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In recent times a few leaders, notably the ex-President APJ Abdul Kalam and current President Pranab Mukherjee, have laid stress on improving quality of education and research in India. Kalam, in his interaction with students across the country, emphasised the point that India needs to engage in quality education and research at various levels. Mukherjee also highlighted upon the dire need of improvement in quality of education and research in higher education institutions. The major concern Mukherjee expressed about is India’s failure in creating world-class institutions. Keeping in view the fact that the government has established IITs, IIMs, NITs and central universities, and has made available substantial funding for research, Kalam’s and Mukherjee’s concerns raise several questions. The most important is what fails Indian institutions improve their quality and ranking, especially in terms of quality research output. The answer could be the lack of scope for creativity and innovation in our education system.
Unfortunately, India does not have many quality institutions to offer undergraduate education. Then there are a limited numbers of career paths unlike in developed countries. The students graduating from schools have the aim of enrolling themselves in those limited number of institutions offering professional degrees, primarily in medicine and engineering. They are under tremendous parental and social pressure to join these institutions in the country and that too in a few selected disciplines where placement is more or less assured of. For example, to get admission in an institution like BITS Pilani, almost 1.5 lakh students register to compete for a few thousand seats every year. Getting admission into IITs is equally competitive. The students need to work very hard, forgetting about any other activities during the last two years of their schooling.
Once they are selected for admission, it is almost like achieving the goal in life and many of them lose motivation. This is further aggravated as many of them do not know how to handle freedom in the hostel life, away from the watchful eyes of their parents and also knowing that the placement cell of the institute would take care to arrange a good job for them at the end of their studies. In a number of cases, due to parental pressures, they target to get admission in a branch that will fetch them a fat salary at the end of their study. However, due to their rankings in the admission tests, they get admission