Excerpts from the foreword by Professor Yash Pal to the Report of ‘The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education.’ December 2009.
(We are gratified that the logic of the report supports the premises of The South Asian Idea.)
We were struck by the fact that over the years we have followed policies of fragmenting our educational enterprise into cubicles. We have overlooked that new knowledge and new insights have often originated at the boundaries of disciplines. We have tended to imprison disciplinary studies in opaque walls. This has restricted flights of imagination and limited our creativity. This character of our education has restrained and restricted our young right from the school age and continues that way into college and university stages. Most instrumentalities of our education harm the potential of human mind for constructing and creating new knowledge. We have emphasized delivery of information and rewarded capability of storing information. This does not help in creating a knowledge society. This is particularly vile at the university level because one of the requirements of a good university should be to engage in knowledge creation – not just for the learner but also for society as a whole.
We would like to point out that there are no great universities in the world that do not simultaneously conduct world class programs in science, astronomy, management, languages, comparative literature, philosophy, psychology, information technology, law, political science, economics, agriculture and many other emerging disciplines. Indeed the emerging disciplines do their emerging because of infection or triggering by other fields in the same university. That is the reason that such universities are so great and our academics keep going to them. Our argument is that they would not be great if they could not accommodate people from many other disciplines. Put together, all the disciplines, breed value into each other. If forced to stay in isolation from each other they would not have the character demanded for greatness. It is our strong recommendation that the new Universities, including those we call Indian Institutes of Technology – or Management should have the character of such world-class universities. Furthermore, the existing Institutes of Technology whose competence as excellent undergraduate institutions we do recognize (also their brand name) should be challenged to play a bigger role – for example similar to that of great universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Caltech. In addition, like these great universities of the world they should engage with a much wider universe of knowledge, both at undergraduate and post graduate levels.
I would like to mention our deep concern in respect of two matters:
Mushrooming engineering and management colleges, with some notable exceptions, have largely become, mere business entities dispensing very poor quality education. We have made some recommendations in this regard.
Deemed Universities have also mushroomed. Most of them do not belong to the same class as those recognized as such twenty years ago.
You would notice that we are placing supreme importance on the character of universities. They must create new knowledge. Besides making people capable of creating wealth they have a deep role in the overall thinking of society and the world as a whole. This job cannot be performed in secluded corners of information and knowledge. It would be silly to deny the practical role of experts in areas of science, technology, economics, finance and management. But narrow expertise alone does not make educated human beings for tomorrow. Indeed, speaking more seriously, one could almost say that most serious problems of the world today arise from the fact that we are dominated by striations of expertise with deep chasms in between.
The complete report (popularly known as the Yash Pal Committee Report) can be accessed here.