Dramatic Fall in Education Standards in Just One Decade

The Indian Higher Education System has a history of imparting quality education. This was a major strength and competitive advantage of India. During the years when offshoring was not yet popular, the PowerPoint presentations created for top management of North American / European companies would include several slides on the quality of education in India and the difficulty of getting admission into higher education. However, this major strength and competitive advantage has rapidly eroded in the past decade.

Currently, even mediocre talent can easily get into professional colleges
Earlier, many talented people could not join professional courses, now even mediocre talent can easily get admission in AP. The number of engineering seats in Andhra Pradesh increased from about 4000 in 1989 to about 1.5 lakh by 2009. Even the number of MBA seats grew to about 20,000 from 2000 in just 10 years. However, the number of regular graduate students has remained about the same. This rapid growth in number of seats created a dearth of competition among students. It declined the caliber of students joining these courses.

This situation has been worsened by the greed of both students and their parents. When a professional course is paying good salaries to fresh graduates, many have succumbed by opting for such courses despite their interests/ capabilities not matching with what is required to be successful in that field. Earlier many of such students would not have got admission into professional colleges. However, today because of the manifold increase in the educational institutions offering such courses they can easily get admission in professional courses. This awareness that they will anyway get into a professional college further removes incentives for students to compete and strive hard to get into a professional course.

Lack of quality teaching staff
In the late 90’s, while the number of educational institutions was increasing manifold, many of the competent junior faculty left for lucrative careers in corporate sector. Over the years, the senior faculty have retired, while the remaining junior faculty got promoted as principals / Head of Departments of the new colleges. The existing educational system at that time had a limit on the number of quality teaching faculty they could generate. This combination of factors, manifold increase in colleges, retiring of senior faculty, good mid-level faculty leaving education system for lucrative corporate careers and limit of the number of good new teaching faculty that could be generated, dramatically led to the lack of quality teaching staff in professional colleges, as we see today. This lack of quality teaching staff seriously impairs a systematic and disciplined imparting of education. Thus, it has caused a dramatic fall in educational standards across the entire state.

Social welfare measures providing free education destroyed the value of education
As a social development initiative, the government has with good intentions provided free education to students from some backgrounds who joined professional courses. However, human nature typically tends to value that are expensive and difficult to get. When education was made free, this move possibly led to undervalue the education. The commitment level to pursue education was lowered due to the low out-of-pocket expenses. There was little to lose by neglecting their studies. However, this remains only a secondary issue.

Shift in importance to style rather than substance
Since it is not possible to deliver on teaching / educational standards, the new colleges have conveniently shifted focus to style and drama. Fancy things like great looking college buildings, appearance of college buses, student dress codes, college events, and size of the campuses were given more priority than the quality of education. Such fancy things have caused further damage to quality education since the students in their formative years have been exposed to fancy ideas. These fancy ideas have become deeply ingrained due to the mass hysteria created by so many colleges preaching the same message.

This document was drafted many months before the Yashpal Committee report was made public. Even this report says, “Mushrooming engineering and management colleges, with some notable exceptions, have largely become, mere business entities dispensing very poor quality education.”

The end result today is large number of students who have neither the knowledge, the stamina to do quality work, the skills or caliber that is required of employees today to be able to deliver in the competitive, dynamic and global market environment today. This was before the recession hit the world and made things even more difficult for businesses to be viable.

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