The situation of higher education in India is grim and needs to be reformed, a NITI Aayog official Monday said while emphasising on the need to grow human expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Releasing a task force report on ‘Emergence of STEM education in India’, NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat said the country may have a large number of graduates, post graduates and PhDs but their quality is questionable due to the shortcomings of the higher education system.
“If we neglect higher education, we neglect growth of the nation as a whole because higher education contributes to the nation’s growth. If we have to transform our demography, we have take a look at the higher education in a big way because if you take an overall view of it, the situation is grim and not a happy situation.
“People say a large number of graduates and PhDs are coming out but we know the quality of those products /graduates/PhDs,” Saraswat said. The government official compared the investment in higher education in India to that in China and said the situation is very serious.
“Four per cent of GDP has been spent by India on overall education while China is spending around 565 billion dollars, out of which 145 billion dollars is spent on higher education. However, India spent only 12.5 billion dollars in overall education out of which 4.5 billion dollars were spent on higher education. This is the ratio in which we are working vis-a-vis China,” he said.
The report, which has been prepared by the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and several professors across the country, has highlighted issues in STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics) education and made recommendations to reform it.
It recommended expanding diversity in STEM education on national priority and noting that women and racial minorities are disproportionately under-represented particularly in the STEM-based private sector.
“Call for a focus on ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ in STEM education. It needs to be made public friendly as private institutions are far behind in enrolling Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and special category students in comparison to public universities,” the report recommended.
It said the GDP on education should be increased to 1.5 per cent from one per cent and economics (analysis of cost and benefit) of higher education needs to be discussed in more detail.
The report was released by Saraswat along with Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF, and members of the task force at the VIF, Chanakyapuri here. Other recommendations of the report include planning national-level specialised institutions in areas where the impact is expected to be the highest and for the long term, for example, artificial intelligence, cyber security, climate change, event-driven business ecosystem and internet of things etc.
It also suggested setting up of institutions for popularisation of Science in one year.