Educational Innovation in India

I haven’t written for a while about for-profit education, but a guest post on Kris Olds’ blog Global Higher Education has me thinking about this again. In previous posts (and this and this), I addressed claims about for-profit education in North America that it provides opportunity for innovative educational practices pointing out that there is little reason to believe this really happens.

The post talks about an innovative approach to higher education that is developing in India. Public universities in India “have not been held to any systemic level of accountability when it comes to student support structures”. By this, it is meant providing students with resources and activities they need to excel in learning and performance.

The post on educational innovation in India highlights the Indian university Heritage Institute of Technology which is described as a pioneer in student support. By this, it is meant the school,

“…provides medical insurance for all students (virtually nonexistent among Indian public universities), disseminates free textbooks and laptops, and operates a sophisticated information technology and communication infrastructure that is supported by private industry…Heritage students are encouraged to reach beyond the walls of the institution to partake in integrative and service learning programs, such as teaching computer software skills to underprivileged children in India.”

It is interesting that the post does not describe the school as breaking with practices developed in the West. In fact, as the post points out, the class of schools described provide…

“a substantial advantage over public institutions in developing partnerships with Western schools, primarily because of their flexibility and willingness to adopt student support infrastructures aligned with Western models.”

To return to my original criticism of North American for-profit universities, this is exactly the problem. As I have said,

“…for-profit schools are only successful in so far as they are permitted to live parasitically on the edge of the excellence established by not-for-profits. Many of the more well-known for-profits have none of the facilities normally associated with a university, such as libraries, computing facilities, or access to research. They are only recognizable as universities because they offer instruction that they call ‘courses’ covering conventional subjects and are permitted to grant degrees. They are able to hire competent faculty educated in conventional schools. Their students can obtain books and other research materials from public libraries and read material in conventional university’s libraries. In their class projects, they can report the results of the research programs of professors and students in traditional schools. In fact, since there is no research being conducted in the for-profits, without the continued existence of not-for-profits, students in for-profits would have nothing to learn, read, or write about in their classes. It is not clear to me what instruction in these schools would become without the continued flow of information and methods developed in traditional universities.

The success that such schools have in places like India is possible only because the service provided by public universities leaves a large margin with which to develop excellence. Private universities in Europe, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have been working at programs that can compete with the excellence defined by North American schools. It is interesting to see that the schools of lesser developed nations are now making serious efforts at moving into this territory.


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This post is not written by Olds.

“Editor’s note: today’s guest entry has been generously provided by Raj Chakrabarti and Augustine Bartning.”

Yes, as Kerim notes, this was a guest entry, and as co-editor of GlobalHigherEd I am happy to have supportive or critical commentary on this entry, or any other…thanks for the interest in it Scott!

Sorry about that. I have corrected the post. Thanks to Kerim and Kris for pointing to the error.

Kris, your blog is loaded with fantastic data. I hope to be able to comment more on it in the future.

No worries – thanks for taking the time to develop a thoughtful response…I forwarded the url to the guest authors, fyi. And thanks to you for your many fascinating contributions, over several years now, on this blog. Cheers, Kris


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