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There have been significant changes in the field of higher education during the last three decades. The phenomenal growth in the number of colleges and universities, the high enrolement and turn over of degree holders, the increase in the teacher salaries, the six-fold increase in the higher education budget provide some indicators of the progress made. On the other side of the balance sheet is the high percentage of drop out, the ever-growing educated unemployed, the drain of skilled manpower and the continuing chorus of concern about the lowering standards of teaching. From this, one cannot escape the two apparent conclusions. The productive capacity of the system has gone up but the relevance of the product has gone down. The teacher has been rehabilitated, but the degree has been devalued. "The salary of a university teacher is nearly five times higher than the primary teacher and three times higher than the secondary teacher. The university teacher gets 2.5 times higher salaries than the senior secondary teacher who has more or less same qualifications" (Patriot 196 Apr. 8). The devaluation of the degree can be seen from the fact that there are more graduates for jobs which require SSLC qualification. Also the fact that according to the UNCTAD study on the 1971 base line India exported 900 crores worth trained manpower goes to prove that the product of higher education is irrelevant for the country itself but serves the cause of other countries. Secondly, the heavy input and infrastructural investment not only fails to alter the fundamental short comings, but masks them and often strengthens them. More investment has produced more of the same thing rather than binging about radical and transformation. The higher input in Central Universities results in per capita higher expenditure for units of education, leaving the question of standards in open issue. The distinction between the Central and State Universities is one of difference in the source of funding. But this has resulted in such absurdities as paying City Compensatory Allowance to staff in Santiniketan and Aligarh while the three universities in the city of Calcutta do not get it.

The cause of the irrelevance of product is rooted in the system itself. The system lays greater emphasis on quantitative expansion rather than on qualitative managerial or structural change. The present education system is alien, through an improvement on the one set by the British. It is not conceived as a process of socialisation to one's own culture and ethos. Any talk of change, therefore, either not related to or based on the ignorance of tradition, is spurious and superficial. Secondly, there is a great deal of talk about raising the standards of higher education. The standard is not set by Indian scholars keeping in view the Indian intellectual traditions and the needs of Indian societies. The standards are dictated by the developed countries. Therefore, the acceptance or rejection by the U.K. and the U.S.A. of our Medical and other degrees creates such commotion in our country. I have not seen an Indian educationist who says that a British or American degree is inadequate to conduct research in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences in India, and, therefore, preparatory courses should be offered to intending scholars pursuing research in these fields in India. On the other hand, without basic grounding either in English or in an Indian language, Iranian and some other Asian students are permitted to the Degree including Medicine and Engineering. Indian education is, thus, if at all, furthering the cause of world education rather than of its own.

There is no comprehensive approach to the question of standards. One rule requires a minimum of 50 per cent or more marks for enrolment in the M.Phil. But there is no such rule for the Ph.D. As a result, relatively poor candidates score in many ways over brighter candidates. There is another strange contradiction relating to the question of standards in the field of higher education. Standards are constantly lowered for specific regions, castes and subjects while at the same time favour of the minorities as a convenient handle to beat the opponents espousing the cause of the majority. Unfortunately, it is not understood that the relationship between the majority and the minority is not one of opposition, but one of interdependence. Therefore, the standards of higher education need not be lowered in competition with one another.

A major cause of irrelevance is the urban base of institutions of higher learning. The population of India is overwhelmingly rural. But institutions of higher learning are not only located in urban centres, they create urbanised individuals far removed from the rural ethos. The nearest parallel is found in Nepal, which presents a beautiful picture of such imbalance and the crisis resulting from it. Keeping in view the 'Distribution and mobility of graduates in Nepal, (Gurung 1965) the authors of Nepal in Crisis observe, "Thus Kathmandu not only producing more graduates and thus senior officials than eslewhere, largely as a result of concentration of wealth, power and educational facilities in the capital, but drains graduates from outlying regions, turning these regions into exporters of highest quality skilled manpower" (Blaikie 1980 : 97). The 5,00,000 Indian villages denuded of skilled manpower, the cities overcrowded by educated unemployed, the bureaucracy packed by city oriented products of a system largely ignorant of and insensitative to the rural ethos are some of the causes and consequences of the irrelevance of the system.

