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Sustain academic quality

Within a period of ten years, educational technologies are bound to progress in tandem with the Internet, offering an enormous amount of freely available teaching materials with a wide variety of learning tools. Educational institutions should be alert to adapt to the impending changes.

Sustain academic quality

During the early 19th century, Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras, initiated a survey through the district collectors to collect a detailed list of schools. Contrary to the impression that there was no schooling in India before the British, the figures show an abundance of pre-existing schools and colleges.  In 20 districts returning data, 11,575 schools and 1094 colleges were reported, with 157,195 and 5431 students, respectively.  Also, many collectors indicated that considerably more scholars and students studied in their homes. Moreover, they were available to all sections of the society at an affordable cost.

The dismantling of the traditional Indian education system started with the reforms introduced by Thomas Macaulay who laid the foundation for the public school system that is in place in India even today. It set out to supercede all existing indigenous school systems.

 

Strategic policy initiatives

In post-independent India, there were several strategic initiatives to make school and higher education accessible and affordable to the masses. In this context, it is relevant to recall the observations of the Kothari Commission (1966-68): 

“Quantitatively, education can be organised to promote social justice or to retard it.  History shows numerous instances where small social groups have used education as a tool for maintaining their hegemony and perpetuating the values upon which it has rested.  On the other hand, there are cases in which a social-cultural revolution has been brought about in a system where equal opportunity for education is provided and education is deliberately used to develop more and more potential talent and to harness it to the solution of national problems.” 

 

All education free...

Keeping in view the problems of access, equity and affordability, the Commission made far-reaching recommendations on the fee structure.  It recommended: “the country should gradually work towards a stage when all education would be tuition-free.”  It gave high priority to free education at the primary stage and to the abolition of fees at the secondary stage, mainly for disadvantaged groups.  Though the Commission did not advocate the immediate general abolition of fees in higher education, it suggested, “This should be the ultimate goal of education policy.” 

This suggestion was not only ignored, but subsequent developments have led to the massive proliferation of for-profit private institutions at school, college and university levels with grave implications for the quality and affordability.

 

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