A National Agenda for Education - Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education:

Vision, Objectives, Problems and



There is no doubt that our entire orientation has to be focussed on the future. We should expect major developments in research, and while emphasis on physical sciences will continue, a pronounced emphasis will come to be laid on biological and psychological sciences. Critical knowledge will also receive unprecedented emphasis. Technologies will invent new techniques, new devices, new gadgets; information technology will not only accelerate the process of diffusion of knowledge but also aid in promoting discovery of new knowledge. Interdisciplinary studies will become more and more important, even though specializations will not abate. This will imply development of a new kind of combination of specialisation and holistic vision.

The role of education as a liberating force will come to be emphasised as never before, and the meaning of liberation will come to include not only freedom from bondage, ignorance and backwardness but also freedom from gravitational pulls of the lower human nature. The role of education as an aid to the evolution of Nature, will also come to be acknowledged more and more widely. It will be realised that education should aim at evolving faculties and integrating them by the superior intellectual, ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual powers.

We speak today of the need to harmonise the individual, environment and cosmos. But as we proceed further, it is likely to be clear that this harmony cannot come about without inner purification and without developing inner space. We speak today of learning to be, learning to do, learning to become, and as we

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

progress further, it will become clearer that without the discovery of the essential being, which lies in the profound depths of our nature and personality, we cannot attain this ideal. We speak today of education as a dialogue between the past, present and the future; but this dialogue will begin to become upgraded into a recovery of the best of the heritage and transmission of it through a critical examination of the lessons of accumulated experiences of the past for further progress in the present and the future.

We are gripped today by an unprecedented crisis of values that obliges our society to transcend mere economic considerations and incorporate deeper dimensions of morality and spirituality. Value-oriented education is, therefore, an urgent task for all levels of education with an overarching necessity. There is today increasing hugeness of structures and organisations, which necessarily leads to centralisation, standardisation, mechanisation and even dehumanisation. It is no more possible to deal with the evil effects of these trends by the petty powers of egoistic conscious- ness that is necessarily dwarfed by immensity of the soulless Machine. What we need today and tomorrow is increasing number of individuals, who by voluntary sense of co-operation, mutuality and harmony can embrace humanity and world through universal love that is guided by wisdom. The great task in higher education is to nurture a new type of humanity and a new society of integrated personalities, imbued with knowledge, heroism, vastness and skills that are capable of meaningful creativity and productivity.

There is today a battle between the best possibilities for a new future and threat of the worst possibilities; this battle has reached a climactic point today. In fact, this battle at its deepest level signals an evolutionary crisis demanding from humanity a superhuman effort. And what can inspire that effort, if not the topmost leaders and teachers of higher and highest rungs of education?

All this implies radical changes in the objectives, contents and methods of higher education as also in the fields of research.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

The objectives of Higher Education that we need to pursue should include the following:

a. To provide the right kind of work ethos, professional expertise and leadership in all walks of life.

b. To strive and promote increasing qualitative development and social justice.

c. To foster among teachers and students and, through them in society generally, integral development of values inherent in physical, vital, rational, aesthetic, ethical and spiritual education.

d. To promote synthesis of knowledge, with special emphasis on unity of scientific and spiritual pursuits that would revitalise our country's heritage and promote the ideal of the whole world as one united family.

Appropriate to these objectives, we need to develop appropriate contents. New courses have to be designed so as to achieve a proper blending of wide general knowledge and such specialisation, which would have in-built facilities to renew relevant knowledge and skills at increasingly shorter intervals and even on a continuous basis. Increasing freedom of choice in selecting subjects of studies has to be ensured, and interdisciplinary studies have to be so devised that they would foster understanding and appreciation of national history in the context of the goal of multicultural understanding that can contribute to the creating in the world of a harmonious united family of humanity.

Methods in Higher Education also have to be appropriate to the needs of life-long education. Student-centred education and employment of dynamic methods of education will require from teachers new attitudes and new skills. Methods of teaching through lectures will have to be subordinated to methods that would lay stress on self-study, personal consultation between teachers and pupils and dynamic sessions of seminars and workshops. Methods of distant education will have to be employed on a vast scale.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Special emphasis on value-oriented education will necessitate a new dimension to the role of the teacher. For value-oriented education cannot be imparted without teachers's own value-orientation. Again, the objective of integral development of personality cannot be fulfilled without teachers developing their own integral personality. For this reason, a new programme of teachers' training has to be envisaged, and this programme should not only cater to the continuous development of professional skills but also continuous development of teachers' ethical and spiritual abilities.

