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Knowledge Economy of the Future: Transforming Technical Education in India

March 18, 2010

March 18, 2010 - India's technical institutions attract some of the best and brightest students in the world. The Indian Institutes of Technology are world renowned and their graduates are represented in some of the world’s leading corporations. However, these elite institutions are accessible to only a few qualified students, less than 1%.

Many others among India’s 2.5 million technical and engineering students do not receive the same quality of instruction. They often lack the skills necessary to succeed in a demanding environment - such as creativity, the ability to solve real-life problems, as well as communication, interpersonal and team skills.

With India's revolution in software and IT services, there is a great demand for world class engineers and technicians. Given India's shortage of personnel with the requisite skills, the country has enormous potential to modernize its economy by upgrading its technical and engineering education to make it more competitive globally.

Better Skills for Better Jobs

The Technical/Engineering Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP), supported by the World Bank, was conceived as part of India’s National Policy on Education which aims to improve the quality of technical education and enhance the capacities of educational institutions to be more responsive to a rapidly changing economic and technical environment.

TEQIP represents the World Bank’s first endeavor to strengthen higher education in India. Designed to meet the Indian government’s goal of creating a pool of world class professionals to propel the knowledge economy forward, it has been a resounding success. 127 technical education institutions - both public and private - qualified to participate in the program by initiating reforms that foster academic autonomy and accountability.

The project took a two-pronged approach: (1) to promote academic excellence and (2) to cultivate a modern management style throughout the technical education system.

Academic excellence

At the end of the project in 2009, over 60% of the supported institutions obtained substantial academic autonomy. With this newly gained authority, these institutions could make significant strides towards achieving academic excellence, specifically:

  • 15% increase in students graduating with distinction.
  • 50% increase in the number of graduates who found relevant employment.
  • Dramatic increase in professional output including publications, patents, R&D.
  • Over 30,000 faculty members received professional development to enhance teaching skills.
  • Many new courses were offered and existing curricula was modernized to reflect the changing needs of industry and to produce students with relevant skill sets.
  • Networking between institutions and the wider technical community was revitalized.
  • Over 200,000 disadvantaged students were helped.

Engineering for the future

Many of these 127 technical institutions have broken free from the rigid thinking of the past. Autonomy coupled with effective training and development has produced rapid and sustainable reform in these institutions.

Yet, much remains to be done. Out of an estimated 2400 technical and engineering institutions in India, only 4% are autonomous. The next phase of TEQIP will scale up the project to include economically lagging states and continue the emphasis on faculty development, post-graduate education and innovation.

World Bank's Role

The World Bank invested $250 million in the first phase of TEQIP. To ensure sustainability of finances beyond the life of the project most institutions established four critical funds: Institutional, staff development, depreciation, and maintenance. The World Bank has advised the national and state governments on decentralization, the implementation of reforms, as well as on monitoring and evaluation of performance.

Additional World Bank financing of $300 million will contribute to a nation-wide improvement in the quality of technical education. It will focus on two areas: to increase the number of post-graduate students to reduce the shortage of qualified faculty, and to produce more R&D in collaboration with industry.