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Karnataka: Anaemic education initiative

EducationWorld October 2022 | Education News Magazine
Reshma Ravishanker (Bengaluru)
Ashwath Narayan:

Ashwath Narayan:

Reeling under attacks from the opposition Congress party which has launched a highly effective ‘Pay CM — 40 percent ac­cepted here’ poster campaign across the state to highlight rampant cor­ruption in the state (last November the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association wrote directly to prime minister Narendra Modi complain­ing that government officials rou­tinely extort 40 percent ‘commission’ on all government contracts and bills payable) and also accused by several private schools associations of per­vasive corruption, Karnataka’s BJP government has sought to recover lost ground by announcing a slew of education initiatives.

On September 20, the state government tabled the State Uni­versities (Amendment) Bill 2022, which proposes promotion of eight state government universities in Bidar, Haveri, Kodagu, Chamara­janagar, Hassan, Koppal, Mandya and Bagalkot districts. The estimated expenditure: Rs.112 crore over the next two years.

Moreover the BJP government’s populist statements of intent to reserve 75 percent of employment in government and private sector industry for natives of the state and making Kannada the sole language of administration are also being interpreted as desperate measures of the besieged BJP government ready­ing for legislative assembly elections early next year.

Opposition Congress party lead­ers and academics have been quick to highlight that Karnataka already hosts 33 state universities beset with massive faculty shortages, rampant corruption in appointment of vice chancellors and faculty, obsolete cur­riculums and pedagogies and poor infrastructure. Consequently, admis­sions in government undergrad de­gree colleges affiliated with state-run universities are plummeting.

According to a report in The Hindu (September 30) 171 govern­ment degree colleges affiliated with state universities received less than 100 admission applications for the new academic year 2022-23, with three colleges reporting single digit admissions against 740 vacancies. More­over, with the state’s BJP government being first off the blocks to implement the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in higher education institutions, university managements are con­fused and apprehensive about online admissions, teaching engineering programmes in Kannada etc.

Simultaneously, Krishna Byre Gowda, a Congress party leader, has alleged “several irregularities and scams” in the appointment of vice chancellors and faculty at state universities, and rampant corrup­tion that has resulted in “deteriora­tion of higher education standards”. Moreover Congress state president Eshwar Khandre has accused the BJP government of auctioning posts of vice chancellors for Rs.5-20 crore.

Confronted with a barrage of criti­cism, higher education minis­ter Dr. C.N. Ashwath Narayan admitted that 2,300 faculty positions are vacant in the state’s government colleges and varsities. Vice chancel­lors posts are also vacant in three varsities for over a year — in Gulbar­ga (Kalaburagi), Karnataka Folklore (Haveri) and Karnatak universities.

With Karnataka’s extant 33 uni­versities and hundreds of affiliated colleges in a shambles and beset with funding, faculty and certifica­tion credibility problems, respected academics question the advisability of augmenting the number of new under-resourced universities dis­pensing poor quality education.

“The government should distrib­ute available resources to strengthen existing state universities instead of promoting anaemic new higher edu­cation institutions. It should use the finances allocated to raise education standards, recruit qualified faculty and focus on research and develop­ment in existing higher education institutions which need immediate upgradation. A new vision document to transform and upgrade its public universities to global standards is the pressing need. New universities can wait,” says Dr. A.S. Seetharamu, former professor of education, Insti­tute of Social & Economic Change, Bengaluru.

State government universities also need urgent revival and revitalisa­tion because a rash of well-resourced private universities are flowering in the state. Over the past two decades, several new state-of-the-art private universities including Azim Premji, Presidency and Chanakya univer­sities, have struck root. Sited on well-equipped campuses, they offer new-age study programmes, high quality faculty and campus place­ment services. Little wonder, even though they charge fees several mul­tiples of state government institu­tions, they are becoming increasingly popular.

With Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo (unite India) long march across the country hav­ing entered Karnataka at the time of writing and receiving enthusiastic public response, the future looks grim for the BJP government in the run-up to the legislative assembly election next summer.

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