Appropriate to the new and difficult demands on teachers, we have to constantly raise the status of teachers in the country.

A major task ahead is to bring about radical changes in the system of examination. Our present system is so conceived and designed that it forces students to study with one principal aim, i.e., passing of examination and that, too, by developing the power of memory at the cost of all other powers of the head and the heart.

Our present system of examination combines perilously the requirements of personal and academic growth with those required for purposes of employment. Actually, the criteria for two purposes are quite different, and by combining them, we are serving neither of the two purposes. There is, therefore, a need to institute a national testing service by means of which these two purposes can be separated from each other. The national testing service should conduct tests, which are rigorous but so flexible as to be appropriate for de-linking degrees from jobs and which would at the same time promote physical fitness, skills for practical works, tests for creativity and value-orientation.

As noted above, the system of open universities needs to be strengthened and developed on a very vast scale so that access to higher education becomes broad-based and serves the purposes of social justice and equity. But the open university system should be so redesigned that it can foster amongst students constant motivation to learn and aspirations to develop not only academic abilities but also varieties of talents, which modern young people possess in an amazing degree, extent and potentiality.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations


An important reform that was introduced in our system of Higher Education, soon after the adoption of the National Education Policy of 1986, was that of autonomous colleges. Unfortunately, this reform has not received any appreciable response. There are understandable difficulties that various partners of Higher Education experience in giving the right response to this reform. However, a major difficulty has stemmed from the fact that we have not yet evolved alternative model of autonomous colleges. Ideally, an autonomous college should be able to provide student-centred education and the bedrock of that education is the facility of consulting every student in his or her process of growth in the direction that is self-determined but guided by wise counsel from teachers. Learning by snippets, which is the current mode, can be more easily replaced in an autonomous college by learning that is holistic and learning that aims at understanding, comprehension and grasp of meaning. Value-oriented education can also be practised through an ideal model where teachers and students can explore areas of studies relevant to values in a joint partnership. Short-term or long-term programmes of studies of practical work can be designed and modified in accordance with evolution of needs of students. The present mechanical system of attending lectures can be suitably altered where, not classrooms but libraries of books and audio-visual equipment become the arena of learning processes.

It is true that autonomous colleges require also a new model of governance, where freedom and accountability are not mechanically imposed but where they automatically obtain by virtue of new attitudes among principals, teachers and students, as also among the members of the managing boards. Often the problems arise because of stringent demands that come to be made for increasing financial inputs. But if these demands are modest and if the sense of utmost economy is exercised by all the concerned, then the difficulties can be minimised, particularly when the UGC is prepared to give special financial assistance for purposes of developing autonomous colleges.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

The role of the principals of colleges has been of supreme importance. Numberless cases can be cited where a good principal has been able to alter the entire environment, work ethos, sense of discipline and attitudes among teachers and students by the sheer force of his or her personality, personal integrity and example of his or her character. It is for this reason that if the experiments of autonomous colleges are to succeed, that will depend upon the skills, expertise, and character of the principals. In a certain sense, it is true that just as geniuses are born and are not made, even so good principals are born and not made. Nonetheless, a widespread realisation of the great role that principals can play, a new atmosphere can be created that can nourish good principals, whose merits should also come to be recognised appropriately by the educational authorities and by the society.

