Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Higher education policy

Higher education policy

India's courts have played decisive role in shaping higher education and employment policies. Indian courts have not nudged policy in education and employment; they have made it.

This policy drift a consequence of absent executive and legislative leadership is dangerous because one million young people will join India's labour force every month for the next 20 years.

A demographic dividend does not mean people but productive people. Productivity output per worker is the elixir of poverty reduction and depends on human capital that produces more with less. Few disagree that higher education and employment policy is challenging because it tries to solve what Keynes called the political problem of mankind; how to combine economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty. But complexity or difficulty are poor alibis for outsourcing policy-making to courts.

Education and employment policy are too important to be left to courts. India, and its people, must take a view on the four thorny issues.

The first is a legitimate private sector in education. We need to end the lie about non-profit in India's education delivery 90 per cent of capacity created in the last 20 years is for profit so that we can increase transparency and use currently foregone taxes as scholarships for the needy.

The second is education regulation. The current licence raj amplifies the competence and corruption weaknesses of our current regulators to deliver neither quantity nor quality. We need a regulator that has open architecture, focuses on outcomes and is designed to avoid becoming the old regulator.

The third is recognising employment as a voluntary, fixed-term contract that is reversible. The current marriage without divorce nature of employment breeds informal employment, retards job growth, has kept manufacturingat 12 per cent of employment, encourages buying machines rather than hiring people and creates corruption.

The fourth is recognising that wages are set by complex market and regulatory mechanisms. Wage legislation must enable productivity linkages and allow for a cost-to-company world where benefits (Provident Fund, ESI, Gratuity, etc) are included in wages.

All four issues are key to harnessing our demographic dividend and need holistic policy responses that combine the tactical (definitions, jurisdictions, etc) with the philosophical (mandate, objectives and vision). But court orders often allow the specifics of single incidents or local conditions to set national policy. This is wrong, inefficient and dangerous. Noting the lack of court-driven policy in financial markets is also important because it testifies that strong executive and legislative action SEBI can enable policy-making outside courts.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India