Boston nervousness can’t stop Bengaluru

Not only Barack Obama but his predecessors were worried about Indians and Chinese dominating the work places of America. This trouble was self-inflicted by Americans. A casual approach to everything tripped American society, economy, culture and polity.  In order to rescue the American society it is important to ensure seriousness in schools, colleges and universities. Unless and until this is done Bengaluru and Shanghai will continue to dominate the American empire.

 

US President Barack Obama has exhorted American students to toil harder at school, saying their success would determine the country’s leadership in a world where children in Bengaluru and Beijing were raring to race ahead.

Obama has repeatedly said that American schools would have to ensure that they continue producing leagues of top professionals, so that the American hegemony in human resource continues in this century.

“At a time when other countries are competing with us like never before, when students around the world in Beijing, China, or Bangalore, India, are working harder than ever, and doing better than ever, your success in school is not just going to determine your success, it’s going to determine America’s success in the 21st century,” Obama said.

“The farther you go in school, the farther you’re going to go in life,” he told students at a school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 2009, while announcing an end of tax incentives to US companies which created jobs overseas, Obama had launched the “Say no to Bangalore and yes to Buffalo” slogan.

Since then, he has time and again mentioned the competition coming in from developing countries like China and India while asking Americans to rise to the challenge to keep the American supremacy alive.

“…You’ve got an obligation to yourselves, and America has an obligation to you, to make sure you’re getting the best education possible,” Obama said in his latest remarks.

He said preparing the students for success in classroom, college and career would also require an enormous collective effort of teachers, principals as well as the administration.

“It’s going to take outstanding principal and outstanding teachers who are going above and beyond the call of duty for their students,” he said. Asking the students to work harder than everybody else and seek out new challenges, he said his call was directed at all Americans alike.

“… I’m not just speaking to all of you, I’m speaking to kids all across the country. And I want them to all here that same message: That’s the kind of excellence we’ve got to promote in all of America’s schools,” Obama said.

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No discrimination in the branches of education

humanitiesThe government keep on tossing students. Education is the first target for any frustrated politicians. It is high time the nation takes a holistic view of education without discriminating between professional and humanities courses.

Shahid Amin writes in The Times of India (11 July 2009)

Education in India appears to be in for a major revamp. There is a certain urgency to getting things right this time. Imparting of knowledge, skill, expertise, all these need to be of high order but without bypassing the aam aadmi. A balance between quality and a level playing field has to be ensured. The government must pump in more resources, but also make investment in education by private players attractive. All this seems propelled by two considerations: first, to try and meet the abysmal shortage of engineers, doctors, educators which India faces and, second, to climb up the ladder of educational success on the world scale. We get dejected by the fact that none of our IITs figure anywhere near the top, or even the middle, of international listings.

Most such listings are biased in favour of cataloguing academic output across universities in the sciences. One may be forgiven for thinking that the blips figuring most prominently on the radars of our educational CEOs are the sciences, law, medicine and management. This is not to denigrate the importance of these disciplines, but only to underscore the appalling lack of any fresh thinking on the role of the humanities in the fashioning of the India of tomorrow.

The feeling that universities must relate to the market instead of functioning largely in the realm of ideas often leads to certain oversights. First, the best universities in Europe and the US continue to have programmes in the core areas of the humanities and social sciences: their remit is to train well-rounded undergraduates, not single-minded, monochromatic specialists. This attention to ‘universals’ distinguishes premier universities like Oxford and Harvard from polytechnics and other institutions offering only professional courses. Lest we forget, the emphasis put in independent India on strengthening core humanities and social science disciplines (economics, history, sociology, political science, literature) has contributed its part to the development of a vigorous civil society.

An absence of democratic governance in several parts of the world has often gone hand in hand with an excessive emphasis on the technical and the professional in education, to the relative neglect of the humanistic and the social scientific. It would be suicidal for India to forsake the nurturing of these critical components. The upsurge of the marginalised requires that apart from making them employable, we also invest resources in understanding our society’s past and present. Electoral analysis cannot be a substitute for understanding the ‘politics of the governed’ in its wider social, cultural and economic dimensions.

We hear about the contribution of Indians worldwide in medicine, management and the sciences. What has gone unnoticed is the large number of prestigious positions occupied by our social scientists and humanists in some top universities the world over. Our achievement in these fields has been considerable. We need to invest in innovative programmes in these very areas. To take one example, there has been a singular lack of attention to classical and pre-modern languages and scripts in higher education. Sanskrit and Persian language and literature are taught in a large number of universities. But in most instances, their teaching has little interaction with those studying ancient and medieval Indian history. Till 50 years ago there was an essential language requirement for those studying pre-modern India. The average history researcher today is largely innocent of any language other than English and her mother tongue. This has created a piquant situation: there are very few scholars left who can meaningfully study a Sanskrit or Persian inscription.