A cursory look at the major components of the Indian population and their vocational interest and the course structure on the Indian universities is enough to prove the irrelevance of higher education, 90 per cent of the total population of India is engaged in or dependent on agriculture. The conventional universities have little to do with agriculture. There is also greater reluctance on the part of funding agencies to support agriculture-related research where such interests exist in conventional universities. There is a sizeable scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population in India. There is very little relevant study in the universities about his sector. The Anthropology, Sociology, Linguistics and Political Science departments study problems relating to them in an isolated manner, but interdisciplinary study for the development of such an important segment is almost nonexistent. In 1969-70 a meeting of the top social scientists from Indian universities was called to discuss among other things the question of scheduling and de-scheduling tribes. After two days of intense discussions the consensus was that 15 years research is necessary to establish the criteria for scheduling and de-scheduling tribes. I do not know of the final outcome, but I am sure if such a conference was called today the consensus would not be very much different. India has a large frontier. In the north and the north-east there are cultures and problems little known to the rest of the country. None of the universities have a department of Frontier studies. The list can be lengthened with telling effect. But it will be incomplete without mention of languages. As Jack Goody (1977 : 37) says, "Culture after all, is a series of communication are often as important as differences in the mode of production, for they involve developments in the storing, analysis and creation of human knowledge, as well as the relationships between the individuals involved." Our Social Science Departments do not have even marginal interests in languages. Even there are not full-fledged departments to study the four language families in the country. French, German, Russian are still the major pre-occupations of universities and institutes. Those working on Asia have to depend on secondary data in the absence of access to Asian languages. This shows how little Asia and Asian development count in the eyes of intellectuals. As modernization is equated with westernization relatively greater emphasis is given to the western languages, values and modes and the system is geared to develop initiative styles and approaches.

Language as medium of education has a major role in maintaining as well as lowering the quality of education in India. The elite is in favour of English, which they consider a status symbol. As education has bypassed the majority, the national consensus is in favour of a switchover to regional language media which is expected not only to increase the access to education, but also establish a viable relation between tradition and change. The lukewarm attitude of the academics towards the switchover has resulted in half-hearted teaching of both English and the regional languages and consequently lowering of the general standard of education. The grudging switchover of only 52 per cent of universities to the regional language media, the total confusion arising from the unpreparedness in not being able to evolve suitable methods and materials, are examples of lack of firm leadership in this area.

While Indian scientists abroad write thesis on the 'coloration of potato chips under different viscosity and heat conditions' or 'on the effect of frost on stone', the antiquarians at home write about the 'Flying Saucers or share cropping in the Vedas.' Most research efforts are to legitimise or find proof for western theories or to fit Indian data in competing western models. No wonder that there is little innovative and original research relevant to the needs and aspirations of the large majority of people.

The conscientious among the Indian academics are disturbed by the educational deprivation of the "Exclusion of a vast majority of the people from the process of education is a most disturbing aspect of educational and social planning." But none of them sees and is disturbed by the privilege bestowed by the system on microscopic minority and is disturbed by the inequity perpetrated by the system. Even when out of such superficial concern for the majority, the formal education system tries to reach out, the motivation is clear from the statement, "It is obvious that the enormous system of formal education cannot remain aloof from the programme; it has to be its instrument as well as its ultimate beneficiary." All new experiments have brought added privileges to those who are benefited by formal education. By adding newer disciplines of study, by linking the new experimentation with the existing curriculum, and by providing incentives and rewards to teachers and students, the formal system has sought to strengthen itself. No new alternatives have come from the higher education system as a result of social concern.

