has to constantly evolve. At some point of time, it needs to be more enabling than being a pure regulator and become a facilitator. We need to identify well-meaning institutions with a proven track record which are provided with conducive conditions to grow. Similarly, we need different set of parameters to judge those institutions which are not doing so well. We also need a method of accreditation for institutions which is based on outcomes which in turn help rectify the system. A self-correction mechanism needs to be built in the system rather than some- body pushing for quality. This paradigm has to change. At the same time, a large population is exploited by some institutions. So we need a regulator which can protect these people and also enable others who are doing good work.
Seats in several engineering colleges in states such as Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have found few takers. Many of these colleges have been forced to shut shop. Where did the calculation go wrong?
If you look at the demographics, 65 percent of our population is below 35. What is the gross enrollment ratio (GER) today? It is just 20. India’s GER is 18 per cent. Now, in the age group of 18 to 23, look at the population eligible to go to college those actually going to college. In India, 20 people in that age group manage to go to college. This, in absolute terms, is resulting in 25 million students passing the 10th, 11th and 12th standards. Out of about 50 million students who appear for examinations, 25 million students fail too. The 25 million who pass go to college. Out of this, approximately one million opt for engineering while the rest of them go to humanities, commerce, law, distance learning etc. So my point is that if you increase the GER by another five points, you have an additional load on the system. Instead of 25 million, 35 million will pass. This means that I have to provide for admission in the existing colleges. Can we do it? So, supply-side dynamics need to improve in terms of secondary schools, setting up of more colleges and being absorbed by the job market.
With mushrooming of private colleges across the country, the students passing out have found it difficult to be absorbed by the industry. Is the dearth of quality faculty in such institutions a matter of concern ?
have to create better opportunities for teachers. This teaching business is aptitude-based. So we have to provide for training, research facilities and incentivise them. We also need to create an enabling mechanism to attract Indians who are teaching abroad.