Recent suicides in the ‘Kota Factory’ have highlighted mental health issues at coaching institutes and campuses. In the previous two years, 38 kids have committed suicide, highlighting a wider issue. It’s usual to criticize IITs and NEET/JEE examinations, although many other things contributed. Exploring what got us here and possible alternatives is essential to understanding higher education today.
1. Demand-supply imbalance: Nearly a million students apply to engineering schools each year, yet respected institutions have few spaces. Low-quality colleges have proliferated, while high-quality ones are rare. Select universities are in great demand because parents want stable careers for their children. Due of the abundance of high-performing kids, entrance tests exclude them. Coaching centers prepare mediocre pupils, making coaching a perceived requirement for a secure future.
2. Top-Tier universities: US top-tier universities have a tight gap with lower-ranked colleges. Secondary universities offer equivalent undergraduate education. Outside top universities in India, faculty quality and curriculum decline.
3. Media focus on big pay: Reports of “one crore” salaries set false expectations. Despite rare situations, students and parents rely on admission examinations to achieve such substantial wages. These schools’ median wages are far lower than the hype because just 1% of students obtain such large packages.
4. Lack of growth resources: India invests less in higher education. Higher education budgets remain 0.6-0.7% of GDP, impeding development. India has no strategy to increase elite school Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) like other industrialized nations. Financial restrictions, teacher shortages, and limited resources limit expansion. Our top institutions depend on the government for capital and operating spending, making expansion difficult.
5. Rising lower middle-class aspirations: Without guaranteed basic living standards, India’s education is largely relegated to job acquisition. Admissions to secure a solid future trump passion and interests. Parents and students put successful college admissions first.
Addressing these difficulties requires:
Top-tier institution expansion: IITs and IISc must train faculty. PhD and undergraduate intake must be increased immediately. The average PhD graduation rate per teacher in our best schools is still below 0.5 students per year. At present levels, a top institution faculty member generates one PhD student every two years. It must have one PhD student per faculty every year. Higher education and research investment are needed to increase PhD graduation rates and quality.
Study now-pay-later plans: Implementing plans where students pay a portion of tuition while college and the remainder as a proportion of wage after employment can reduce financial strains on institutions and government. Countries like Australia implement effective programs. The student repays the loan after reaching a certain earning level. It also allows students to follow varied professional choices because it’s recovered at a defined percentage of pay and for a specified duration. The government would contribute funds for expansion, but the institute must earn operational expenses through such programmes.
Pay package transparency: Institutions should present wage statistics transparently to avoid sensationalism and set reasonable expectations. Institutions must standardize placement data reporting.
Supporting private institutions: Private institutions delivering great education with autonomy and low government intrusion can boost GER.
Reviving state universities: State universities face distinct obstacles than centrally supported institutions. NITI Aayog must rank states by university support. Only peer pressure and name-and-shame can revive them now.
Gradually implementing these strategies with an emphasis on quality and equity can help higher education improve. It takes time to fix decades-old problems, but smart initiatives may help higher education succeed.
The recent Kota Factory suicides have highlighted mental health issues at coaching institutes and campuses. The issue stems from a demand-supply imbalance, with low-quality colleges proliferating and high-quality ones rare. The US top-tier universities have a tight gap with lower-ranked colleges, and faculty quality and curriculum decline outside top universities in India. Media focus on big pay sets false expectations, and India’s lack of growth resources hinders development.
Addressing these difficulties requires top-tier institution expansion, such as IITs and IISc, increasing PhD and undergraduate intake. Study now-pay-later plans, such as now-pay-later plans, can reduce financial strains on institutions and the government. Pay package transparency is essential, and institutions should present wage statistics transparently. Private institutions delivering great education with autonomy and low government intrusion can boost GER. Reviving state universities faces unique obstacles than centrally supported institutions, and NITI Aayog must rank states by university support. Gradually implementing these strategies with an emphasis on quality and equity can help higher education improve. It takes time to fix decades-old problems, but smart initiatives can help higher education succeed.