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Indias higher education system, being the second largest in the world, is governed at the tertiary level by the University Grants Commission which enforces its standards, advises the government, and helps coordinate between the centre and the state. Indian higher education system has expanded at a fast pace by adding nearly 20,000 colleges and more than 8 million students in the last decade. As of 2011, India has 42 central universities, 275 state universities, 130 deemed universities, 90 private universities, 5 institutions established and functioning under the State Act, and 33 Institutes of National Importance. Other institutions include 4 NITTTRs, 33,000 colleges as Government and Private Degree Colleges, including 1800 exclusive women's colleges, functioning under these universities and institutions as reported by the UGC in 2012. The emphasis in the tertiary level of education lies on science and technology. Indian educational institutions by 2004 consisted of a large number of technology institutes. Distance learning and open education is also a feature of the Indian higher education system, and is looked after by the Distance Education Council. Indira Gandhi National Open University is the largest university in the world in terms of the number of students, having approximately 3.5 million students across the globe .
Some institutions of India, such as the IITs, IIMs, and NITs have been globally acclaimed for their standard of education. The IITs enroll about 8000 students annually and their alumni have contributed towards the growth of both the private and the public sectors of India. However, India has failed to produce world class universities like Harvard or Oxford. Fig. 1 describes the educational structure in India, Fig. 2 states the Growth of Higher Education: Universities/Colleges/Students enrolment/Teaching Staff: 1950-51 - 2010-11 and Fig. 3 illustrates the Type-wise Distribution of Degree awarding universities/university level institutions: Dec.,2011 .
Fig. 1 Educational Structure in India
Fig. 2 Growth of Higher Education: Universities/Colleges/Students enrolment/Teaching Staff
Fig. 3 Type-wise Distribution of Degree awarding universities/university level institutions
The current higher education scenario is undergoing profound and rapid changes all over the world. These changes are driving our educational system to respond in a manner so as to ensure that the quality of life in various segments of society is maintained. This paper describes why quality is an imperative in higher education and how research can play an important role in enhancing the quality of higher education. Furthermore, the paper describes the factors that constrain educational research and suggests some strategies and activities that should be undertaken to promote educational research in higher education.
Indian education v/s American education, which system is better?
At this stage, it is worth comparing the Indian education with the American one. Each of these education systems has its own strengths and weaknesses. Overall one cannot claim that which is more preferable, but still the debate is open for comments.
More emphasis is given to practical understanding, reading, writing, math, understanding concepts and documentation. Students are provided freedom to choose class subjects and are encouraged to take interest and responsibilities towards studies. In addition, sports, technical education, arts, foreign languages and more such subjects are given equal importance along with the existing curriculum. Extracurricular activities such as drill teams, bands, football or even non-athletic activity such as musical groups, school newspaper and debate teams are encouraged and each and every student is made to participate in one or the other activity apart from the curriculum.
For tomorrow's class, the students prepare the lesson in advance, which helps them to focus their attention on filling gaps in their understanding by paying more attention during some parts of the lecture which they had found difficult and by asking questions. Also by this mechanism, the tutor also researches the topic well and prepares himself to face such questions next day.
Overall education system in USA is:
About learning, i.e., preparing the children to explore and understand the concepts
About learning the concept not just by reading but by actually learning through practicals
Not about stressing students on exams, i.e, not about academic competitiveness
About learning in small numbers and about excelling in many ways, not just academically, but also through sports
Education is very theoretical and deep practical or logical knowledge is missing in some or the other way. There is no expertise in any particular subject. Indian Students study the subjects so as to gain maximum marks, thinking that they would get a good job with a high salary, whereas students in foreign nations actually focus on practical aspects with a lot of expertise. There are wider prospects of education in foreign nations as students are not only focused to score good marks but are focussed towards complete knowledge.
Overall education in India is all about :
Preparing the children to read and absorb, i.e., memorizing the study materials
Higher academic performance
learning in large classes with at least 50 students
more preference being given to academic excellence than sports or other extracurricular activities
teachers holding great value and respect
Thus, research should be made a part of our lives from as early as school since it inculcates rational thinking, scientific reasoning and philosophical questioning. Research creates more curiosity in the young minds and drives them to seek more and more knowledge and also fosters creativity among them.
Why Quality Higher Education is important?