There are, however, larger questions of curricular reforms where larger bodies like UGC and academic councils of universities have to play a leading role. Unfortunately, nothing has been as much neglected as the task of curriculum building. Academic councils in universities have usually unwieldy agendas, where questions of academic importance get the minimum time. Boards of studies do not meet as often as they should, and much of the work is done on ad-hoc basis. Even subject panels constituted by the UGC meet infrequently and very few of them have restructured curricula, and none of them has worked on any holistic proposal of a total restructuring of the curricular framework and curricular programmes. A major task for higher education is, there- fore, related to a fresh look at the total situation where artificial barriers among faculties need to be broken. The situation is so ridiculous that a student of philosophy is not allowed to study mathematics and basic foundations of science, and languages like Sanskrit, Persian, Greek or Latin, even when such studies are directly relevant to the attainment of excellence in Philosophy. This is only one random example, but we all know the poverty of our curricular contents, their irrationality and their lack of inter- disciplinarity. It seems that time has come when a special com- mission is established just to inquire into this important aspect of higher education so that country-wide debates are initiated and

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

required earthquake is produced to shake the rigid and imprisoning foundations of our present courses of studies.

Closely connected with the need for curricular reforms is the need to revolutionarise our teaching-learning material. We have to ask the question whether the textbooks that are being prescribed are pedagogically valid, and whether they provide the needed stimulation and interest among students. Ideally, textbooks should serve as reference books, but from the pedagogical point of view, we need to create workbooks, worksheets and numerous kinds of materials containing biographies, stories, anecdotes, stimulating exercises, debates on important questions, audio- visual presentation, and similar other materials, which would make pursuit of learning an interesting adventure. Ideally, learning materials should inspire students to undertake studies on their own, supported by occasional help from teachers and counsellors. At a time when information technology is advancing faster than what we can imagine, it should not be difficult for the leaders of education to provide to the students multiple and alter- native learning materials so that students are set to sail in their own boats of exploration of wonders and mysteries of the world and which can prepare them to face the challenges of the world adequately and competently.

New teaching-learning materials will determine and be deter- mined by new methodologies of teaching. If audio-visual equipment is to be utilised on a large scale for transmission of knowledge, the learning material itself has to be formulated in such a way that it becomes suitable to the medium through which it has to be transmitted. As it is said, medium itself is the message, and this is, in a certain sense, true. This truth has to be applied while preparing teaching-learning materials.


We may now come to the question of governance and management of Higher Education. Autonomy and accountability are the two watchwords of the recent trends in the theory and practice of organisation of systems and institutions. Indian system is, how-

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

ever, still feudal in many respects, and we need to go a long way so that our entire system becomes modern. We have, however, to underline that modernisation does not mean centralisation but decentralisation; it does not mean uniformity but diversity; it does not mean domination but co-operation and partnership. However, there are two desiderata, which all partners of education have to accept. The first is a new spirit of work ethos. It is a fact that our entire system is suffering because there is a large scale avoidance of performance of our duties and responsibilities. There is also a great deal of compartmentalisation, and we try to narrow down the scope of our compartmental duties. A large number of teachers feel that they have fulfilled their duties when they have delivered the lectures in the classrooms, and instead of being available to students when they are sought after for consultation by students, they are simply not available in the premises of colleges and universities. It is as though consultation is not a part of their responsibility. The librarian feels that his duty is limited to the management of storing books, but counselling students by presenting them latest books in respect of relevant subjects is not supposed to be a part of his duty. Management believes that controlling and securing finance is its sole responsibility, but academic excellence of the institution under their charge is not their responsibility. Often Vice-Chancellors take pride when mere law and order is secured in their universities, even though their major responsibility is to inspire students and teachers to pursue educational activities combined with efflorescence of the culture of excellence. If a new spirit of management has to grow in our universities, each partner has to work very hard in a disciplined manner and accept not only narrow definition of our duties but be prepared also to expand responsibilities under the realisation that our larger duty is that of co-ordination and co-operation.

The governance of university system itself requires major changes even at the top level. We all know that the purpose for which the UGC was created was to secure determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in universities. This purpose has become increasingly overshadowed

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

by the activities connected with the giving of grants to universities and colleges. It is only recently that National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) has been established. As a matter of fact, it would have been much better if this Council were made a part of UGC itself, since the objectives of this Council are central to the objectives of UGC.

