This refers to “Reforming higher education” (October 17). Since the initiation of reforms in India, the onus of imparting higher education and bringing necessary changes has largely fallen on the private sector institutes. Unfortunately, many private sector players look at education as a commodity akin to other commodities and aim to maximise profit. Therein lies the flaw of this model. Education is a merit good. Private institutes try to sell a merit good in a marketplace based on the principles of demand and supply applicable to private goods. This leads to gross neglect of social benefits associated with education. Consequently, good education remains under supplied for a majority of the people and at the same time, it is highly priced.
Moreover, they forget that physical infrastructure can attract students but one needs excellent quality of teaching to not only retain students but also to convert them into employable graduates and first class citizens. Unfortunately, the treatment meted out to teachers here is equivalent to the exploitation of factory workers. Salaries are abysmally low. Pay scales are rarely adhered to. There is no security of job. Working conditions are pitiable. Teachers are expected to teach, research and also take care of administrative tasks. They are highly overburdened.
If the government is serious about reforming higher education, it should start with restricting the profit oriented approach of private institutes through suitable legislation, regulate price and profits, and improve the working conditions of teachers.
Ketan K Shah, Ahmedabad
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