The same holds for scripts. A good many older records and texts were written in scripts different from those used today in some modern Indian languages. So Marathi had its specialised ‘modi’ script for revenue documents, Urdu had ‘shikasta’, a kind of munshi’s short-hand, and Hindi in large parts of UP and Bihar was written in ‘kaithi’, the script of the scribes. Today, an average school-going child would not even know of their existence. Till the early 1950s, 15-year-olds routinely learnt how to recognise and partially decipher these scripts in India’s different linguistic zones. The progress of modernity, which includes modernisation of scripts, has been largely responsible for their disappearance from the school curriculum.

This is not to suggest that we add to the school-satchel of our children by teaching them arcane ways of writing. But innovative programmes are required, where the learning of classical languages and pre-modern scripts as inputs for humanistic studies is actively encouraged. Let there be special scholarships for budding historians and social scientists for the learning of Sanskrit and Persian, so as to deghettoise these remarkable languages and bring them into the humanist mainstream. Similarly, we need specialised courses, where graduate students sit together with the limited number of experts that remain to study pre-modern scripts such as ‘shikasta’ and ‘kaithi’, ‘modi’ and ‘mahajani’. Otherwise, we may soon have to rely on scholars from abroad to come and read our pre-modern texts and pasts for us!

Railway Stations as Classrooms

railwaysThe Indian railways has more than 1.5 lakh hecactre of land throughout the country. It is present in every corner of the nation. Taking advantage of the pan Indian strategic presence of the railways, IGNOU has entered into an understanding for establishing its long distance classrooms. It sounds great. But the implementation should be done with minimal problems.

According to the Hindustan Times, 20.2.2009, p.,

The next time you see people rushing towards a railway station, many of them may not be catching a train. They could be distance-learning students unwilling to bunk classes.

In association with the government-owned Railtel Corporation of India Ltd, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has decided to set up study centres at 3,000 railway stations.

IGNOU will utilise Railtel’s high-speed optical fibre cable (OFC) network to provide educational content. At these virtual colleges, students will interact with teachers through  the university’s distance learning modules and online tests.

“We had a meeting with Railtel  where both IGNOU and Railtel decided to go ahead with the project,” said Professor V N Rajasekharan Pillai, vice chancellor, IGNOU. “Hopefully by June 2009, our study centres will be ready at many railway stations.”

The idea is to take IGNOU to the interiors of the country. “We are looking at setting up study centres at railway stations in rural areas, apart from tier II and tier III cities.”

Railtel, which has laid about 30,000 km of OFC network, is equally enthusiastic. “We have offered land, bandwidth and data centres to IGNOU,” said Railtel managing director SK Vasistha.

Regional Educational Imbalance

higher-education

The southern and western states are in the forefront of educational development in India. Now it is reaching such a flashpoint that higher educational institutes are popping up everywhere. Is this going to create heavy migration of students?

 

 

Hemali Chhapla writes in The Times of India “A common wisecrack among engineering aspirants in Andra Pradesh is that every second building in the state is an engineering college. It may cease to be a joke when institutes dishing out management and engineering degrees start mushrooming all over the country.

 

Global depression may have taken the wind out of campus placements but the rush for starting professional institutions is at an all time high. Data from the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) shows that the dash to start professional colleges is more pronounced when it comes to engineering and management as compared to other streams like pharmacy, hotel management and catering technology or architecture.

 

AICTE has received 886 applications for starting engineering colleges and 1,084 applications for new anagement institutes. Fie states – Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka and Kerala – account for 69% of engineering graduates , implying that they also have most of India’s engineering colleges 

 

Rush year

States                  Engineering                     MBA

                            Existing   Fresh               Existing      Fresh

Maharashtra         239         85                     216             160

MP                       161         50                       63               80

Tamil Nadu         352         144                   158                41

AP                       527         176                   255              209

UP                       241         83                    213              214

Haryana               116         38                       66                47

Across India      2388        886                  1516            1084

 

Source: AICTE. Fresh applications are for colleges from academic year 2009-10

 

Five Indian sties – Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala – account for almost 69% of the country’s engineering graduates, implying that these states also have most of India’s engineering colleges.

 

This year, too, most applications for starting new institutes have come from these states, making educationists worry about a high regional imbalance creepin in; states like UP, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Orissa together account for a measly 14% of Indian’s technological colleges.

 

Colleges that receive a nod by June 30 will be allowed to start classes this academic year itself; so officials expect even more applications to pour in.

