Higher education must be upgraded: Deccan Chronicle commentary

The government has an important policy-making and infrastructure-providing role to play in guiding the country’s education sector.
But the wider society and other organs of the state cannot disavow their responsibility if we want India to scale up to the next level of development with properly trained and qualified manpower.
The recent judgment of the Supreme Court striking down the common entrance test conducted by the Medical Council of India for all medical colleges in the country, public and private — which was the last for former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir — is retrograde.
It can raise doubts that the judiciary is not cognisant of the issues at stake and has focused too narrowly on the right of private and minority educational institutions in the country to manage their affairs.
That, in fact, was hardly the point at issue, whatever the colouring. Private institutions in other educational fields, or minority bodies, have had no occasion so far to complain of having to cede ground.
This should have alerted the bench led by the CJI as to the game behind private medical colleges going to court against the idea of a centralised entrance test for all medical colleges.
In any case, the apex court should have kept both considerations before it — ensuring that the province of the private and minority bodies is not rendered insecure (if that is indeed happening, although the suggestion is open to serious doubt) while permitting no dilution by design in medical education — from the entrance stage to the final examination and award of the last degree.
In the case of doctors, this has an especial meaning as the lives of millions of patients is in their hands on an everyday basis.
Rough calculations suggest that about 20 per cent of doctors finishing from our medical colleges each year may have bought their entry to medical schools by paying hefty capitation fees at a large number of private institutions, and have not been tested in a standard all-India way for quality.
The apex court judgment encourages the production of such doctors through mushrooming medical colleges that don’t have the faculty and infrastructure. It’s a scary thought. The sooner the government seeks a review of the regrettable judgment the better.
With hundreds of students this year declining admission at the older and world-famous IITs, and choosing to go to lesser known institutions in search of their preferred field of study, it is clear that IIT seats (and also at other institutions) are too few.
Major upgrading is called for without loss of quality. Important areas of higher education in science and technology seem to be heading towards a crisis.

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