By Bhagirathi Panda
Nowadays, in academia, government and society at large, the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) is regularly discussed and analysed. One of the important goals of the NEP 2020, especially with regard to higher education, is to make it global. The question is what does it mean to be global? In other words, what are the evolving characteristics or critical elements that make a higher education system global? The next important question is: why do we need to make our higher education system global? This question is essentially about the rationale and the desirability of making our higher education system global. If we could answer these two questions with confidence and relevance (which we have tried to do here in subsequent analyses), then naturally the third question concerns the challenges we would face in undertaking this exercise. After identifying the multiple challenges and analyzing them in their contexts, we could then suggest some ways forward. However, all these four exercises require a prelude in the form of an understanding of the current state of higher education in our country and the regions identified with respect to certain fundamental indicators.
We start with the gross enrollment rate (GER) in higher education. According to the report of All India Survey on Higher Education, 2020 (AISHE 2020), the GER in higher education (regular mode of education only) stands at 27.1% for the whole country compared to 88% in United States, 70% in Germany and 54.4 in China. %. In the country, regarding the Northeast Region (NER), out of the eight states, five states, viz. Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura have a GER below the national average. Another important indicator is the student-teacher ratio, which simply shows how many students there are per teacher. Here, the Indian average is 29 compared to 12 in the United States, 12.1 in Sweden, 10.1 in Russia and 19.1 in China. As for the NER, again five states viz. Assam, Arunachal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim have student-teacher ratios below the national average. Accreditation is an important feature of global higher education. In the country, less than 30% of our higher education institutions are accredited, while globally in the United States, more than 90% of higher education institutions are accredited. The total number of foreign students enrolled in Indian tertiary institutions in 2020 was only 49,348. The majority of these enrolled students and scholars are from bilateral exchange agreements. Barely 2 to 3% of them come to spend their own money. Research is an important component of global higher education. In our country, over the past two decades, the allocation to R&D has fluctuated around 0.6 to 0.7% of GDP, compared to 2.8% in the United States, 2.1% in China, 4 .3% in Israel and 4.2% in South Korea. India has 216.2 researchers per 1 million inhabitants compared to 1,200 in China and 4,300 in the United States. The total number of citations in 2018 for Indian research papers was 4.27 million compared to 66.45 million for the United States and 19.35 million for China. In 2018, the number of research papers published by Indian researchers was 0.52 million, compared to 3.8 million for the United States and 2.06 million for China.
With this prelude in mind, let’s examine the critical elements of the global higher education system, including the changing prototypes. The global education system in terms of practice is marked by competition among students, the presence of global students and faculty, autonomy and accreditation, grading, multidisciplinary learning and research, collaboration with global institutions, public-private partnership, credit transfers and employability. In terms of content and pedagogy, it provides for multidisciplinary learning and research, better connection between theory and empirical, connection between peers, a program linked to the resolution of societal problems, experiential learning and continuous and comprehensive assessment. in real time. Shifting prototypes include (i) student and teacher are reinvented as learner and mentor, (ii) fixed-time teaching is replaced by on-demand teaching, (iii) provision of materials of reading by the teacher is replaced by the mapping of learning outcomes, (iv) ad hoc learning is replaced by lifelong learning through vocational training and (v) ad hoc learning is replaced by a lifelong opportunity. When we compare our current state of higher education with these benchmark characteristics, we find that some of them are non-existent and some of them are sub-optimal.
Let us now answer the question relating to the imperative and logic of globalization of our higher education. We could see broadly two reasons here – the reason to remain relevant in the context of the emergence of crucial macro-global driving forces such as the arrival of the knowledge economy, competition, the technological revolution and the decline in public investment in higher education. The second is the powerful economic rationale for education as a service that emerges as a key strategic program for reform and development of many developed and emerging economies. When we look at the global growth practice and strategy, we come across a distinct pattern in the strategy of developed countries and the same is also adopted by emerging economies such as China. The Industrial Revolution brought huge economic gains to Western Europe, and the manufacturing sector contributed the lion’s share of the GDP of many European countries in the 18th and early to mid-20th centuries. Subsequently, the rising cost of production labor in these economies resulted in a shift of the global manufacturing base from Western Europe to countries and regions such as the United States, Japan , Southeast Asia, including South Korea and China in that order. Europe and the United States have thus begun to make up for their loss in manufacturing by exporting services such as finance and insurance, tourism and, more recently, education. In the year 2019-2020, the US economy received $38.96 billion in education services exports, which resulted in the creation of over 415,990 jobs in the United States. Lately, China has started aggressively exporting education services, once it realized that its competitiveness in manufacturing might not last long. And in this direction, it has undertaken a complete overhaul of its higher education landscape trying to make it world-class by benchmarking global practices and attributes. Recently (before Covid-19), there has been an increase in the number of Indian students traveling to China for higher education. Currently, more than 15,000 Indian students are pursuing higher education in China.
It is in a context of both relevance and economic logic that we must prepare ourselves to become a world power exporting educational services. This will only be possible if we ensure standard global practices and values in higher education. NEP 2020 therefore rightly mentions the internationalization of our higher education system as one of its primary objectives. However, to achieve this goal, we have a number of challenges to overcome. None of the Indian universities and institutions are on the list of top two hundred universities in the world. This results in graduates with low employability, a common feature of higher education in India. We need to create world-class physical infrastructure. The shortage of teachers is a big setback. The shortage of teachers and the inability of the public education system to attract and retain qualified teachers have posed challenges to quality education for many decades.
The profile of our faculties and our students must be global. We continue with an outdated and rigid curriculum mainly focused on imparting theoretical knowledge devoid of creativity. There are huge gaps between industry requirements and what higher education institutions teach in their curriculum. This needs to be taken care of. Pedagogy and assessment focus on input and rote learning. We need to provide opportunities for students to develop a wider range of soft skills including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving, and collaborative working. Important tasks incumbent upon us would be to promote global collaboration, ensure diversity and flexibility, establish peer-to-peer connection in teaching and research, encourage endowment culture, integrate the motivational and experiential learning, to ensure increased public-private partnership and value proposition. in our higher education.
The 2020 NEP stipulations on transforming the higher education regulatory system by establishing four vertical sectors with distinct functions of regulation, accreditation, funding and setting academic standards; the creation of a National Research Foundation (NRF) and the creation of more universities and multidisciplinary colleges are steps in the right direction. Globalization of Indian higher education is fundamentally about comparing global quality, infrastructure, institutions and practices as well as the unique Indian character of our higher education system. This requires serious partnership with government, academia, market, community and civil society. Are we ready for this?
(The author teaches at the Department of Economics, NEHU. He can be contacted at [email protected])