Karin Fischer in this CHE article, http://chronicle.com/article/Job-Preparation-and/135584, discusses dialogue at recent Delhi higher education conference organized -interestingly enough- by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, on how “ready” Indian students are for entry into their job market. Having first studied in India as a grad student in 1975 and become familiar with their higher education system at that time, I find it sad to be reminded once again that the country has still not been able to address both the growth of their university system and the expansion of their economy – presumably coupled with an expansion of jobs in key sectors.
I’m actually not really surprised as India has always had to contend with its rigid post-colonial legacy in the education sector at all levels. Fischer comments on one corporate speaker who comments that their universities graduate students without “critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in today’s global marketplace.” True enough for the millions in the majority of India’s 33,000 higher ed institutions which represent -according to Philip Altbach of Boston College, “more than half of the world’s post-secondary institutions.” And at the same time, India is home to the some of the world’s best technical institutes and IT corporate giants – like Infosys which ( as I have cited in my recent chapter, “Employer Perspectives in International Education” in the SAGE Handbook of International Higher Education) also conducts a Global Internship Program attracting the best and brightest students from around the world.
India’s new junior minister for human-resource development, former UN under-secretary general and Tufts alumnus, Shashi Tharoor, is quoted here as saying that such programs and students are “islands in a sea of mediocrity.” I think it’s unfortunate for someone who has had the privilege and benefits of studying outside India and building a career away from the nation, should return to make such a statement. This is not a new crisis for India, but one which does require sustained political will to change the dynamics of how India educates its citizenry. Until this is tackled up and down the education system by politicians and educators – not just at the university level – India will never live up to its potential to prepare its graduates to fully contribute to one of the world’s greatest nation-states.