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Education sector needs structural changes

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By: Vijay Garg

India has followed a unique growth pattern and evolution in terms of modernization and advancement. India has grown at many levels and strata, particularly in education. Systematic schooling and education were available to a limited class of people and most children were subjected to homeschooling or the absence of any formal education.

Slowly the penetration of education was increased and was more readily available to all classes with higher literacy rates. The number of people getting formal education kept on increasing with time and efforts of government and other non-government organizations. Education brought a scientific approach as well as access to available resources to the masses. As a result, people slowly started to realize the importance of education as it uplifted their lifestyle significantly.

There was a time in India when a graduate candidate had plenty of opportunities to get a government job, as there were not as many graduates. Government jobs like being a teacher were easy to get if a person acquired a graduation or post-graduation degree in any discipline. This was a period when both education and employment were progressing together and complementing each other.

Soon education became a compulsory part of most of India’s population and every parent wished their child to have the best education and career. This high demand for the best led to the foundation of private players in the field of primary education. Slowly there was a parallel industry that stood up with the already existing government education providers.

But the same was not the situation with higher professional courses like medical, engineering, law and others as still most of the colleges were under a government set up with very few private colleges. This higher professional education generally needed competitive exams to be qualified after the higher secondary examination. These competitive examinations needed extra preparation and attention. A parallel industry of coaching centers developed that varied from a single room setup to corporate coaching centers in major cities.

Young students had started to travel from their hometown to these centers for their preparation and those who were not able to do so were doing it by self-preparation or local tuitions. Due to the very limited number of seats in these government-run colleges, it was tough to get in. By this time there was high demand for these professionals and the supply was low owing to the less number of higher professional colleges and seats in each college. Due to this high demand and less supply, this was the best time for these professional students to settle and earn as soon as they came out of college.

But there was a need for this to be changed as there was a need to gear up the opening of new colleges, which ultimately led to the entry of private players in higher professional courses. With the growth of the private sector in higher education, various regulatory authorities were set up to keep standards of education high.

During this period, the Information Technology sector experienced tremendous growth and India started its journey to become a global leader in the IT and software sector. More and more youngsters were attracted to the lucrative packages by companies and they saw a promising career and better lifestyle. Other sectors were also growing but at a little slower pace.

Until then, the Indian education system was parallel to employment opportunity, but it soon started deranging after a few years. Suddenly, the number of professional graduates and even postgraduates jumped to new heights, but the demand grew at its own speed. Demand and supply reversed and there were more doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals than the jobs available for them in both the government and private sector. This led to a new concept which was new to India and a new class of people emerged due to this — “Highly Educated Unemployed”.

The Highly Educated Unemployed class had their own miseries, which were completely different from the normal unemployed class. For this new class, who invested a long time and plenty of money, education turned out to be meaningless as the ultimate practical goal for them was getting a job, which could not be fulfilled because of the prevailing demand-supply issue?

This class is generally not heard because they are not a collective united group of people but a collection of many individuals. The problem is so deep that it has caused many young people to commit suicide out of frustration. Most of these people suffer from mental or behavioural disorders as they are generally in the age above 25 years and social pressure from all around keeps on increasing for them to get settled or look like settled.

In my opinion, things started getting out of control primarily when the number of educated people outnumbered the number of jobs. Job creation is primarily the role of the government and the private sector, so we may say these sectors failed to create infrastructure with the required pace to provide employment.

Another justification by many scholars is that it was not the problem of job creation, but it was the mushrooming of private colleges. Regulatory authorities have often been corrupt and few higher authorities of these regulatory bodies face high corruption charges.

Increasing quantity and decreasing quality of these courses are two consequences of all the irregularities due to which young graduates and postgraduates who are part of this crisis are the main sufferers. Therefore, measures are necessary to create a balance and education should be made career-oriented.

This is a very complex issue that can only be solved with structural changes right from its basics from primary education, where children should be able to choose the subject of their interest and progress in that for a career.

Parents should also be made aware of the different fields and safe careers other than the old Doctor-Engineer duo. Hope time will balance the imbalance with proper attention from policymakers who are equally responsible for creating the problem.

(The author is a retired Principal and an educational columnist)


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