Quality is not just for manufacturers. Quality is also an essential requirement of higher education, be it teaching, learning and evaluation in a classroom, laboratory, workshop, curriculum development, institutional evaluation etc. The impetus for improving quality of higher education and scrutiny by the accreditation agencies and the corporate employers is gaining momentum in India. There are many important Quality management tools and techniques that have been fully tried out in industry, which could be adopted in the field of education. These tools would diagnose a system and identify potential for improvement.
"Education should also be autonomous and free from politics. The modernisation of the curriculum and skilled personnel in the profession would help India to achieve the set goals. Better qualified people should come to the noble profession of teaching to develop innovative
mechanisms in Indian education system" - Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. "The focus of the 12th plan would be to provide quality higher education for children", - Union HRD Minister Pallam Raju (Jan 6, 2013). "India is entering the global employment market place with a self-imposed handicap of which we are just beginning to become conscious - an acute shortage of Quality institutions of higher education. For far too long, we have been complacent about the fact that we had produced, since the 1960s, the world's second largest pool of trained scientists
and engineers." - Shashi Tharoor Author and former UN Diplomat.
The 'learner' is the starting point for any kind of education, whether formal or informal. All other elements are to merely facilitate the defined 'outcomes' in the process of education. A model showing inter-relations among various components of quality education is given in Fig. 4.
Fig. 4 Quality Education Model
In 21st century, quality is an important issue in institutions of higher education all over the world. It gains importance because of the fact that key role of human resources have been increasing very rapidly in the present competitive world. Frazer (1994) discussed that "quality in higher education is important because universities must be accountable to society, to employers, to students, and to each other". Mok (2007), by referring different research literature, has the opinion that quality in education is multifaceted, multidimensional, complex, and a dynamic positive concept. Warn and Tranter (2001) stated that in literature, quality in higher education is defined and interpreted in different number of overlapping ways. Frazer (1994) has discussed three broad aspects for quality in higher education. These are: (i) goals; (ii) the process deployed for achieving goals; and (iii) how far goals are achieved. Harvey (1997) identified five broad approaches for defining quality in higher education. These are (i) quality meaning exceptional, where quality is related to the conception of excellence; (ii) quality meaning perfection, where quality has consistent and error-free attributes; (iii) quality meaning fit for purpose, where quality fulfils the perceived requirements of stakeholders; (iv) quality meaning value for money; and (v) quality meaning transformation, i.e. quality necessarily involves a change from a current to an ideal end state.
A core component of higher education reforms all over the world is the systematic quality assurance and improvement of higher education institutions (Bornmann, Mittag, & Daniel, 2006). Anderson (2006) has the opinion that the quality revolution in higher education has underscored the expectation that universities must demonstrate that they are providing quality Education and producing quality research and constantly strive to improve both. Higher education is facing extraordinary challenges of quality assurance around the world universities (Strydom, Zulu, & Murray, 2004). The current focus on quality assurance procedures emphasises on compliance, accountability, reliability, credibility, development and efficiency (Hodson & Thomas, 2003). Kontio (2008), by defining quality assurance, stated that quality assurance means all the procedures, processes and systems that support and develop the education and other activities of the higher education institutions. Quality assurance is the systematic and continuous attention to quality in terms of quality maintenance and quality improvement (Vroeijenstijn, 1995). Lim (2001) stated that quality assurance refers to all policies and processes directed to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of quality. Quality assurance has been defined by Higher Education Quality Council (1994) as all those planned and systematic activities to provide adequate confidence that a product or service will satisfy the given requirement for quality. Gibbons (1998) discussed that quality assurance system has been introduced in public and private universities and institutions across the world as a result of increasing demand for accountability. Strydom, Zulu, & Murray (2004), by referring research literature, argued that major motivators for the establishment of quality assurance systems internationally appear to be: (i) massification of higher education; (ii) accountability from a value for money perspective; (iii) internationalisation of qualifications; (iv) increased mobility of staff and students; (v) matching programs to labour and employment needs; (vi) rise of private education; and (vii) indirect steering of higher education by governments. Due to these challenges, countries across the world developed quality assurance systems.