 

Several academicians feel quality is losing out in the race to expand seats. “Can the country boast of even 100 engineering colleges that impart cutting-edge education?” asked a principal of Pune engineering college.

“So what is the point in a thousand new colleges every year? He asked. Part of the problem lies in the fact that most trusts running professional colleges are backed by politicians who pay little attention to quality, he added.

 

But the AICTE feels that meeting the massive demand for professional education is imperative. Twenty years ago, merely one per cent of a aspiring engineers got a seat.

Now nearly 70% manage to find a place, note AICTE officials, “It may come as a surprise but very few engineering seats wee left vacant last year”. AICTE chairman R.A.Yadav told TOI. “There is also a yawning gap between management aspirants and the number of seats in Indian B-schools.

 

“But how many management schools boast of full campus placement? And are even 30% of MBA institutes accredited by the NBA (National Board of Accreditation) asked an IIM-Bangalore faculty member.

 

Increasing the existing number of professional colleges is a must. In a view of the galloping population and raising educational aspirations of people more availability of higher educational institutes are must. But not by compromising the quality of the education offered. 

Deemed Universities San Quality

deemedThe private higher education institutions wanted autonomy. In the last few years, the Government acceded to their demands and given deemed university status. But the final count they are not performing as per the promise provided. The private deemed universities agreed to give high quality and cost effective higher education. By all analysis most of these institutions turned out to be low grade physical structures without high intellectual caliber.

 

Apart fro Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Indian Statistical Institute and PUSA in Delhi there was other deemed universities in the country. The Ministry of Human Resources Development data says that from March 2002 to 2006 there was a growth of 11% in the central universities and 22% in state universities. The deemed universities have grown by 96%.

 

Yashpal committee appointed by the HRD ministry is yet to probe deep into the performance of deemed universities. The challenge now is to detect such fraud deemed universities and eliminate from the list. Using money, muscle and power many new born colleges have secured deemed university status. Most of these colleges are benami operated and owned by politicians. Colleges and schools have become lucrative business. For politicians educational institutions give an additional edge to continue in the social status loop despite losing elections. Whether they are in power or not, educational institutions owned by them give some standing.

 

Many business houses have added one more area of their money making area. Generally we do not condemn business houses which run educational institutions as long as they give quality education. Parents are willing to pay any amount if quality education is given. There are many private deemed universities which milk heavy money from parents and offer poor quality education to children. This is considered as high class crime. The Yashpal committee should immediately recommend to the MHRD to weed out such institutions.

 

In south there is a mushrooming of deemed universities. Most of these universities are very new and owned by politicians. There are several movies made on the basis of atrocities committed in these universities. From heavy college fees to drug trafficking to illegal business to sexual harassment by the management staff, students are subjected to several kinds of tortures. In Tiruchirapali district of Tamil Nadu, chairman of a private engineering college had sex with a mother of a girl who was unable to pay her college fee. In many other places girls were sexually exploited for marks and fee. In a way some of the private college owners have become epitome anti-social activities.

 

Although all the private college managements cannot be put in one bad category the government has duty to act immediately on the complaints of parents and other stakeholders. The deemed university status should be reviewed often and bad ones needed to eliminated to restore public faith in the educational institutions.

 

In the overall interests of the country, educational institutions should function as the highest ethical, moral apart from intellectual centres. Any foul play in these places will be detrimental for the long term interests of the nation. Apart from the financial fraud the private and public institutions should be probed for their other unethical conducts. What Yashpal said needs to be checked on the ground -”Deemed university system has become exploitative. These institutes charge huge fees, but have not been successful in providing quality education to our students. Besides, most members feel that they give a very different projection of the university system.” While eliminating bad ones, good ones should not be harassed.

Abroad Craze of Indian students

indians-abroadIndians are found every corner of the world. Be it students or workers or high profile intellectuals. The student category of abroad goers is endlessly increasing. There is an annual growth of 10-12%. There are about 94,200 Indian students in USA alone in the Fall (August) 2008. This is 17% of the international students currently studying in USA. Chinese students are second to Indians at 13%.  The United Kingdom comes second with 20,000 students.  

 

There are several push factors behind the exodus of Indian students to foreign countries. The international value of foreign degree, presumed high quality of the degree, scholarships availability, possibility of good saving after expenditure and high employability after the degree makes Indian students to choose foreign countries for studies. Generally middle class families sent their children abroad for higher studies. This may be for post graduate degree course and above. Upper caste families sent their children abroad for schooling and undergraduate courses.

