The one bedeviling factor, which presents the biggest hurdle to reform the education system in this country, is the insistence of the Government on prescribing a University degree as an essential qualification for a Government job. The day the Government of India drops the requirement of a university degree for those seeking to join the public services, the rush of candidates seeking admission to universities will abate and things will become more manageable.
A university degree might have ensured higher proficiency and commanded respect about fifty years ago. But there has been a striking devaluation of degrees after independence, and it is easy to understand and defend the persistent demand that degrees should no longer be considered essential for jobs. The idea of delinking jobs from degrees is not a new one.
As early as 1956, the Public Service Committee reported that “the degree qualification should be abolished for lower and middle levels of public services (clerical jobs and junior officers), though it could continue for top level jobs (senior officers). The rationale behind the 10+2+3 pattern of education was also to make school education adequate for various lower level jobs so that the mad rush for enrolment with universities could be checked.
In 1973, the National Committee on the 10+2+3 educational structure observed, “While university education is necessary for senior-level managerial and executive jobs, for teaching and for other purposes such as training scientists, engineers, economists, literary persons, etc., it should not be compulsory for all the rest.”
The idea of delinking jobs from degrees was incorporated in the Draft National Policy on Education in 1979 as well as the 1981 declaration of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s categorical statements in favour of the proposal have revived a fresh debate on the issue.
As long as the number of students in higher institutions was manageable, even the existing system of liberal education did some good. It introduced them to new vistas of knowledge, to uncharted worlds of experience. Hence, it promised enlightened and liberated minds capable of commanding wider perspectives. But with the commercialisation of education, there has been such a lowering down of academic standards that a university degree is no longer a seal of high quality. It is high time to check the prevailing craze for degrees.
Since degrees are still held essential for jobs, there is a heavy rush for admission to colleges and universities. But those joining higher studies are already aware of the futility of their pursuit. The majority of college students consist of unmotivated and indifferent boys and girls whose sole aim in joining a college is to get a degree, by fair means or foul. These young men and women pollute the entire academic atmosphere.
The basic argument advanced in favour of delinking jobs from degrees is that our education system is not job-oriented. University degrees cater to the requirement of white-collar jobs and do not impart any professional competence. But these jobs can be satisfactorily handled by boys and girls even with school level education. Then why go to the College or University at all?
Another aspect of the same argument is related to the recruitment methodology. Most of the jobs are filled through competitive examinations. Later, orientation programmes are conducted for candidates selected on the basis of their performance in the competitive examinations. These programmes familiarise them with specific job requirements and are more useful than any degree course. It is difficult to understand where a degree fits in this scheme.
There are seine conservative thinkers who hold that a university degree is essential for certian specialized fields of jobs and activities, such as training scientists, engineers, doctors, economists, literary artists and connoisseurs and administrative jobs. There is some degree of truth and weight in this. But did Archimedes or Newton, or Shakespeare or Valmiki or Tulsidas possess a university degree? Would the world have got results that are more marvellous if Leonardo de Vinci had been subjected to a rigorous course in a University? Prescribing higher bat inessential qualifications is sheer and colossal waste of human resources.
It needs no father arguments to justify the need of delinking jobs from degrees. The real need of the hour is to revamp school education, make it more meaningful and more job-oriented so that there is a smooth channelisation of young people from school into their professional life. And only those students who really need them should pursue higher courses. This will eliminate unnecessary wastage of time and energy, ease burden on scarce financial resources and restore.