Quality Higher Education, Its Status, Problems And Remedial Policy

By H. Jayantkumar Singh *

Quality education is one of the most hackneyed notions, which is yet eluding a clear-cut definition not only in the common parlance but also even in the academic circle. Still more elusive is the idea of quality higher education.

To give a quantitative measure of the quality of education achieved by a student is a really hazy concept. Many academic authorities are still groping to find the appropriate devices to quantify the achievements of their graduates.

However, in-spite of the absence of a clear idea of what it is, everybody seems to be after quality education. Before we discuss quality education we can make a reference to quality products.

The quality of the products of a company is generally determined from two standpoints; one is from the manufacturer's side and the other from the consumer's side. Manufacturers brand their products to show the quality of their items.

For example ISI mark on a product indicates the bench mark of the worth of their products. Consumers on the other hand have their own way of calibrating the products of a company.

A company is considered fortunate if consumer's index of calibration agrees with that of the company itself. This is the case of a company enjoying the good will of the people. However, if the two indices of calibration differ, it is always the consumer's calibration that preponderates.

The situation is analogous with the determination of the qualities of the numerous products of the various academic institutions. These institutions issue various categories of certificates and degrees indicating the different levels of achievements of the individual students in some way to quantify the quality of the ability of the student.

Some institutions calibrate their students by classes like 1st class, 2nd class or 3rd class. Further finer calibration is done by marks secured by the students in each subject. Some institutions indicate the achievements of the students by grades.

However, whatever may be the system of calibration some pertinent questions that arise are: Does the holder of an honorable degree of a university or institution really posses the intrinsic qualities of an educated person? Does the society expect more from a person who holds a better degree of a university than those holding the same of lesser grades?

Before we start to discuss these aspects, let us make ourselves clear the primary objectives of education and particularly Higher Education.

The main objectives of imparting education in India change from time to time through the ages .During the days of the Vedas, the main objectives were to teach the pupils the lore of the weapons i.e. Asthasashtra and the teachings of the Vedas i.e. Vedasashtra.

During the British period the main objectives as envisaged by the colonial masters were to give the natives the principles of 3 R's i.e. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic so that the natives could be employed conveniently and they also could be ordered in the master's language i.e. English, to perform their menial and clerical jobs.

After independence, the objectives of Education in India have changed. Education commissions after commissions have recommended more or less the same directives. All of them converge to the goal which is invariably the production of good citizens of the country. From a good citizen the six basic qualities of the Head, Heart, Health, Humanity, Humility and Harmony, which some Educationists call the six Hs are expected.

Of the above six objectives of Education what needs more attention and thrust for Higher Education is the domain of the Head. We are constantly reminded by history that the world has been always at wars. During early days it was war with a premium set on physical strength. After the advent of the gun powder it was the war of weapons, both conventional and nuclear.

Now it is the 21st century it is the war of ideas and the wherewithal for it is higher education no doubt. Wise men take nature as a great teacher. However, nature has many secrets which man finds extremely difficult to discover. There are abundant numbers of examples where man still fails to unfold many riddles of nature.

A telescope of high resolving power can distinguish the constituents of a double star while a microscope of high resolving power can distinguish germs from its surroundings.

So is a person with high mental resolving power who can distinguish facts from falsehood. In the modern world falsehood hides very cleverly among facts and vice versa.

One of the basic objectives of Higher Education is to increase the resolving power of the human mind. Two other important aspects of Higher Education are to inculcate the basic tenets of independent thinking and to enliven the indomitable character of the human mind to the young and talented students.

A fact can be perceived through various branches of human knowledge. Albert Einstein perceived the nature of the universe through his General theory of Relativity while it is said that a similar view was given by Kant through Philosophy. So also it is said that Hindu Vedant and Upanisad give the same thing. The difference is that Einstein did it by verifiable mathematical calculations while others are philosophical and metaphysical in concepts.

To improve the quality of education particularly Higher Education the University Grants Commission (UGC) and other academic authorities are trying to standardise the numerous institutions under their aegis in respect of the facilities and the infrastructure in each institution by giving stamps of approval in the form of grades.

This responsibility is given to an autonomous body known as National Accreditation and Assessment Committee, in short NAAC. For the individual teachers and scholars methods for pre-service and in-service assessments like JRF, NET, SET etc; are being followed.

Nevertheless, one loose end is still there. The moot point is: Is there any guarantee that a well qualified teacher or scholar would invariably discharge his/her duty to the expectation of all concerns thereby producing quality students?

Here comes the need for the introduction of the idea of teachers' accountability as an inseparable part of his/her service career. It is worthwhile to mention that some institutions of higher learning like the IIT'S, ISI etc; have there own quality of international standard. Products of such institutions have their own hallmark of quality.

One of the surest signs of quality of the products of institutions is the acceptability in the employment market. The practice of campus appointment is prevalent nowadays.

The number of students from an institutions getting campus appointment indicates the acceptability of the products of the institutions and thereby the quality of its products. In other words the market acceptability of the products is one important index of the quality of the products.

Though it is a really difficult task to innumerate the necessary and sufficient conditions to ensure quality Higher Education, the following steps are suggested.

  • To accredit all institutions of higher learning under the NAAC within a stipulated time.
  • To make the teachers who are in service accountable for their works through a monitoring cell.
  • To make all possible efforts so that students of higher learning get encouragement in independent pursuit of knowledge. This can be achieved by making modern learning facilities available and also by giving financial supports to deserving scholars.

* H. Jayantkumar Singh is Retd. HOD (Mathematics) of DM College of Science, Imphal . This article was sent by Huidrom Satish through this email - huidromsatish(at)gmail(dot)com . This article was webcasted on March 26, 2008.

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