 

With the recession affecting the corporate sector and its spill over effect on the other social arenas, the number of abroad going students may come down in the near future. But as in other cases Indian mentality cannot be predicted that easily. It may work on the other way around. The Indian student community may take advantage the crisis and may go in huge numbers to break the historic records. If the tuition fees in colleges and universities are brought down due to the recession

 

There is also a threat that scholarships will be cut down and number of financial aids will be down to rock bottom. Due to the endowment fund cuts by the corporate sector to universities the latter may have to reduce the number of scholarships. According to The Times of India (14.1.2009 p.15) the Harvard endowment which was worth $36.9billion at the end of June 2008 is said to have come down by at lest 22% since then, and is expected to reduce further for the fiscal ending June. Yale univeristy’s endowment is said to have lost about a quarter of its value during the second half of 2008, from a high of $22.9 billion on June 30. Stanford university’s endowment which stood at $17billion in June –third only to Harvard’s and Yale’s – is also said to have reduced drastically.

 

Indian students have more reason to go abroad. The banks in India may not have strong reservation to lend loans for the abroad going students. One, there is strong push from the finance ministry to banks to provide education loans easily. Second, banks in the public sector are flooded with huge cash reserves. Three, there is no immediate threat to the employment opportunities for Indian students.

Graduate Exit Tax

graduate.jpgThe UPA government has reached the height of short sightedness. The recent addition to its silly moves is imposing exit tax on IIT and IIM graduates. Although this is just a suggestion by the parliamentary committee on higher education, the F.M and the planning commission are hell bent to implement this. The sad part of the story is the self proclaimed successful script writers (current P.M & F.M) of neo liberal development and pushing India to the global economic growth are the brains behind this economically panic stirring idea of graduate tax. A few thousand or lakh for the foreign plane boarding graduate may not be a big amount but it will lead to another addition of string of harassments for migrants. As a clever of policy makers of this complex and composite nation both has to understand the fallout of the proposed graduate tax.

Nearly a lakh of students are going abroad for higher studies and half a lakh are chasing greener pastures after graduating from prestigious central institutions. The Union government thinks that a large scale migration of graduates who availed a heavy subsidized education is a major economic loss for it. Without understanding the remittances done by expatriates the section of narrow minded babus and netas in north block are mooting this idea. Although the brain drain was debated and discussed thoroughly in the past and ignored it after careful considerations, there is a new flip to this vanished issue.

The cause for new idea of imposing exit tax came after the demand to raise resources for the major expansion plans of HRD ministry in the higher education sector. The alternative suggestion given by wise thinkers are, increasing the tuition fees in the creamy institutions. Why should the government collect just few thousand rupees from the graduates in IITs, AIIMS and IIMs? The churning out a graduate in IIT costs the state exchequer Rs. 15 lakhs. A meager 10 percent of the costs are recovered through tuition fees. The same can be said about AIIMS, and IIMs. Those who are capable of paying full costs should be encouraged to pay and those who cannot should be provided scholarships or bank loans at nominal interests. Due to the lack of scholarships and horrible rules for bank loans, poor students are harassed unlimitedly. The Finance Minister keep on taking about historical increase in the amount of bank loans without realizing the torture faced by the applicants. All the good intentions of P.M and F.M will fly in the air unless they spot the loopholes and plug it immediately. A leader’s success depends on finding out the gaps in his or her vision implementation. The captain and his entire crew in the UPA’s ship are sailing without any clues about the leakages.   

As the nation is not in a position to absorb all the graduates with employment there is no harm in allowing them to avail job opportunities abroad. This will help the government in two big ways. One, the hi-tech graduates can get employment. Two, they send remittances in dollars which will increase the foreign exchange capacity of the country.

While throwing a lot of attention on higher education the government movers and shakers need to take note of the following points.

1.    Depoliticise education development. Keep away governmental nose from the autonomous institutions and allow them to act creatively for financial mobilization.

2.    Encourage edupreneurs to open institutes of higher learning throughout length and breadth of the country.

3.    Provide them tax incentives and support

4.    Insulate them from bureaucratic tortures and harassments

5.    Appoint education loan officer in every branch of the nationalized bank and disburse loans within 24 hours

6.    Constitute round the clock helpline to handle education loan complaints

7.    Involve private donors for the development of government institutes

8.    Motivate business houses to institute endowments in a big way

9.    Link industry and universities

10. Be a catalyst to higher education not a troubleshooter

If the UPA government is keen to uplift higher education then it needs to put down its commandments to propel the crucial sector for the national development. Random thinking without concrete benefits and wayward approach will doom the India’s higher education. Graduate tax or increasing the tuition fee should be analysed economically and socially before implementation. For gaining one the state should lose ten.