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Education is imparted in a systematic approach worldwide for a purpose which is ‘sharing knowledge to inspire minds’. Though School Education may be rather about teaching and learning, but, Higher Education in college/university is more about empowering students to get a job or start a new business in their post-degree career. Unless graduates are exposed to skills and experiences during their studies (thereby finding utility latter in the job market and social environment), the time spent in college/university will amount to waste of time and effort in today’s competitive world. Thus, teaching may be considered as the main theme of education, yet ‘Employability & Enterprise’ tends to be the main objective of education from the ‘performance measure’ perspective.

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 The current education policy in Manipur state has been focusing mostly on providing teachers to schools/colleges and their transfers management, creating infrastructure, and student intake numbers; instead of any new innovation and growth aspects in education to deal with local societal needs and changing global environment. This approach may work with management of school level (up to 10th or 12th standard) institutions but ought to fail drastically when dealing management of colleges and universities. Students out of school level institutions feed into colleges and professional institutions for higher studies or on-the-job studies. If there is no better college, Manipuri students just need to leave Manipur state in post 10th or 12th std for higher studies and thus, we are seeing thousands of students leaving every year (thereby also affecting state’s economy). For higher education institutions to survive, presence of vibrant industries around to provide jobs and business setup opportunities to graduates out of those colleges/universities is also essential. Higher education institutions are source of inspiration and guide to our society by producing responsible adults with add-on values in addition to the book knowledge. Thus, education policies for school level and higher level ought to vary drastically and both need serious attention by using different approaches to deal with.

Private schools (if not govt schools) within Manipur can survive successfully; because ‘score-card and pass % of students’ (which is within the control of school management with less/no influence from other external sources) are the only benchmark used for rating schools and no other measuring aspects are currently used (e.g. extra-curricular activities, staff profile, diversity of staffs as well as students intake, health and safety on school premises, financial fees and scholarships offers, support for disability students, religious tolerance, focus on sports facilities, and promotion on traditional culture, etc). State govt also seems to focus more on school education as compared to higher education and even indicated its intention to create ‘Manipur Education Services (MES)’ similar to Manipur Civil Services (MCS) just to look after school education services. Though it may be innovative, the focus has been not yet clarified on what exactly will be role and accountability of MES officers. One MES official can be assigned per a group of schools or per zone or per district to manage the non-academic aspect of school administration; e.g. management of school infrastructures to maximize utilization factor and timely maintenance (thereby cost saving), budget management and local social impact of school to maximize benefits of govt funding and school education objectives, etc. Thus, school teachers can focus on teaching part while state education officials can focus on non-academic aspects.

State govt seems to get no clue what to do with higher education sector in Manipur. Manipur University may be responsible for academic aspects of its affiliated colleges (e.g. updating course materials, checking mandatory quantity and quality of academic staffs per college, conducting exams under the new semester system, providing certificates to graduates, etc), but, its role starts and ends with affiliation of colleges only. Also, since Manipur University is now a central university and not under state govt, it may say anytime to any govt colleges to seek for de-affiliation if unsatisfied with what/how they function. Yet, Higher Education officials seem pleased only with task of govt colleges in Manipur just getting affiliation certificate from Manipur University. State govt are supposed to work more closely than before with Manipur University to devise far-reaching higher education strategies for Manipur and transform colleges into innovation houses; thus, helping villages/towns across Manipur getting the benefits from nearby colleges apart from local youths getting college education. Because, Manipur University has already gain autonomy from state govt on what/how it likes to function, thereby state govt can’t just direct whatever it used to in the past. Thus, Higher Education officials ought to be clear on what is within their role and what is delegated to Manipur University regarding the management of govt colleges within Manipur.

We are yet to see much discussion on ‘what happens to students graduating out of colleges in Manipur (affiliated to Manipur University and other universities outside Manipur) and universities in Manipur (i.e. Manipur University, Central Agricultural University)’, and ‘how colleges/universities in Manipur ought to support students for their future careers’. National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) does take employability (i.e. students getting a job on graduation) and enterprise (i.e. student enterprises in college, new startups by students, new innovation ideas/products from college, engagement with local businesses and industry professionals/alumni) as part of their rating approach for colleges and universities in India, though in less priority and less percentage focus. Sadly, ‘Employability & Enterprise’ agenda has not yet been  seen as one of the main priority areas of Higher Education policy in Manipur, though the agenda is very essential for the survival of colleges within Manipur and can transform colleges into innovation houses for benefits of local people in Manipur.

Looking from the perspective of ‘Education as a system of input, operation, and output’, questions arise like – ‘Why do we create products (degree courses) for consumers (college students) which got less utility (applications) in the local market (industry jobs)?’; ‘how much % of course contents is about hands-on application of knowledge being taught?’, ‘how much budget % is allocated per college on career development aspect as compared to staff salaries and infrastructure maintenance?’, ‘what is the policy of local business engagement for each college around course design and skill development aspects?’, ‘what is the involvement policy of alumni to support back colleges/universities?’, ‘how is other ministries in state govt (e.g. Industries & Commerce, Science & Technology, regional development agencies in each district and panchayat zones) coordinating with higher education department and various colleges from the aspect of innovation for enterprise and employability agenda?’, ‘how about satisfaction surveys from graduates every year on each college by defining performance metrics to rate each college and accordingly provide innovation funding for relevant support?’, ‘how much responsibility and accountability is assigned to the management team in each college for welfare of students and college infrastructure as compared to education ministry itself?’, ‘how the aspect of student unions in colleges currently focused on political aspects can be reoriented towards innovations around course studies?’, ‘why no plans are made to make buildings and equipments of colleges available for students’ career and skills development activities instead of leaving under-utilized in non-working hours (of evenings, weekends, and holiday breaks), ‘why no delegated staffs assigned to provide career development and enterprise creation support in each college/university?’ and, so on.

On the ‘Employability and Enterprise’ agenda, state govt may implement a hybrid model of funding and operation for higher education institutions in Manipur e.g. a centralized depository of support services (in terms of course contents, business startup funds, on-demand enterprise support services, advisory consultants/academics, equipments, a web-based knowledge resource to be accessed by representative of each college if not by every students, etc) and a localized support services per college (e.g. one-to-few teaching staffs be delegated after relevant trainings to advise on entrepreneurship and deliver enterprise support activities, or appointment of management graduates having experience in such enterprise activities).

‘Manipur Innovation Council’ chaired by Chief Minister setup in 2011 ought to look into overall higher education scenario and enable colleges and other higher education institutions to transform themselves into innovation houses to cause effective socio-economic impact to the village/town wherein they are located. Also, upcoming ‘Manipur Innovation Roadmap 2012-2020’ whose design work is currently advertised by Planning Department in Manipur State Govt through a tender process needs to incorporate concepts of making all the higher education institutes in Manipur contribute towards innovation culture in Manipur, and integrating other innovation related govt ministries with higher education institutes to empower youth as well as local businesses in easy access to necessary business support and technical know-how.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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