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Ringing in 2020: Upcoming reforms in Indian education sector

Stakeholders hope 2020 will see crucial steps to strengthen Indian education, including skill development, innovative funding

twitter-logoE Kumar Sharma | December 30, 2019 | Updated 15:06 IST
Ringing in 2020: Upcoming reforms in Indian education sector
A landmark development of 2019 in the education sector was the National Education Policy

The Indian education sector has a lot of hope, with elements of concern too, on the changes it will see in 2020. Academicians and industry leaders expect reform measures to be announced in early 2020 which will help strengthen the education system. The initiatives could range from skill development and innovative financing to encouraging research output.

Prime concerns in the sector, at an international level, include China taking a lead in research output. But, there's hope that India will show improvement in the area. The past five years have seen some leading institutions lay greater emphasis on research.

Domestic issues include shortage of top faculty and remuneration. In fact, board members of some of the leading management institutions have called for greater incentives - both financial and career growth - to faculty members.

Also Read:India's higher education story needs a disruption, and how

National Education Policy

A landmark development of 2019 in the education sector was the National Education Policy. Space scientist K Kasturirangan, who led a nine-member team and drafted the 400-page policy, hopes the government will adopt and declare a national policy on education in 2020.

He also hopes that starting 2020, the country will move towards bringing in critical changes in the Indian education system. To him, the highlight of 2019 was the response the policy draft received. "I am happy the policy draft that was put into the public domain triggered a series of discussions, which only meant there was tremendous interest to know how India will go about education in future," he says.

The policy draft had received over 2 lakh responses. The committee studied them and found over 80 per cent suggestions were in tune with the policy. In some sense, it "displayed national anxiety to have a good educational policy," he said.

Also Read: Food and education hold most potential for women entrepreneurs, says Smriti Irani

Review Funding Options

According to Kasturirangan, teacher training and a clear career growth path for top performers are equally critical to move towards a better education system. He hopes the Centre will form a national research foundation to imbibe a new research culture among universities.

On funding, he calls for exploring various options. "I do not see philanthropic efforts coming forward in terms of the scale at which they need to. Also, if we look at the present regulatory and accreditation systems, the policy does recommend that we should have a similar thing between public and privately-funded institutions. That may help ease the concerns that private investments may have for increasing investment in education. We should encourage it by adopting suggestions made in the policy," he adds.

Kasturirangan calls for more options to attract both philanthropic and private investments. "There could be more public-private partnerships," he says, stressing the need for public, private, philanthropic funding and tapping alumni.

The Last Decade

The past decade saw some major touchpoints from a policy perspective. Besides an education policy, the Centre came up with the IIM Act, though its net impact is yet to be seen. Even though a lot remains desired, it is expected to put greater power to institutions and make them more accountable.

The challenge before the 20 IIMs and other leading institutions is a shortage in top faculty and little freedom, at least in the government-backed institutions, in deciding on faculty remuneration.

Another initiative that stood out in the decade was granting of the Institute of Eminence tag to some institutions. This has been seen as a positive development, as it will encourage institutions to be more competitive.

But, an area where Indian higher education has to move forward is research output.  Quoting the findings of the UT Dallas database, which is a key indicator of the top-quality research papers published in management, one of the directors of a leading Indian management institution said the number of research papers published in the top 24 management journals over the last five years show Chinese universities contributing a dozen times more than what was done by Indian universities.

This, he says, is a clear pointer to the direction we need to take, though he feels India has put in place some of the right triggers in this direction. Some of the leading Indian institutions like the IIMs and some private institutions have been giving career and financial incentives to professors to publish papers in some of the marquee journals.

Over the next few years, the management schools will also need to review their curriculum and refresh it in keeping with the changing needs of the industry. New age disciplines like AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning) and analytics need to be prioritised.

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