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Gujarat's huge privatisation of education is "not inclusive". It hasn't generated jobs or improved quality

Sudarshan Iyengar
By Our Representative
A top Gandhian educationist has come down heavily on the Gujarat government’s movement over last nearly a decade towards privatizing higher education, saying it does not reflect in any way the state’s movement towards inclusiveness. Prof Sudarshan Iyengar, vice-chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, in a recent research paper has said, “There has been a rapid expansion in the number of seats in professional courses or courses having better employment prospects. Most of these are ‘payment seats’. The poor cannot access this facility easily.” Further, “the returns are not commensurate with the expenses.”
While in the year 2000 there were “less than 20,000 seats in diploma and degree engineering colleges”, Prof Iyengar says, “with more than 200 degree and diploma engineering colleges there are now “more than 80,000 seats.” But he regrets, “With the exception of the engineering diploma, most of the expansion in terms of institutions and students has been in the private sector. Nearly 76 per cent of all institutions were in the private sector, 9 per cent were in the grant-in-aid category, and only 15 per cent were run by the state.”
Forming part of a new book, “Growth or Development: Which Way Gujarat is Going?”, the research paper, titled “Education in Gujarat: A Review”, elucidates, “In terms of seat availability, government institutions have a larger share. Of the total seats, government colleges have 28 per cent (67 per cent is in engineering diploma courses), 4.5 per cent seats are with aided colleges, and the rest 67.5 per cent seats are with self-financed colleges (SFCs).”
The professor argues, “It can be seen that even with a huge expansion that one is talking about, most young people (77 per cent) are entering the arts and commerce streams for BA and B.Com degrees which are of little consequence from an employability perspective. In these courses too expansion has taken place due to participation of the private sector. In the post-2000 scene of higher education, privatization is the key feature in the expansion of higher education.”
According to Prof Iyanger, all this contradicts the “vision for higher education in the country”, as reflected the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) report (2006) which said in its ‘Note on Higher Education’ which said that while massive expansion of higher education was needed, and it was “essential to create institutions that are exemplars of excellence at par with the best in the world”, in the pursuit of this objective, one should underline “providing people with access to higher education in a socially inclusive manner is imperative.”
The professor says, “Privatized higher education institutions do not guarantee quality. Gujarat is ill prepared for the guidance that NKC provides. Most of the expansion in higher education is in the private sector. There has been a mushrooming of private higher educational institutions to turn their units into profit-making ventures with thorough disregard for quality. The state does not seem to be willing and equipped to regulate. Education has been commoditized.”
Referring to how privatization of education has failed to generate employment, Prof Iyengar says, “It should be of interest to note that about two-thirds or 67 per cent SFCs are conducting Bachelor of Education (B Ed) courses. B Ed colleges and colleges teaching management courses at undergraduate level number 356. These are revenue earning and, therefore, profit-making educational enterprises. These courses are perceived as having high employability, but trained teachers are no longer in high demand.”
The paper says, “In 2006–7, there were 26 pre-PTCs (Primary Teachers Colleges) with 1,300 seats and 293 PTCs having 21,772 seats. With 44 government and grant-in-aid B Ed colleges, 286 SFCs, the total seats for teachers’ training at the postgraduate level would be in the range of 21,360 to 35,600. If all pre-PTC, PTC, B Ed seats are filled every year, there will be 25,202 to 58,672 teachers available.”
The professor wonders, “Where are the jobs? A maximum of 15,468 primary teachers were hired in 2006–7. In 10 years since 2000, nearly 2,00,000 primary teachers would have been trained (assuming some seats remain unfilled) and 83,677 jobs created. Similarly, in secondary and higher secondary schools, the number of teachers hired between 2000 and 2008 was 14,402. Even if we assume that the private colleges came into being from 2003 onwards, in five years’ time all B Ed colleges would have produced a whopping 1,06,800 teachers. How would the system absorb these teachers and by when?”

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