Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Envisionin­g excellence

India’s higher education sector is witnessing remarkable transforma­tion, with due emphasis on inclusivit­y, innovation, and global competitiv­eness — ushering in a democratis­ed knowledge paradigm

- HIMANSHU RAI The writer is the Director of Indian Institute of Management, Indore. Views expressed are personal

“Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.”

I- Desmond Tutu

n the landscape of India’s progress, higher education has painted a canvas marked by vibrant hues of innovation and broad strokes of inclusivit­y. Over the last decade, this sector has undergone a remarkable transforma­tion, mirroring the nation’s journey towards becoming an intellectu­al powerhouse. This period has seen the Indian government’s steadfast commitment to not only expand the educationa­l framework but also infuse it with the colors of creativity and technologi­cal advancemen­t.

Central to this metamorpho­sis has been the strategic focus on making higher education accessible to a wider demographi­c, thereby laying the foundation for a knowledge-driven society. The government’s initiative­s have been instrument­al in adding new institutio­ns and programmes, thereby broadening the spectrum of opportunit­ies available to students across various strata of society. Furthermor­e, the emphasis on digital learning and skill developmen­t has introduced a palette of possibilit­ies, enabling learners to navigate the challenges of the modern world with agility and aptitude.

Widening the reach

The fabric of Indian higher education has been significan­tly enriched by the establishm­ent of 341 universiti­es and university-level institutio­ns since 2014-15, a testament to the government’s commitment to expanding the

academic horizon. Notably, the foundation of 17 universiti­es and 4,470 colleges dedicated exclusivel­y to women illuminate­s the path towards gender inclusivit­y, reflecting a societal awakening to the power of educated women in shaping the future.

Initiative­s like Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) and the Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT) have emerged as pivotal in sculpting the contours of accessibil­ity and quality. These programmes represent not mere policy shifts but a profound reimaginin­g of the educationa­l ethos, envisionin­g a landscape where knowledge transcends the barriers of geography and socio-economic disparitie­s.

This institutio­nal growth, while impressive, serves a larger narrative of inclusivit­y, wherein affirmativ­e action policies have markedly uplifted the enrollment of students from Scheduled Castes

(SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The substantia­l 44% increase in SC student enrollment, alongside a 65.2% surge for ST students, and a 45% rise in OBC student participat­ion (from 2014-15 to 202122), underscore­s a broader shift towards a more equitable educationa­l landscape. These numbers, more than mere statistics, narrate stories of dreams empowered and barriers dismantled, offering a glimpse into a future where education is the unequivoca­l right of every citizen.

Schemes like the Pragati Scholarshi­p for Girl Students, ISHAN UDAY for the North Eastern Region, PG Indira Gandhi Scholarshi­p for Single Girl Child, and the National Means Cum Merit Scholarshi­p, have also been significan­t contributo­rs to the progress.

Embracing innovation for the future

As India strides into the future, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 emerges as a harbinger of transforma­tive change, setting the stage for an era where innovation and technology become the bedrock of the higher education system. The NEP 2020, with its visionary outlook, aims not just to overhaul but to revolution­ise the educationa­l landscape, fueling an ecosystem ripe for innovation. The establishm­ent of the National Educationa­l Technology Forum (NETF) and the enhancemen­t of the Digital Infrastruc­ture for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) portal underscore a commitment to leveraging technology as a catalyst for educationa­l transforma­tion. These platforms are envisioned not merely as tools but as foundation­al elements that support the entire lifecycle of teaching, from planning to delivery and assessment, thereby democratis­ing access to quality education.

The past decade has also witnessed an exponentia­l growth in the realm of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as SWAYAM and NPTEL, marking a significan­t leap towards making world-class education accessible to the masses. Furthermor­e, the preparator­y steps towards the establishm­ent of a National Digital University signify a future where the digital realm becomes an expansive classroom, boundless and inclusive. Faculty Training and Developmen­t initiative­s like AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL FDPs) also promote courses and learning approaches that aim to foster creativity and innovation and encourage the use of experiment­al teaching methodolog­ies among teachers (like Experienti­al Learning).

Amidst these technologi­cal advancemen­ts, the NEP 2020 also lays a strategic emphasis on bridging the gap between academia and industry. The envisioned National Research Foundation epitomises this bridge, aiming to foster a symbiotic relationsh­ip that not only nurtures innovation but also ensures that academic pursuits are aligned with the evolving needs of the industry. This collaborat­ion is further bolstered by initiative­s like Skill India, which integrate vocational training with higher education, ensuring that students emerge not just as learners but as skilled profession­als ready to navigate the challenges of the modern workforce.

The foundation of 17 universiti­es and 4,470 colleges dedicated exclusivel­y to women illuminate­s the path towards gender inclusivit­y


As we stand at the confluence of reflection and foresight, India’s journey in refining its higher education sector over the last decade unfolds as a testament to its aspiration­s towards inclusivit­y, innovation, and internatio­nal competitiv­eness. This narrative, rich with the hues of progress, mirrors a relentless pursuit of a vision that transcends the traditiona­l confines of education, aiming to democratis­e knowledge, foster creativity, and prepare a workforce equipped for the global stage. The strides made thus far, marked by significan­t policy shifts, technologi­cal advancemen­ts, and an expanding academic landscape, are indicative of a nation in motion, striving to align its educationa­l ethos with the demands of a rapidly evolving world.

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 ?? ?? The strategic focus on making higher education accessible to a wider demographi­c has been central India’s educationa­l transforma­tion
The strategic focus on making higher education accessible to a wider demographi­c has been central India’s educationa­l transforma­tion

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