What do academic institutions need to invest on? What should be their big focus areas? Before attempting to answer these big questions, it is necessary to first understand as to why at all do academic institutions need to invest in excellence. You know we are doing fine, life goes on, IPL is on, things are good. So what’s this big need to invest in excellence?
While the industry does get extremely bright young people, the fact is, that a lot of re-orientation is required to make them perfect and that truly is a challenge. Therefore, I believe that at some level the world of academics really needs to look at what their output is doing in terms of adding to the community at large. Academic institutions really need to look at the quality of output and see what impact they can have on the world of business, and that is really critical. There is very less coming from our education system.
The second point is based on my observation. I find that the general belief is that higher education is deteriorating; that there is not enough happening in the space of research. Our best students want to pursue their higher studies in the west. This is one reality we need to reconsider. Agreed that India is developing economy with infrastructural and financial challenges, but more than these, it is the lack of an emphasis on research, the biggest shortcoming is with our mindset, our process. Today, we have reached a critical mark in our higher education system that we should be able to address.
A discussion on higher education in India is incomplete without mulling over another very important dimension-the quality of faculty, or the lack of it. The importance of a good teacher cannot be emphasized enough. We need teachers who give us something to take home and think about other than homework. This is really a larger societal challenge- our inability to attract and retain high quality teachers. While there are some exceptions to this, we need to transcend elitism and look at the India that it largely is. There is a gaping divide in what the standard of faculty in higher education institutes across the country, not only in the hubs but also in the smaller towns should be and what it actually is. We need teachers who inspire pupils.
And for improving quality, we must learn, adopt and outperform international best practices. Benchmarking today is not Utopian but a necessary reality of the globalized world. We have to really benchmark with the best in the world. There is no second choice.