Sam Pitroda, adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Thursday voiced concern over the quality of education in India and called for educational reforms by replacing age-old systems and changing mindsets.
Some people in authority are living in the dark ages, he said.
“Leaving aside the top five percent universities, I feel the quality of education in India is pretty bad and I say it with a great deal of concern,” Pitroda said at the first convocation of Presidency University.
The advisor to the prime minister on public information infrastructure and innovations – known for heralding the telecom revolution in India – accused some in the ministries concerned and educational authorities of “living in the dark ages”.
“How to think out of the box and restructure education? This is where mindset comes in… The mindset of government, the ministries and UGC (University Grants Commission) is just not changing fast enough… Some of these people are living in dark ages,” he said.
“I am quite concerned about our abilities to focus on reforms and development,” he said.
Pitroda, however, lauded the government for focusing on “democratisation of information” through the right to public information, and ensuring connectivity of the panchayats.
Describing technology as the key driver for development, he said it was time India focused on restructuring educational institutions “and not take great pride in old model (of education). The old model is about to die.
“We need to create a new model of learning and fortunately web offers great deal of opportunities.
“Institutions all over the world are in crisis…major crisis…and these institutions are in need of major reforms,” he said.
Drawing attention to the National Knowledge Network that seeks to interconnect knowledge institutions with gigabyte capabilities for sharing and research, Pitroda rued that people “don’t capitalise on it”.
“It is the challenge of mindset. We have this huge bandwidth but we don’t capitalise on it. Technology has a great role to play in modern university systems. We go to take some risks, experiment and learn to fail.”
He also highlighted the need for teachers to deliver as mentors.
“Today most teachers spend their talent in creating content and delivering content. I don’t think we need teachers to create content and nor do I need teachers to deliver content.
“Teachers need to be mentors but most of the teachers are not trained to be mentors. So there’s a disconnect,”
Laying emphasis on the role of universities to create jobs and entrepreneurs, Pitroda stressed the need to create wealth.
“The need of the hour is to create wealth. It is one thing to do research and development and it is another to innovate.
“Teachers do little research and scientists don’t teach. We need to couple our universities with our industries,” explained Pitroda.
According to Pitroda, India needs to tap into its best brains to solve problems at the grassroot levels as the country has the largest amount of poor in the world.