Quality concepts in Higher Education
While quality in industries could be referred to as adhering to the stated performance requirements of the customer(s), it is rather difficult to define the Quality in educational institutions. Although, the quality management concepts in business and in education remain same, there are certain limitations in adopting the corporate methods of quality management because educational institutes cannot be considered as industry and the products are not their students. In an educational institute, students directly receive the teaching services and hence are the customers of the teacher, whereas the faculty and the institute's administrators are the suppliers of the services. If the teaching and learning process conforms to their ideas about what is quality education, students enjoy learning. Teachers need to discuss such questions with the students as: Why are you here? What are you trying to do? What does it mean to you to do it well? How the teacher can help you in doing it well? and the like.
Expectations from educational institutions
Institutes of higher education, through their curriculum, are expected to provide knowledge, know-how, wisdom, and character to the students and these are best developed by making students participate in creative team activities, wherein they learn to set priorities, to work together, and to develop the social skills required in a society where teamwork is essential to success.
Concept of industrial inspection
Making defective products in an industry and then throwing them away or repairing them is waste of time, energy, materials, and human efforts. The errors can be prevented and wastage can be eliminated by doing away with the mass inspection and improving the manufacturing process and hence the product. Similarly, students' learning can be improved if the teacher's attention is essentially focused on the teaching/learning process and not so much on their examination results. Measures taken by the academic institutions to standardise their syllabi and align their curriculum could constitute quality.
Implementing Quality measures
The academic institutes must make an attempt to find solution to questions like: How the faculty and administration of an educational institute prepare for implementing total quality management and assessment? Clearly defined mission, goals, and objectives guide the faculty, administration, staff, and governing bodies in making decisions related to planning, resource allocation, programs and curriculum development, and definition of program outcomes. In general, both the faculty and the administration believe that quality measures should be implemented in their institution, but the movement suffers because of their considerably different perceptions. The administrators may feel that they are already doing those kinds of things in their curriculum and outcomes assessment merely establishes criteria for success and making any additional changes are not essential. But the faculty's perspective is quite different, as some of them feel that there has to be a continuous campaign of reinforcement from the top administrators, that they are totally committed to quality implementation and assessment programmes. Faculty resists on the issue of measuring learning because they misunderstand the goals of quality and assessment and their potential to compliment the mission of the institute.
Educational institutes are a system of inter-dependent processes, comprising of collection of highly specialised teaching faculty, linked within a functional hierarchy. Quality education is what makes learning a pleasure. Teachers must discuss with the students of what constitutes a quality experience for them. Everyone in the system is expected, invited, and trained to participate in the improvement process, rather than just being dictated from the top administration.
The institute's administration manages various departments, functions, faculty, and the students, who do not appreciate that they are inter-dependent. They also exercise managerial leadership through participative management in playing their roles as mentors, facilitators, innovators, etc. Quality results from the institute's education management systems. Problems arise when the individuals, singly as well as jointly, do not do their best. Administration must create an environment that nurtures a team-oriented culture, which can prevent problems and make continual improvements.
Since the overall scenario of higher education in India does not match with the global quality standards, hence, there is enough justification for an increased assessment of the quality of the country's educational institutions. Traditionally, these institutions assumed that quality could be determined by their internal resources, viz., faculty with an impressive set of degrees and experience detailed at the end of the institute's admission brochure, number of books and journals in the library, an ultra-modern campus, and size of the endowment, etc., or by its definable and assessable outputs, viz., efficient use of resources, producing uniquely educated, highly satisfied and employable graduates.
In recent times, higher education institutions have paid increasing attention to the views of students to obtain feedback on their experience of learning and teaching through internal surveys.
Significance of Research Towards Enhancing Quality
Research is searching for a clarifying explanation of an observed phenomenon or finding a solution to an existing problem in the workplace or environment. It begins with a research problem which exists when the individual or the group, having one or more desired outcomes, are confronted with two or more courses of action that have some but not equal efficiency for the desired objective(s) and are in doubt about which course of action is best. The sources of problem for research could be: personal practical experiences (can you think of a situation), critical study of literature, and interaction with others (conferences, meetings, workshops, in-service courses). Interest in educational research has vastly increased in recent years. It is now realized that research is necessary in order to provide a basis for educational planning and to assess the effects of such planning. (Morris, 1967)
Problems related to Higher Education
The broad goal of higher education, as offered by varied colleges and universities, is to provide society with competent citizens trained in agriculture, business, engineering, medicine, science & technology. Since independence, the country has witnessed a phenomenal expansion in higher education and as such there is no mechanism to check the quality of education provided by these institutions. Research, is therefore, required to know the gap between the standards in our country and those in the advanced countries. In addition, there are plenty of problems of higher education which require finding adequate solutions through systematic and scientific method of enquiry. To mention a few are: student unrest, problem of recruitment and training of teachers, development of instructional material, imparting instruction effectively, participation of students in decision making bodies, problem of admission of students to various courses and their placements, student assessment, development of need based curriculum.
