ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Post-secondary Enrolment in Higher Education

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In an interesting article, “Measuring Access, Quality and Relevance in Higher Education” (EPW, 13 June 2020), Pankaj Mittal et al plead for the use of the eligibi­lity enrolment ratio (EER) in place of the gross enrolment ratio (GER) and to include all post-secondary enrolment, including vocational training, etc, in the definition.

The GER—enrolment of youth in the age group 18–23 as a proportion of the population—has been the standard measure of enrolment in higher education, and this is being extensively used by researchers and policymakers at the national and global levels as well. This rose to 27% as per the latest statistics, which also marks a significant improvement over the years. Given the rapid and unbridled growth of private education, and given the gross nature of this indicator, one can expect this to rise further fast. Recent policy goals with respect to this set by, say, the Knowledge Commission, and later the Planning Commission and the University Grants Commission (UGC), are already achieved and/or likely to be achieved soon.

Unlike the GER or NER (net enrolment ratio), in elementary education, the GER in higher education is inherently defective in definition and measurement. While in elementary education, enrolment has no prerequisite and every child is eligible to go to elementary schools, and we expect every child to go to schools, in higher education, only those who complete senior secondary education are eligible. Hence, the EER in higher education—ratio of enrolments to the population who completed the senior secondary level—is certainly a better measure, at least until the entire school education, including the senior-secondary level, is effectively universalised. But we do not have the statistics on the EER of many countries for international comparisons and hence have no choice but to continue to use the GER.

The difference between the GER and NER will be minimum in countries where school education is nearly universal, like in the United States and United Kingdom, and it is very high in countries like India and China. The high difference also stresses the need to expand school education.

For international comparisons to be meaningful, it is necessary to ensure that all the parameters involved in estimating the GER (or the EER) are correctly, uniformly defined. Higher education according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Orga­nization/World Bank refers to bachelor’s degree and above, and this is used in estimating the GER. Hence, there is no justification to include all post-secondary programmes (not equal to degree level) in higher education in India.

Jandhyala B G Tilak

New Delhi

 

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