In fact, UGC needs to establish a permanent Academic Council consisting of eminent educationists of the country who can constantly study the problems of reforms in curricula and examinations and who should also bring out learned reports that would highlight the status of research and frontier areas where research should be focussed in our country. The country should feel the presence of a responsible body of wisest leaders of education available to universities, teachers and students for help, guidance and inspiration. UGC should also directly sponsor the publication of such useful literature that would bring the students and teachers nearer to higher and higher horizons of knowledge. For, in the ultimate analysis, governance of rules and regulations should be replaced more and more by governance through the power of the atmosphere of knowledge and wisdom. In varying degrees, they should apply to all institutions, which are designed for governance of educational system.

The internal governance of universities could also undergo a major change. The very concept of the Vice-Chancellor is that of a Kulapati. In actual working terms, the Vice-chancellor has greatly been reduced to the position of an Administrative Officer, who is pulled in various directions and whose main job is centred on conducting unwieldy meetings of the academic councils and executive councils and on dealing with the bureaucrats in the Ministry and grant-giving bodies to secure funds, which are today getting even more and more meagre. The Kulapati of a university should be basically an academic leader, who is also involved in the cultural activities and activities that are central to the development of values of physical, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual education. What applies to the Vice-chancellor applies equally to the principal, since the principal has a large direct contact with teachers and students, and his or her responsibilities have to be also stringent.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

It is the cardinal principle of education that sovereignty reposes in students, and only two factors play the pivotal role, viz., students and teachers. Our entire system of governance and management should, therefore, be so reorganised that the sovereignty of the young people is upheld and never violated. Management, administration, and governance, are means, tools and instruments; students, — their growth, their free growth, their integral growth, their highest welfare — these are the real ends of education. Considering that at present our education is far from being student-centred, considering that it is lecture-centred and examination-centred, we have to realise what a long road we have to traverse before the real means of education are strengthened and real ends are fostered and fulfilled.

One of the most important problems that faces the task of governance and management of education, particularly in the field of Higher Education, is the increasing decline in public funding. During the last two plan periods, Higher Education has suffered serious consequences of this decline. Tasks are mounting and we do not know how we shall be able to furnish the increasing resources, which are needed. In India, the Government has been bearing increasing share of the financial burden. The share of the Government (Central and State) increased from 49% in 1950-51 to 76% in 1986-87. The Government expenditure was of the order of Rs. 42,126 millions in 1996-97, and during the subsequent period this has risen even higher. But the time has come when Principals and Vice-Chancellors are now being asked to secure mobilisation of resources from private agencies, from those sectors of industries, which ultimately use in large proportions the manpower produced by Higher Education. In a climate where private agencies have remained for so long spectators rather than participants, it is extremely difficult to secure funding from them. Increase in fees, which are levied upon students is a thorny problem, and even if equitable increase is effected, we can not expect much amelioration in the situation. Greater partnership between private and public funds is the necessity, although public funding must remain essential.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

Unfortunately, our country does not have a perspective plan of education that can look beyond the next five or ten years. It is necessary that institutions like NIEPA undertake the task of visualising the number of colleges and universities that the country will require, considering that larger and larger number of students are about to seek access to higher education, — not only because value of higher education is now being recognised and even necessitated by sheer forces of development, but also because with the universalisation of elementary education, a large number of students will necessarily upgrade themselves to demand admission to colleges and universities. At present, out of 21 crores children who should be in schools, only five crores complete elementary education. 16 crores of children remain out of the school or drop out at earlier stages. If these children are retained in the school system, we can imagine what a tremendous pressure will come upon the Higher Education system. We have to realise that only six per cent of the relevant young people are today in our higher education system. This percentage is bound to increase, and it would not be unrealistic to plan for the 15% of the relevant population in the course of next ten or twelve years. We only have to imagine the sheer quantitative dimensions of the increase that will be necessitated in the terms of more colleges and more universities.

There is no doubt that Open University system will have to bear a great responsibility to respond to the pressure for admission in higher education. But if open universities are to fulfil the higher purposes of education, including those of integral development of personality and value-orientation, these universities will have to change radically their structures, their programmes and the delivery systems.

We should not minimise the magnitude of the tasks that await us in the coming years. We have to look forward to more work, harder work and increasingly responsible work. Surely, this is not the time for us to sit back in our armchairs, but to sit up and even to take staff in our hand and set out for a difficult and arduous journey.

Higher Education: Vision, Objectives, Problems and Recommendations

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