Indian Universities: Not the top of the world

Popular media is rife with the stereotypes of Asian and “brown” kids outperforming the white kids on the educational front and this is true to some extent. Globally, Indians hold some of the most powerful positions and are at forefront of most innovations on the scientific front. This, most people would believe, is a reflection of our education system back home. Sadly, nothing can be farther from the truth. Every year, QS publishes a list of the World;s Top Universities. As we go through the list, one thing that strikes us is the absence of a single Indian University in the Top 100, let alone the top 20. This is enough to give us the true picture of our education system which is sadly in shambles. Standing on top of the list is MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). UK has the most number of representatives on the list, followed by USA, Australia, Taiwan and Spain The problems with our current higher education system are not few. Most of our Indian Universities run on a budget that is a fraction of the budget of universities abroad which has led to a sluggish and slow development of their infrastructure and human capital. Universities here primarily focus on professional education churning out doctors, engineers etc. for the job market. Thus, the core group of students interested in the fields of research and development contribute. Not only that, there is very little support for carrying out R&D in our country, be it from the industry or the government. Since research being carried out is one of the benchmarks along with the existing infrastructure, which we seriously lack, we lose to universities the world over. One of the major consequences of this vicious cycle is the brain drain happening as our best and brightest minds are leaving our country and settling elsewhere instead of helping our nation grow and prosper as they do not get the opportunities here that they get elsewhere. Another problem faced by the universities is the out-dated syllabus being followed along with the ancient pedagogy which begs a revision. The world, especially technology, is leaping ahead by leaps and bounds and our universities and colleges follow the same old syllabus that was followed decades ago. The education system here does not focus on the overall growth of a student and there is very little flexibility at the university level. We are still stuck in the same old divisions of science, art and commerce which each division being totally exclusive of the other, whereas the world has long since moved on to interdisciplinary studies. The problems in our educational system are not few and the system definitely needs an overhaul. Having said, there is a potential for us to completely turn around our education system and make our universities world-class. It will require initiative on the part of political class as well the efforts of the teaching community ( both students and teachers) along with support from the corporate. If this can be done, we can surely go back to glory days of Nalanda and Takshashila where we led the way and taught the world how to learn and how to live.

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