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Problems galore in higher education



College students: concerned over the state of affairs?

A PERCEPTIBLE concern over the crisis in higher education in the country was observed at the two-day UGC (University Grants Commission)-sponsored national-level conference held in Belgaum recently to deliberate on the issues concerning higher education in India vis-a-vis emerging challenges.

The seminar, organised by the K.L.E. Society's Lingaraj College, is part of the ongoing nationwide deliberations among academicians, educationists and social scientists and all those in what is now being called as "knowledge industry."

Though the capitalist industry, which is biggest consumer of products, is yet to make any credible and direct contribution towards a desirable change in higher education, its grievances against institutions of higher education for not supplying the "products" in adequate quantity and quality is also valid. It is, perhaps, for this reason the Vice-Chancellor of Visvesvaraya Technological University, K. Balaveera Reddy, emphasised on producing "entrepreneurs" and not merely degree or certificate holders.

The modern education system in the country parented by the British was mainly to suit their requirements in administration. Guddadanveri, one of the speakers at the seminar, pointed out that the British trained young Indians to simply receive and carry out orders without asking questions, thinking or reacting. Unfortunately, the same system of higher education was prevailing even today. That is why there are problems galore even after 57 years of independence.

Another speaker, Xavier Wilson, observed that education had become a commodity and foreign universities were selling it like any other product in India by offering both good quality education and infrastructure. Joseph Xavier, who participated in one of the sessions at the seminar, stressed on inter-disciplinary approach to higher education which produced new knowledge on the basis of the existing one.

International education expert and alumnus of Lingaraj College, G.S. Gouri, who presided over the inaugural function observed: "Higher education in India expanded at the cost of primary education. Higher education is not required by developing countries because it does not contribute to economic growth. Higher education requires knowledge and not certification. In the present age of knowledge, a person's qualification or certificate is not taken into consideration. It is not a degree that matters but the degree of knowledge which the holder is able to apply. That knowledge has become the important criteria of higher education."

In his paper, P.G. Dandin said introduction of self-financing courses was the only solution to the present crisis.

V.B. Annigeri, Associate Fellow of CMRD, Dharwad, observed that self-financing courses were essentially of short-term duration as they cater to a particular market demand. Once the demand diminished, the courses lost their relevance. One of the problems confronting higher education was inadequate student support systems such as scholarships and endowments. Sources such as bank loans are drying up due to poor recovery.

S.S. Pattangundi noted that students had developed a piece-meal approach while learning and do not look beyond the syllabus or a pass in the examination. Commitment to learning and teaching was a cultural issue and must be inculcated.

N. Jayaram from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences acknowledged the important role of money in higher education.

Gnanam, former Vice-Chancellor of Bharatidasan University, who inaugurated the seminar, called for "acquiring'' the best of the education systems across the world instead of wasting time in developing indigenous models as the country had to equip itself with a globally competitive system.

Prabhakar Kore, MLC and Chairman of K.L.E. Society, said: "What Prof. Gnanam is suggesting is to buy the best educational systems or models, but how and from where is the question.''

VIJAYKUMAR PATIL

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