It is estimated that the national gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education in India is around 19 per cent of which around 5 per cent is in technical education. According to one estimate, at least 25 million students every year are eligible for higher education (after school). Are there enough higher education institutes to absorb these 25 million students?
There are several reports which indicate that many of the students are unemployable. The figure varies from 75 per cent to 80 per cent. In the case of B-schools, there is a general perception that there is a mismatch between the industry requirements and the skill set available with the students.
Discussions with experts in the field indicate that the industry requires students who have both soft skills and hard skills.
The challenge for institutions is to provide quality education, and this is dependent primarily on three main stakeholders — students, faculty and the industry. Industry professionals rarely take interest in providing quality education, except through guest lectures or as visiting faculty. The only personnel from the industry who are readily available as guest lecturers or as visiting faculty are those who are retired and those who would now like to “contribute to the society.” The experience of such personnel is also limited to their own ex-organisation. This implies that ensuring quality education mainly depends on the faculty (as giver) and on the students (as receivers).
The objective of students is to get a certificate, while for the faculty it is to get a good feedback. Students believe that the institution is a place for merely getting a certificate. In many cases, they believe that the certificate is a passport to employment and is obtained as soon as the fee is paid. They would prefer to spend their time in the cafeteria or elsewhere discussing social topics and so on, rather than listening to the lectures. They believe that all information that is required is available on the Internet, and can be easily digested by reading casually before the exams. Students also believe what they hear from the industry personnel — the syllabus is outdated and what is actually required is not taught by the institutions — forgetting that what the industry preaches is the application of the fundamentals. Without the fundamental knowledge, application is not possible.
According to experts, it is a Herculean task to get the students to listen to a guest lecture. Students need to be coaxed, or, sometimes, even given incentives in the form of additional marks, to make them attend to the guest lectures. In many cases, students come to the class academically unprepared, be it for the regular session or for a case discussion.
Thus, students pretend to learn by attending the institution, not the classroom or the library or the computer lab. In spite of this attitude, students demand a good placement in terms of companies and attractive packages.
Yet, at times, students lack basic knowledge. In one of the B-schools, students did not know the basic definition of marketing or the role of a finance manager in an organisation. Dressing casually and being late for an interview is the norm of the day. In one such institute, for an interview at 2 p.m., students were deliberately told to come by 12 p.m. so that at least by 2 p.m. the students would be available for the interview. Additionally, students feel that the organisation should be next to their residenceFrom day one, students feel that they are “vice-president material” and that the role of the institute is to provide them with a job, irrespective of their performance in the interview.
For management education, and also higher education in general, to result in a meaningful experience for the student, the faculty and the industry,all three have to contribute, with a radical change in approach
The only solution is to counsel the students. Specifically, a student must be made to answer the following questions:
What does he want to achieve in the next 5 to 10 years?
How does he want to achieve the above?
Why does he want to achieve the above?
What does he see as his strengths and weakness?
The student must be counselled so that he understands his limitations. He should analyse his strengths and weaknesses and set realistic goals for himself.
Discussions with students also reveal that faculty are also to blame for this situation. Many a time it has been found that the faculty is inadequately prepared for the lecture, and, in order to cover this inadequacy, is quite liberal in the evaluation of the student. (This can be seen from the fact that many students label faculty as a ‘‘liberal’’ faculty or a ‘‘strict’’ faculty and so on.)
The net result is an all-round dissatisfaction in the faculty, students as well as the industry. This dissatisfaction can perhaps be reduced by controlling the input side of the institution, which is, by reducing the intake of students, limiting the number of higher education institutions and by continuously monitoring the academic progress of the student. Helping students develop holistically, ensuring development of soft skills through involvement in social projects would help. Also, the industry could take an active part in the educational system by participating in it, rather than crying foul of it.