Thursday, October 17, 2013

US education model should be a warning, not an example

Oxford's vice-chancellor complains that the ceiling of £ 9000 on fee charged by universities it not fair; it makes no allowance for differences in quality. After all, in the US quality universities can charge what they like. An article in FT warns that the US model may not be the right one for other economies.

To me, the interesting point the article makes is that, in exchange for the enormous fees they charge, universities have become generous with grades- or what is called "grade inflation:

Students are getting increasingly lavish accolades for their money. In the early 1980s, fewer than 30 per cent of all grades were As; now the figure is more than 40 per cent. By other measures things have worsened. In one survey, only a quarter of college graduates were deemed able to understand written material to achieve everyday goals.
Few who have taught in America outside the Ivy league will be surprised. Students receive highish marks for semi-literate work, displaying a glimmer of rhetorical power only when they plead for still greater leniency.

At the Ivy League and other reputed universities, education may be of high quality. But, precisely because it is so, universities have come to charge exorbitant fees- tuition costs five times on the average more than what it did 30 years ago. In general, costs bear no link with either cost or the value of education. The impact on students who cannot afford costly loans can well be imagined.

The US model should be a warning to others who wish to develop human capital. It's reassuring that, in India, institutions such as the IITs have desisted from raising fees, even when experts sitting on  committees have wanted them to. Privatisation of education is bad enough because it means the state has forsaken its role in providing education; leaving fees totally unregulated will sound the death knell for access to education for people at large.


chandramouli said...

The problem of the system in UK, US and India is the absence of linkage between the educators and the employers. Industry gets used to doing business in a particular fashion, but when the world changes, at the pace as it is today, the old system of working no longer works and education system should be capable of offering training to prospective manager to bring in that change. Otherwise the industry itself will not survive. This is the problem with most of the companies in US, UK and India. If we take India’s case itself so many companies which were very prominent in the 80s are no longer surviving today as they could not cope up with the change that was faced. The problem with the education system today is it is not able to provide sufficient number of skilled workers for the thousands of jobs waiting to be filled. In the 70s if you had a graduate degree you can reasonably get a middle-class job. But today the graduation level education has no value. Today specific skills are required for such middle class jobs. There is no point in producing graduates after graduates if there is no link to their requirements in the industry. Even Mr. Narayanmurthy had lamented about the quality of students churned out even by elite institutions. The only way to solve this problem is by placing emphasis on public-private partnership between educators and employers. Working together to connect education to careers, educators and employers will help millions of our young people to prepare for both higher education and meaningful life long employment.

Anonymous said...

If the govt raises fee in IIT then no middle class will vote for any party. It's middle class who rule these institutions and hence the govt have to please them.

Rakesh said...

The parallels between US and India cannot be drawn in any case especially when our elementary system is still in danger and govt. could not even manage that well and made an easy way for the unregulated private schools known popularly as public schools. University education is still a farce here as the country is having just 15-18% gross enrollment ratio in colleges and we can well imagine the proportion upto university level.
US maintains its education upto 12th standard through state funding with special appropriation amount from taxation. Thereafter, it is left to the market mechanism together with easy loaning provisions which even parents do not prefer either.
Job market is managed well so that repayment of loans is not doubtful.

But real question of privatization of higher education is still confused here as at one end we want private capital to be welcomed for investment and on the other hand we cry for regulations that can be only tenable in subsidized state institutions. Firstly let the own house be in order and also enforce uniform national regulations if intensions are honest and not the popular for votes and also for real bargain from private institutions.