One of the despatches of The Economist last year was deeply concerned about the unnerving times for higher education globally. Global universities (read American) that rested on a four-decade continuing increase in demand for higher education are wrestling now, thanks to the troika—cut in government spending, intrinsic value for a degree, and public scepticism. The National Centre for Education Statistics in the US has predicted that there is no possibility till 2021 for the number of school education students to peak and same is the case of higher education demand levelling off in Europe as per the reports of the London-based Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. On the other hand, challenges for India and China are on the other extreme. The United Nations and many reports point out to the pressure on the higher education system with the Indian share of the global 18-22-year-olds by 2020 reaching 25 per cent. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to The Economist article, estimates that among the 200 million worldwide degrees to be given by 2020, 40 per cent will be from the elite and middle class of India and China. With this backdrop, the case of India needs a new innovative policy approach that integrates school education to address this trend. This is critical as an increasing school enrolment will further add pressure to the higher education system, and school education output must be of higher quality to enable them to travel the roads unchartered so far.
The MHRD has launched an innovative four-year integrated BSc/BCom/BA, BEd programme in its recent policy announcement. This is a major positive initiative that is aimed at attracting young students after high school to take up teaching as a career profession by choice and not by compulsion. Two major interventions can be implemented to attract young bright minds to this programme and the MHRD should select as many universities (public and private) accredited by NAAC with ‘A’ Grade as possible to be a part of this twin-policy suggestions.
The selected universities by default be approved by NCTE to start the innovative four-year programme. This programme must be supported under a special five-year project in which the MHRD provides recurring grant to the selected universities to run the programme with specific conditions. The universities adopt five state-run government schools to create adequate or improve existing infrastructural facilities, improve standards of teaching through this new programme by using its students as in-service teachers, transfer best practises and do all possible things to elevate the standard of teaching-learning in these five government schools. These schools will later be the champion schools and through a hub and spoke arrangement transfer their learning experience to its neighbourhood schools and so on. Within a network of such identified universities, best practices can be collaboratively shared across the nation. The universities concerned will also build a strong relationship with its immediate school eco-system and this element is missing in the present scheme of things.
The MHRD must also re-introduce a scheme of the 1960s, wherein, the students admitted to this four-year integrated programme in the selected universities are provided full tuition fee-waiver and on successful graduation must work in government schools for a minimum period of time. This shall not only attract young minds but also ensure that the improved teacher education output is channelised to serve the desired purpose.
This twin policy needs support from respective states and through a joint effort can make a conventional Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model to a path-breaking Build, Educate, Employ and Transform model. Let this BOOT to BEET transfer begin. firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University