- The government has set itself an ambitious target of raising gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education to 40% by 2024 from about 26% at present.
- The gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education is only about 26% at present.
- In a global comparison, India fares quite poorly. Just among BRICS nations, India is slightly ahead of South Africa and way behind Russia (81.8%), Brazil (50.5%) and China (50.0%).
- The report, ‘Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme’ identified the major challenges, in enrolment rate in higher education.
- The report points towards the persistence of economic, social, locational, and regional disparities in access to higher education.
- For instance, while the overall GER is 25.8%, for SCs it is 21.8%, and for STs it is even lower at 15.9%.
- It notes that the higher education system and institutions have to recognise and adapt to meet the demands from diverse communities of students.
- In its vision plan for 2019-24, the ministry says it needs to address the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India.
- The only way to achieve the GER target in higher education is by opening colleges in backward districts and getting those in the socio-economically vulnerable categories to enrol for higher studies.
- The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has set itself an ambitious target of raising gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education to 40% by 2024.
- To this end, it has proposed to invest Rs 30,338 crore to achieve this over the next five years.
Four-pronged strategy to raise GER:
- 8,000 Samras hostels (in buildown-operate model) would be set up to accommodate 16 lakh students from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds with no access to higher educational institutions in their vicinity to continue education.
- Scholarships for 16 lakh students to meet hostel expenses will act as a support mechanism for students.
- The MHRD report proposed setting up of finishing schools at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore over a period of five years, for those SC/ST students would require handholding before admission in the higher educational institution.
- Model degree colleges and new colleges set up in backward areas will have the provision of a bridge course (on the same pattern as finishing school) in the first year of the degree to impart mathematical and soft skills to them to enhance employability.
Open and Distance Learning (ODL):
- There’s also renewed focus on open and distance learning (ODL).
- The report observed the present rule of fee waiver to SC/ST students (other than in technical and professional programmes under ODL) goes waste as there is no incentive to successfully complete the programme. Within ODL, the pass percentage of SC/ST students is around 20%.
- The vision document recommended that students get a 50% waiver in the tuition fee at the time of admission.
- To incentivise students to pass the end-semester/year-end examination, it is proposed to launch a scheme named Success Rewarded (SURE), under which the entire tuition fee with an upper ceiling of Rs 10,000 a year should be paid to the student as a reward for passing the exam.
Colleges in backward districts:
- Upgrading degree colleges to vocational degree colleges:
- In order to expand access to cater to geographically underserved areas, the ministry proposes upgrading 500 degree colleges in backward blocks to vocational degree colleges (VCD). This can be done by integrating a vocational stream to start BVoc programmes.
- The calculation is that 200 students will enrol in each of these colleges every year – so, one lakh students will get enrolled in the 500 colleges each year.
- Conventional study centres:
- The challenge of reaching to remote/rural areas where there is no digital penetration can be resolved by setting up conventional study centres.
- For example, there is no college in some blocks (there are about 3,500 educationally backward blocks) or districts (11 such districts in 2018).
- In such blocks or districts, study centres for UG level can be opened in colleges or Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Navodaya Vidyalayas, other higher secondary schools or government kendras.
- The college/higher secondary school/Navodaya Vidyalayas/Government Krishi Vigyan Kendra/similar establishment can be given a grant of Rs 10 lakh per year for five years.