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Home > Business > Columnists > Guest Column > Sunil Jain

Graduates in India? 48.7 million

December 19, 2005

On the face of it, the NCAER's India Science Report has a lot of good news for those feeling depressed about India's education sector, particularly those bemoaning the decline of interest in science subjects.

The India Science Report, for instance, shows that India had a total of 48.7 million graduates in 2004, up sharply from 20.5 million in 1991. And while just around 29 per cent of those enrolled for graduate courses went in for science in 1995-96, this is now up to 35 per cent.

Equally heartening, even in a country that has as many illiterates that India has, the NCAER's all-India survey showed that, by and large, the population thought that the benefits of science and technology outweighed the damage such as that caused by a loss of jobs due to mechanisation, say. For India, the ratio was 1.1, which is not dramatically different from the US' 1.3.

What's worrying, however, is what follows once you go deeper into the report. At the very outset, there is no one official number for the total number of graduates in the country -- the NCAER's number is probably correct, given its reputation in the survey business, but it cannot be treated as an official number.

So, for instance, the Census in 1991 said there were 20.5 million graduates in the country, but the National Sample Survey said it was a lower 19.8 million a few years later for 1993-94. For 1991, a third source, the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), said the figure was just 15.6 million!

Once you get over the broad numbers, a more serious problem begins. Part of this, of course, was underscored, in bold, by the UR Rao committee, which pointed out that India had a huge shortage of teachers for engineering, for instance.

In 2000-01, Indian engineering institutions required 60,970 teachers, and this was broken down into 8,710 professors, 17,420 readers and 34,840 lecturers--in terms of professional qualifications, what was required were 26,130 Ph Ds and 34,840 M Techs.

What was available, however, were 5,862 Ph Ds and 11,035 MTechs--that's a shortfall of around 70 per cent, a figure that's more than doubled over the decade. So you can imagine the quality of students being churned out--small wonder then that IT major TCS has set up a mini-college of its own with a capacity to train 1,200 people at a time and imparts 56 days of extra training to each person it hires from over 100 engineering institutions across the country.

Nor can the gap be made up easily. India has a total of 253 universities and 12,732 colleges right now. Just take the total population in the relevant age group and divide this by the number of colleges/universities, and you get a horrendous figure for the number of students each college/university is supposed to cater for in the unlikely event India gets a big boost in literacy--the exercise can be done at both the all-India level as well as the level of individual states.

What this shows is that, at the all-India level, each university will have to cater for around 250,000-300,000 students--while that's about the size of Delhi University, there aren't too many universities of this size in the country, nor are many being planned.

The average college in the country will have to house nearly 5,000 students, going by the same logic--the figure is 8,000 for states like Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and 10,000 for West Bengal.

It's hardly surprising that all states are seeing a rapid mushrooming of colleges and private schools, but the problem here is that, in the absence of any credible regulatory body, there is no control over the minimum performance of most of these schools, either.

Indeed, the NCAER survey shows that, in places like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where the state is hardly spending any money on education, the spending by private individuals is dramatically higher.

In Bihar, the state spends Rs 44 per student per year while the parents themselves spent Rs 168--in Maharashtra, the state spent Rs 1,070 while the private spend was around Rs 323.

As is to be expected, the NCAER survey shows the huge problems in the quality of schooling. While two-thirds of students were satisfied by the quality of teaching physics, for instance, in Classes 6-8, this fell to a mere 50 per cent by the 11th to 12th; for maths it fell from 83 per cent to 48 per cent.

One of the reasons, again not surprisingly, was the poor quality of school infrastructure. But the real learning from the survey is the relationship between the occupation of parents and the education level of children, and the link between household income and education levels.

So, in the case of agriculturist families, 42 per cent of children said they wanted to be graduates and just 24 per cent wished to go in for a post-graduate degree. In the case of salary earners, however, about 30 per cent each wanted to do BA and MA while another 25 per cent or so wanted to go in for a technical education.

Even the choice of subject changed according to the occupation of parents--children of the salaried class were more likely to study engineering or medicine. Indeed, graduates and post-graduates tended to have more consumer durables in their houses in comparison to illiterates.

In other words, increasing job opportunities, and hence family incomes, are perhaps the best way to get more people to study.

Of course, when the numbers wanting to study increase, we'll come up against the shortage of schools, colleges and universities!

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Number of User Comments: 2

Sub: Indian Science Report has no value for the govt

NDA proposed NIS at Allahabad, Bhubaneswar, Pune and Chennai when there was no report like eIndian Science Reportf which analysed gState-wise regional imbalance of national ...

Posted by Patra

Sub: Graduates in India 48.7 million

Are there no national accreditation bodies in India?? If not, how then is someone to know whether the education and degree they recieve from an ...

Posted by labrea



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