The government has made all the right sounds on education in the Budget. There is a proposal for a project preparation facility for infrastructure projects which would involve young engineers, management graduates and economists. Infrastructure agencies of the government will be asked to involve youths in start-ups.
Large hospitals with sufficient capacity will be incentivised to offer resident doctors DNB/FNB courses under the National Board of Examinations. There is a proposal for special bridge course for nurses, paramedical staff and caregivers. In all, a little over Rs 1 lakh crore has been allocated for education and skills development.
But crucial issue appears to have been overlooked. Most of the graduates churned out by colleges in India are unemployable. This is because the school education system has collapsed. The output of its quality is dismal. And no college or university could be expected to transform 10 years of rotten school education into employable students.
The work on education needs to start in schools.
But the government provides little money for education. Take the numbers in the latest Economic Survey. It should be spending at least 6 percent. And as the Economic Survey also shows, the speed with which it starts new educational institutes is double or three times more than fund allocations. Not the right recipe for education.
There is a second problem. Do not introduce new courses, when you have not got the standards for existing courses right. You will only increase the administrative work involved, and will not be able to pay attention to the nuts and bolts in the existing infrastructure.
There is a third problem. Bridge courses is a tantamount admission of incompetence. It is like saying, I cannot improve the quality of the existing courses. So let me create one more bridge course through which I might succeed in putting a band-aid on the wounds. It is this bridge-course idea that the government tried to sell to convert homeopaths, unanis and paramedics into allopaths. The proposal is being challenged in courts. If a bridge course could be a solution, why not have a bridge course to convert office clerks into IAS officers? Or courtroom attendants into judges?
No institute wants to hire unemployable students. No factory likes too many interns moving around, because they would disrupt even existing processes in workplaces. Unfortunately, the government pays more attention to issues like cricket where selection is done on merit. Merit is given a go-by when it comes to appointing teachers in educational institutes.
The need of the hour is to bolster school education, and to tighten educational standards in all educational institutions. Do not introduce new courses, or additional institutes.