EDI­TOR-IN-CHIEF

India Today - - NEWS -

The skill set re­quired for the 21st cen­tury stu­dent is vastly dif­fer­ent from when we started the Best Col­leges sur­vey 20 years ago. Then the three Rs of read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic were para­mount. Now it’s the four Cs—critical think­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion, creativ­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing need to pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tion that keeps pace with an in­creas­ingly mod­ern work­place where global pro­tec­tion­ism and ad­vanc­ing au­to­ma­tion are mak­ing jobs re­dun­dant and chang­ing the no­tion of leisure time.

I am happy to re­port that our Best Col­leges sur­vey has been able to pro­vide the emerg­ing stu­dent with the tools to choose a smart fu­ture. From the generic top 10 rank­ing and two streams—en­gi­neer­ing and medicine—the sur­vey now cov­ers 13 streams, which in­clude me­dia, fash­ion tech­nol­ogy and fine arts. For arts, sci­ence and com­merce, the sur­vey now spans 18 cities. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on the over­crowded and overex­tended Delhi Univer­sity, where cut­offs for cer­tain sub­jects like eco­nom­ics have gone up to 100 per cent, it en­com­passes new hubs of learn­ing such as Ben­galuru, Pune and Hy­der­abad. And it also takes note of the deep­en­ing of com­pe­ten­cies with pri­vate en­gi­neer­ing col­leges do­ing bet­ter, in some cases, than IITs—the top 10 hon­ours are shared equally be­tween IITs and pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions. Clearly, even the gov­ern­ment re­alises the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing and rais­ing stan­dards, which is why the Union min­istry for hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment started the Na­tional In­sti­tu­tional Rank­ing Frame­work in 2015, which is, how­ever, still in its in­fancy.

The per­cent­age of young­sters be­tween 18 and 23 who ac­tu­ally opt for higher ed­u­ca­tion is still trou­blingly low—24 per cent com­pared to 50 per cent in ad­vanced coun­tries—but the fig­ure is ris­ing. So is sup­ply. In­dia now has 39,000 col­leges, 11,000 stand­alone in­sti­tu­tions and over 760 uni­ver­si­ties, ac­cord­ing to data from the HRD min­istry. Our sur­vey was equally ro­bust. The Nielsen Com­pany did it in var­i­ous stages, with a com­pre­hen­sive list of more than 2,965 col­leges, as­sessed by a com­bi­na­tion of pri­mary field­work and per­cep­tion anal­y­sis of 1,236 ex­perts, in­clud­ing prin­ci­pals, vice-prin­ci­pals, heads of depart­ment and deans. Those who re­fused to give data were not ranked, and we can only say to them, you can’t win the game if you don’t play it.

Some in­ter­est­ing trends have emerged from the 21st edi­tion of the sur­vey, put to­gether by Se­nior As­so­ciate Edi­tor Kaushik Deka. Ben­galuru has emerged as a ris­ing star in ed­u­ca­tion, with col­leges from ev­ery stream (ex­cept medicine) im­prov­ing in their rank­ing. Un­like in the past, when top col­leges meant only those based in met­ros, in arts, sci­ence and com­merce, the top 40 institutes are now spread across 10 states; ge­og­ra­phy is no longer the bar­rier it once was. In six streams, there has been at least one sur­prise win­ner among the top 10, in­di­cat­ing the grad­ual emer­gence of a new gen­er­a­tion of institutes. Yet, ques­tions re­main. Qual­ity has to be given at­ten­tion. In­dia has a poor record of train­ing doc­tors and health pro­fes­sion­als. In­dia has a doc­tor-pa­tient ra­tio of 1:1,674 against the WHO norm of 1:100. As for en­gi­neer­ing, the Na­tional Em­ploy­a­bil­ity Re­port 2016 by eval­u­a­tion com­pany As­pir­ing Minds sug­gests more than 80 per cent of engi­neers in In­dia are un­em­ploy­able. This is shock­ing.

A coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment is di­rectly linked with the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion it de­liv­ers to its ci­ti­zens. Quan­tity is not enough, qual­ity mat­ters. That is why con­tin­u­ously eval­u­at­ing our ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions is of vi­tal sig­nif­i­cance. I hope two decades of our sur­veys rank­ing in­sti­tu­tions have helped up­grade our ed­u­ca­tional scaf­fold­ing. Peer pres­sure spurs im­prove­ment like noth­ing else.

(Aroon Purie)

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