December 2010

Making of a knowledge superpower

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Linking student data to UID will yield a goldmine of insights for MHRD, for  educational policy making and regulation

The education sector in India, particularly the higher education segment, is  going through a very exciting phase. Not just is investment pouring in, the  country’s ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is driving major  policy changes that would have a long term impact on the overall education sector in years to come.

Making of a knowledge superpowerSample this: While HRD minister Kapil Sibal recently  indicated that India’s higher education enrollment will move up to 4.4 crore  from the current 1.4 crore by 2020, an Ernst & Young- FICCI report suggests  that the segment will grow nearly 13 percent annually during this period.

The  report also predicts that India’s higher education spend that is currently  pegged at `46,200 crore would grow at an average rate of 12.8 percent to cross  `150,000 crore in the next 10 years. It also highlights that the country’s higher  education system has the highest institution to student ratio—25,951  institutions for 1.36 crore students.

Compare this with the world’s other two  largest nations and we are in for a mega surprise; the US has just 6,700  institutions for over 1.78 crore students, while China has 4,000 higher education institutes that serve the needs of its 2.53 crore students.

Interestingly, experts suggest that India still needs to set up 1,000 more  universities to meet the needs of three crore students that it expects to enrol  over the next decade.

Going by the existing interest of private sector investments in the segment, and the doubts raised by the Centre itself in the  case of the 44 “deemed universities” earlier this year, the nation needs to put in  place a stringent mechanism to monitor the performance of these institutions.

The good news is that MHRD has already signed a memorandum of  understanding (MoU) with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to  bring school children under its umbrella and track their progress at every  stage.

While the primary objective of this arrangement is to make Aadhar  number an identi- fier on all performance records—from mark sheets and merit  certificates, to migration certificates— and help prospective employers and educational institutions avoid fakes, the initiative will also enable the  government to create a strong tracking mechanism once these students join  higher education institutions.

In fact, smart data mining and analysis will also  help the MHRD map the performance of each of these institutions—in terms of  how their pass outs are getting placed and where, the specialisation and trends  in each of these organisations—parameters that could help a central agency  grade these institutes.

The initiative assumes further significance with the  introduction of the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) that aims to  change the existing examination system in schools, to a more holistic process- driven monitoring system that includes both summative and formative  assessments.

Link all these data to a central manpower repository, map it using  a GIS platform and the country is on its way to set up a powerful human  resources planning tool.

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