ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Do We Need the AICTE?

The article by J V Deshpande (EPW, December 2, 2000) exposed the nexus between the AICTE and politicians, not a day too soon. If at all, his account of the AICTE’s working is mild. Fifteen years ago, when the AICTE was legislated, there could have been some justification for it. There were less than about 500 engineering colleges then. It is only after India gave up the bureaucrat-dictated, politicianpostulated, socialistic centralised control of every human endeavour that there has been a growing demand for engineering, business management and computer applications education. Governments and universities are in no position to undertake the massive expansion that is required in our university education, especially in the professions of engineering, medicine, business management and computers. 

The article by J V Deshpande (EPW, December 2, 2000) exposed the nexus between the AICTE and politicians, not a day too soon. If at all, his account of the AICTE’s working is mild. Fifteen years ago, when the AICTE was legislated, there could have been some justification for it. There were less than about 500 engineering colleges then. It is only after India gave up the bureaucrat-dictated, politician-postulated, socialistic centralised control of every human endeavour that there has been a growing demand for engineering, business management and computer applications education. Governments and universities are in no position to undertake the massive expansion that is required in our university education, especially in the professions of engineering, medicine, business management and computers. In the liberalised economy, states are competing with one and another to attract national and international businesses to locate in them. This requires growing supply, year after year, of world class professionals along with the building up of infrastructure, mostly global communications. The states have to use the little financial resources they have to promote universal literacy and high school level education which are dismally low. It is therefore proper that the state encourages the private sector, especially the corporate hospitals and engineering businesses to establish colleges for professional education. The southern states, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, have in the recent past allowed hundreds of new professional colleges to be set up. The rate of expansion has been high and continues to be so (AP aims to have 500 engineering colleges), but politicians in power have exploited parents’ anxiety and eagerness to get their wards into professional colleges by making the procedure to set up colleges such as to make it possible for politicians to become education entrepreneurs. It is in this context that the AICTE has become a tool, especially in the last five years, when the explosive expansion of professional colleges has taken place.

In regard to computer and software education also, governments and universities have not been able to do much. This is not to be regretted because private effort is filling the gap. NIIT, APTECH, BDPS and a number of such private companies have been turning out tens of thousands of computer professionals and it is because of their efforts and the governments’ non-interference with them (if these had been set up in the 1980s, the ‘socialistic’ government would have nationalised them) that India is having a vast pool of computer and software professionals. However, they cannot be a substitute for properly branded students, that is, those who have universities’ undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, so that they are respected all over the world. Besides, India must itself produce knowledge and not merely be competent in the use of knowledge produced elsewhere. It is for this reason that we have to have a large number of professional colleges, preferably with university affiliation and since government cannot establish them, the private sector must be allowed to establish them in such numbers as make the colleges compete for students and not the other way about.

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