Book criticizes Kerala’s higher education for breeding mediocrity

The book comes at a time when the state is facing an outflow of youngsters to foreign shores for higher education. Adding to the concerns, most campuses are battling murky student politics.
 ‘Kerala - 1956 to the Present: India’s Miracle State’ authored by Tirthankar Roy and K Ravi Raman
‘Kerala - 1956 to the Present: India’s Miracle State’ authored by Tirthankar Roy and K Ravi RamanPhoto | Express

KOCHI: Coming down hard on Kerala’s failure to improve the “awful state” of its universities and colleges, a new book has said “long-time neglect” of quality in higher education has built a “for-Kerala-by-Kerala” type of higher education, breeding mediocrity.

The damning criticism of the higher education sector in the book ‘Kerala - 1956 to the Present: India’s Miracle State’ — co-authored by Tirthankar Roy, professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics, and K Ravi Raman, a member of Kerala State Planning Board — comes at a time when the state is facing an outflow of youngsters to foreign shores for higher education. Adding to the concerns, most campuses are battling murky student politics and violence.

“The Kerala Model was good with primary education and an abject failure with higher education. The entry of private investment has not done much to improve the awful state of the universities and colleges,” the authors wrote.

“Private investment in education has revived, as in other states. However, private investors in education rarely understand how to build quality and target quantity instead. Bureaucrats are not competent to perform the complicated task of improving the quality of education, the book said. 

‘Edu quality challenge largely overlooked in otherwise active media’

“Most of them believe government officers know how to deliver quality education because the budget pays teachers’ salaries. That is a mistake,” the book said.

Ravi Raman told TNIE that ‘for-Kerala-by-Kerala’ higher education meant that the educational qualification attained here is of no use outside the state. “This situation not only passes up a chance to sell quality education to potential students from outside the state, even abroad, but also denies the opportunity to skill domestic workforce. The much-hyped syndrome of educated unemployment in the state owes largely to this failure. The growing knowledge economy sector in the state will continue to open opportunities for skilling and global integration for the domestic labour market. But how far the state can assure the participation of the relatively marginalised in this enterprise and make the process inclusive remains open to doubt,” according to the book, published by Cambridge University Press.

Asked about the solution, Ravi Raman said there can be many easily implementable ideas. “One, there is the student feedback about the faculty, the course etc. This is very much a feature in foreign universities, but not done here. Similarly, there is the concept of tutors in universities abroad. While a professor takes classes for say 120 students, they are separated into a group of 10-12, and a tutor is made in charge of each group. Each group would be guided and taught separately by these tutors,” he explained.

Further, the education quality challenge is largely overlooked in an otherwise active media, the authors wrote.

“Massive investments have been made in modern infrastructure, including education, but to what extent they have been capable of addressing the increasing educated unemployment in the state or delivering skills remains open to question,” the authors wondered.

The book also criticised the Left regimes in Kerala for destroying private capital, nearly killing conventional agriculture, weakening growth and creating the conditions for a fiscal crisis.

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