A model for quality and inclusive education

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    A model for quality and inclusive education

    Syllabus: GS2/ Education

    In Context 

    • The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is adopted by the Ministry of Education to rank institutions of higher education in India.

    National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)

    • About:
      • It was launched by the Ministry for Human Resource Development  (MHRD) [now Ministry of Education (MoE)] in September 2015. 
      • This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country.
    • Function:
      • The methodology draws from the overall recommendations, broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions. 
    • Ranking Metric:
      • The NIRF employs a ranking metric comprising five parameters with varying weightage to assess the quality of colleges: 
        • Teaching, Learning and Resources (40%), 
        • Graduation Outcome (25%), 
        • Research and Professional Practices (15%), 
        • Outreach and Inclusivity (10%) and 
        • Perception (10%). 
          • Each of these parameters has several components, which again have varying weightage. 
      • Though far from perfect, the metric is reasonably robust as it uses broad-based and curated parameters.

    Recent data highlights on NIRF ranking of colleges

    • Participation of colleges:
      • The number of colleges participating in the NIRF ranking has grown from 535 in 2017 to 1,659 in 2020, and 2,746 in 2023. 
        • This five-fold increase notwithstanding, the participating colleges constitute only a paltry proportion of the actual number of colleges in India. 
      • Since NIRF ranking has already gained wide traction and credibility, it is likely that many good-quality colleges participate in the exercise. 
        • A place in the top 100 would bring them repute and increase demand for admission. 
      • On the contrary, the non-participating colleges are likely to be poor in quality and seriously lacking in most of the parameters of the ranking metric. 
        • Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that many good-quality colleges participate in the ranking.
    • State-wise share of colleges:
      • Top rankers:
        • Of the top 100 NIRF-ranked colleges in 2023, Tamil Nadu has the largest share (35). Delhi (32) comes next, followed by Kerala (14) and West Bengal (8). 
        • These four States collectively contribute to 89% of the top colleges, which speaks volumes about other regions. 
      • Bigger states with no rankers:
        • Bigger States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Odisha do not have a single college in the top 100. 
      • Southern states:
        • Even the share of the other southern States is abysmal: Karnataka has two colleges, Telangana has one, and Andhra Pradesh has none. 
        • The share of Tamil Nadu (35%) is more than double the combined share of the other four southern States (17%).

    Lessons from Tamil Nadu as the lead contributor 

    • The NIRF ranking of colleges since 2017 reveals that Tamil Nadu has been consistent as the lead contributor of top-ranking colleges in India. 
    • Quality and inclusion:
      • More than one-third of the top-ranked colleges are dispersed across places, they not only cater largely to the rural and under-served areas, but also provide an opportunity for quality education for students from poor and disadvantaged social groups who do not have the economic resources and social networks to study in colleges from Chennai, Coimbatore, and Tiruchirappalli. 
      • Thus, the colleges based out of Chennai in general and other districts in particular promote both quality and inclusion, and thereby contribute to the goal of development with social justice. 
        • Here too, Tamil Nadu’s experience is consistent over the years. 
    • Tamil Nadu’s impressive and consistent performance in higher education shows that quality and inclusion can be achieved together and consistently.

    Criticisms of the ranking framework:

    • Insufficient quality parameters:
      • The quality of an institution is a function of several inputs and the above indicators alone may not be sufficient. 
      • For example., how can we include the skills that an institution/university imparts to its students as one of the important ingredients? Should the financial health and size of the institution not be a criterion? etc.
    • One-size-fits-all approach:
      • The diversity in the Indian education system is large. 
      • There are fresh as well as old institutions offering degrees/diplomas/certifications. 
      • There are also technology vs social sciences institutions, multi-disciplinary vs single discipline, private vs public, research-based, innovation-based, language-based or even special-purpose institutions/universities. 
      • The boundary conditions in which they operate are very different. 
      • NIRF seems to be committing the same sin that the global rankings systems were once accused of — a one-size-fits-all approach.
    • Ranking Vs accreditation:
      • Another glaring oversight is the disconnect that exists between the ranking and accreditation. 
      • Several universities have earned a NAAC A grade but figure poorly in the ranking system.
    • Lack of international faculty:
      • The world over, ranking educational institutes is a matter of debate and research. There are at least 20 global ranking agencies that measure quality on various parameters. 
      • Two factors that are absent and differentiate us from the global ranking systems are our lack of international faculty and students and the inadequacy of our research to connect with the industry. 

    Suggestions and way ahead

    • Coherence with NAAC and NBA Scores:
      • NIRF must take into consideration the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Board of Accreditation (NBA) scores. 
    • Student-faculty ratio:
      • Improvement has to be made to our student-faculty ratio. 
      • This is important because more faculty implies more students, more research, more outreach, more ideas, and more projects.
    • International faculty and students:
      • International faculty and students will come only if they see a value proposition in our institutions, an indicator of quality. 
      • Industry connect will happen only when the research translates into improved or new processes and products. 
      • To make this happen, NIRF has to have top experts not only from the country but also from outside in its core committees.
    • Example for other southern States:
      • This finding should prompt other southern States, which also have a reasonably inclusive and effective social welfare architecture, to introspect why they lag far behind and inspire them to take action to rectify issues.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Examine the role of National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in ranking institutions of higher education in India. Suggest ways to improve the challenges in Higher Education in India.