There is a need to establish a body with statutory authority to prescribe academic standards, norms of accreditation and mechanisms of financing and governance of institutions.
Admitting that there is a "clear gap in the overall regulation of higher education", the Minister for State for Human Resource Develpment, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, today said that the government is planning to establish an over-arching authority to set and coordinate standards in higher education.
Delivering the keynote address at a seminar on "Higher Education: Affirmative Action and Skill Gaps" at Observer Research Foundation today, the Minister said a draft bill to create a new over-arching authority to set standards in higher education is in the offing. The Minister said there is a need to establish a body with statutory authority to prescribe academic standards, norms of accreditation and mechanisms of financing and governance of institutions. Such a body will enhance the endeavour to promote credible standards of higher education and research in the country, he said. The Minister said with no centralised policy or regime for foreign educational institutions in the country, some of the foreign institutions are resorting to various malpractices to attract students, especially in the smaller towns and cities.
To check this, the government has introduced a bill with proposals to regulate the entry and operation of foreign educational institutions, the Minister noted. He emphasised on the need to turn the country's huge demographic advantage into fruitful ways to take the country into the group of major developed economies. Tharoor warned that if we went wrong in this mission, it would lead to frustration among the bulging youth, which would e "calamitous" for the country. "The Maoists are a clear reflection of what happens when young men feel that they have no stake and no opportunities in society," he said.
Talking about India's demographic advantage over other countries, the Minister said already 65 percent of India's population are below the age of 35 years. And according to a study a by the ILO, India will have 116 million workers in the age group of 20-24 by 2020. Noting that access to education to all is a dream that still eludes us, the Minister stressed on the need to have the right balance between merit and social justice. He said this is a unique challenge to India, unparalleled in scale and scope anywhere else. "Market forces undoubtedly important in most areas of human endeavour cannot be allowed unchecked freedom to dictate questions of access to dissemination of knowledge," the Minister said. Presenting the ORF-IIM-Ahmedabad study on affirmative action in education, Prof. Rakesh Basant suggested a new formula for reservations in education - based on the parental education. "Parental education can potentially be useful criterion for affirmative action, given the changing role of the caste," Prof Basant said, emphasising on the relevance of crossing the threshold of supply side criticality. He said compartments can be defined on the basis of parental educational with affirmative action mainly for those with illiterate parents.
Though there are some issues like quality of parental education and legal issues, "let us try parental reservation, if at all we want reservation," Prof Basant said. Presenting a study a skill gaps, Prof Jeemol Unni, Director, IRMA, suggested a skill policy that encourages non-graduate technical and non-technical diploma/certificate holders into lower graduate intensity occupations would help to close the skill gap and reduce the pressure on graduate, reducing also the skill mismatch gap. She also suggested introduction of a vocational training/skill training stream in the metric secondary school system. Skill training focussed on these low graduate intensity occupations and the low intensity knowledge intensive manufacturing and service sectors will again reduce pressure on the higher education system, she said. The seminar was attended by UGC chairman Ved Prakash and other educational experts.