It is necessary to labour hard to prove that mere additional infrastructural input is likely to further accentuate the existing inquities and contradictions. While the present education system has succeeded in establishing a measure of cohesion among elites across class, caste and regional boundaries, it has promoted increasing differentiation between the highly schooled, the not-so-highly schooled and unschooled within each community and region. Doh Joon-Chien (1980 : 11) characterises this class of elites appropriately when he says, "They may be occupying academic positions in institutions of higher learning, positions of responsibility in international agencies, in government or in the private sector. Members of the intellectually colonised group exhibit, to varying extent, a large number of common characteristic which set them apart from the "common folks" of Asia. Gunnar Myrdal says that such Westernised Asians are more a "part of the intellectual life of the Cosmopolitan world than they are of their indigenous cultures" (Myrdal 1970 : 156) This class of privileged elite who appropriate to themselves all rank, status and wealth, thus act as the instrument for the setting of an inegalitarian society contrary to the avowed declaration of the Indian Constitution. India is only an example of such distorted economic growth in developing countries where high spending in higher education in the name of the development of the modern sector led to gross inequities between the urban and rural beneficiaries of the system. The United Nations took note of such imbalances in development as early as 1970 and the World Bank issued its first comprehensive policy paper on education 1971. In spite of the emphasis of the World Bank that "One must think of education, therefore, not only as a "sector" of developmental parallel, for example, to agriculture or industry but as a pervasive element that must be integrated horizontally and vertically into all development efforts" (Education 1980 Apr). There has been little change in the approaches to education in most developing countries. In India education is not only treated as sector in planning, even within education Primary, Secondary, Higher and Non-formal are considered as sectors thus failing to maintain inter-sectoral equilibrium and achieve democratization in the distribution of education.

In countries like India, there appears to be a conflict between development and distribution of the production of development. There is no wonder therefore that the values of the beneficiaries of development will be reflected in the education system. The reality is that these beneficiaries are the intellectual followers of the west rather than intellectual leaders of their countries. With higher education controlled by and benefitting such a minority elite, with regional and sub-regional universities proliferating and with declared support for scheduled caste universities, the concept of university "as being our society's engagement with pure value" is almost nonexistent. F.R.Leavis said that "the real university is a centre of consciousness and human responsibility for the civilized world; it is a creative centre of civilization........." who, familiar with the affairs of universities today, can claim the existing universities to be universities in this sense? In the midst of societies where commodity value is cherished more, it is difficult to expect the universities to generate use values. But if the university system does not provide the lead education is bound to degenerate.

The University Grants Commission, in spite of many academic innovations to its credit, had been working more as an administrator of grants rather than an organization upholding standards. Over the past years in its internal structure it has put more emphasis on the administrative sector. There have been many pronouncements against the proliferation of universities and yet the UGC has not been able to resist political pressure for the creation of regional universities. I know of universities which have granted M.Sc., Degrees in industrial Chemistry and Marine Geology with only a temporary lecturer manning a department. UGC has been unable to stop such Degrees. UGC has been powerless in the face of the powerful lobby which gives Degrees for a price. It has also not been able to stand up to the fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous academics and not so alert Vice-Chancellors. In a certain university, the UGC gave 3 posts during the 3rd plan for a certain discipline. These three posts were distributed among three other disciplines. Three more posts were claimed and obtained for strengthening the non-existent department during the Fourth Plan. During the Fifth Plan a plea was made to set up the Department. But it is unfair to hold the UGC alone responsible for all the ills of higher education. It is important that there is policy coordination with the Government ensuring compatibility between educational policies and policies of recruitment of various jobs, more specifically because the Government today is the largest employment agency. Today in Karnataka alone there are 38 Engineering Colleges. Although there are about 8,000 unemployed Engineers, there is a chorus of demands for more Engineering colleges. Similar is the case with Medicine. The proliferation of colleges had already triggered considerable resentment. The Planning Commission, the UGC, the UPSC and the Central and State Governments have to work in unison if manpower planning is to be effectively carried out. What is crucial, however, is a strong political will to change and nationalise education. Without academic bureaucracies manning education departments, without college and university teachers establishing professional standards and without the students alert about the future of education, many of the maladies cannot be checked and rectified. Institutions and individuals at the helms of affairs, however, cannot escape responsibility and accountability.