No Indian university in global Top 200: Is curriculum to blame?

Indian President expresses discontent over universities’ failing to make the grade

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday publically expressed his disappointment over the fact that not a single Indian university has made it to the Top 200 universities in the world, according to the latest QS World University Rankings.

Universities from the US and UK make up the Top 10, with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) taking top honours among the 500 global universities ranked in the report. MIT is followed by #2 University of Cambridge (UK), #3 Harvard University (US), #4 University College London (UK) and #5 University of Oxford (UK) among the Top 5.

“I must convey my sense of dismay on seeing a recent report that not a single Indian university, including the premier Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs), featuring in the 200 top-rated universities in the world,” India’s Mukherjee said Saturday in his address at the 58th annual convocation of IIT-Kharagpur, which is ranked #349 in the world.

Mukherjee has reason to be peeved. Indian education, considered by many to be quite progressive, has traditionally failed to make a mark at the global level, especially higher education. With many Asian universities now outranking the famed IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), the superpower-in-the-making may be faltering at a very basic level.

“For me, the important question is why are we – a rising economic superpower – not able to promote our standards to be rated indisputably among the top 10 or even top 50 or 100?,” asked Mukherjee.

“To realise our true potential it is necessary to start now with the urgent task of developing in our students a scientific temperament. It is necessary to design and develop, without delay, advance technology at competitive cost which would be a boon for our industry, trade and commercial sectors,” he said.

A number of UAE-based parents, however believe it is the Indian curriculum to blame, as it focuses more on cramming or book-based education and less on overall personality development of a child.

Says S.K., a Dubai resident and mother of two school-going kids: “I used to get frustrated when my eight-year-old son would return from school all exhausted but with loads of homework, which would not leave him any time to play or relax. He was going crazy and I felt like I was killing his childhood.”

After much deliberation, S.K. decided to pull out her son from the Indian curriculum school in Dubai. “I’ve now shifted him to the IB [International Baccalaureate] and he is a much happier child,” she says.

Not everyone feels the same, though. “We can compete with the IB system in terms of global quality education at a much lesser cost,”
said Kapil Sibal, India’s Human Resource minister, when he released CBSEI [Central Board of Secondary Education International], an internationally benchmarked version of the Indian curriculum, at the Indian High School in Dubai in 2010.

“The CBSEI is much less expensive than the IB system,” Sibal said, enlisting the benefits of CBSEI over IB. “I dare say that parents and schools would soon demand CBSEI,” he had then said. “A lot of children around the world are engaged in this unhealthy competition to score more than the student sitting next to them,” Sibal had then said.

“That is not the goal of education. The goal is not to understand a complex mathematical equation but to understand life.”

But this is indeed the sad reality of the Indian education system. The competitive nature of the beast means that pushy parents want their kids to score more than the neighbours’ so that they can enrol in one of the fiercely competitive colleges, where, funnily enough, the cut-off percentages have reached an unbelievable 100 per cent in some cases.

Last year, for instance, Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) affixed 100 per cent as cut-off marks for admission. While this led to an uproar, cut-off percentages of 98-99 per cent are commonplace in Indian colleges.

Yash Pal, a former head of the University Grants Commission, has gone on record saying students scoring 100 per cent should be given negative marking. For, he believes that in the race to ‘mug up’, they would have learnt nothing and washed out their creativity. Is that what ails India, its education institutes and, most importantly, its students – its future?

Despite not even getting a single mention among the Top 200 universities (IIT-Mumbai is ranked #212), India, ironically, has the world’s largest higher education system in terms of number of educational institutions, and the third-largest in terms of student enrolments. To not get an entry to the Top 200, then, is discreditable, to say the least.

What do you think? Is the Indian curricula to blame? Are Indian parents too pushy? Does the Indian education system need a complete overhaul? What do you prefer for your child? Let us know in comments below.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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