Possible Areas of Research in Higher Education
Higher education is a fertile ground for research. Its range is broad since research can be applied to areas including management policy formulation, curriculum development, human resource development, information and communication technology systems (technological innovations), student development and instructional material development, support systems: guidance & counseling, teaching and learning efficiency including physical environment and learning environment, non-academic areas: extra-curricular activities, use of leisure, student performance and placements, expectations and attitudes: of teachers, students & community and the like. Since research in various disciplines follows a basic methodological scheme, it would therefore be useful if teachers and students as researchers at all levels are well guided on research methodology which would in turn develop a research culture.
Strategies for Promoting Research Culture in Higher Education
Quality assessment systems in higher education usually serve two major purposes, one, they aim at improving the quality of teaching and learning, second, they provide the accountability to the outside world regarding the quality of the teaching activities and the use of the resources provided to this end. Hence, it is important for teachers and students of higher education to undertake research studies on various aspects of higher education. Following strategies may be proved useful for promoting research culture in higher education:
Organize training programmes for teachers and students in the Methodology of Research
Efforts must be made to organize short duration training programmes for teachers and students to equip them with knowledge and skills in regard to
Use of library appropriately (locate necessary information, use of card catalogue, use of computer for accessing information etc.)
Use of computer for word processing or for statistical computations or for storing data and information or for creating tables and figures etc.
Use of internet for accessing information world over.
Use of appropriate statistical tools based on research problem and type of data.
Determine the sample from a given population.
Construction of a research instrument/tool.
Preparation of a research proposal and writing of a research report.
Promote academia-industry-government interaction for mutual benefits.
Industry may be encouraged to provide financial assistance to academia for promoting research culture, which in turn, would help the industry to implement the research findings suggested by the academia.
Generate confidence in the organizations that the information/ data supplied by them to the researchers will not be misused and in fact, will be used for improving the system.
Compiling research studies to minimize their overlapping. A centralized agency must compile and update at regular intervals, the research studies undertaken by various institutions of higher learning to avoid their duplication.
Develop a code of conduct for researchers at all levels to ensure integrity and sincerity and to avoid inter-university and inter-departmental rivalries during conduct of research.
Provide adequate and timely secretarial/computational assistance to researchers. UGC, AICTE, CSIR, ICSSR, NCTE and other agencies can play an important role in this regard.
Provide efficient Library management system. Develop a mechanism to help researchers to trace out the requisite information from books, journals, reports etc. without waste of time and energy. Copies of Acts/rules, reports, journals and other publications should be made available in the libraries as well as on the websites of the organizations.
Education is a dynamic, continually evolving concept that keeps adapting to the changes around it. Likewise, the methodology used in teaching is equally transitory in nature and demands contemporary approaches too.
We educationists have to imbibe the essence of the evolutionary character of education in our academic curriculum, empowering students to create a learning process that is experiential, effective and thoroughly impactful.
Mankind is on the brink of a tragic era, in which the anarchic forces of the market and the incessant pressures upon natural resources on the verge of exhaustion will push sovereign states to increasingly dangerous rivalries. What will the role of research in higher education be, in response to the challenge of an active future contribution to human and social development? A good balance must be reached in the basic functions of research in order to avoid governance risks. While focusing only on the transformative function of research may pose dangers to the human dimension and development, unilateral concentration on responsible development aspects may generate reactive approaches and delay economic bene¬ts. Disregarding the inclusiveness function may lead to slower development and even isolationism, and focusing on short-term issues is not good for long-term goals and future generations. We must reinforce research networks between 'Southern' and 'Northern', rich and poor, and developed and developing countries and institutions in order to bridge the gap between knowledge consumers and producers. This paper reviews aspects such as development, globalization and the inequality of nations; constraints and choices of the orthodox views of research; rethinking research and higher education to contribute to a better future; and knowledge integration for effective action.
On their part, researchers are expected to identify priorities in the various spheres of the country's education and to contribute to the social and economic transformation of the country.