Since writing the post on The Great Indian University earlier, I received an email from Mandeep S Bakshi, a valued colleague and co-traveller, someone who is interested in Indian Education, both as a concerned citizen and a parent of someone taking career decisions. These views were put on an email because it was longer than the word limits allowable for comments on posts, for some reason which I don't understand. However, I thought it was appropriate to publish the email in full for public consumption, and make a separate post, as this email enhances my understanding and previous statements regarding the issues involved.
With reference to your blog on A Great Indian University on August 5, I would like to pen my thoughts. These are based upon my understanding and appreciation of the issues involved.
If you recollect, in one of our earliest interactions, I had expressed my intent to get meaningfully associated with the education sector. Unfortunately, this interest could not get converted to a full time involvement – either as an entrepreneur or as an employee. This is not so much as my interest in the sector dwindling, but more because of not getting an entry point that would satisfy me –lesser from the financial perspective, but more from getting that “Eureka” moment that serendipitously would tell me that it is the right time and opportunity. All my interactions in the sector, either to identify business opportunities or as an employee in management cadre were, to say the least, disappointing. All I could see was that it was the same rat race of getting more revenue, opening up more units and getting more enrolment. Nothing wrong in these objectives – but these could not be the ONLY objectives – without any focus or commitment to address the quality issue or, most importantly, the core issue of churning out graduates with degrees (or should I say competencies) that had no relevance to the corporate sector – or even, the society at large. So, I continued in the rat race in the sector, where, at least, I had some domain knowledge.
However, this did not mean that my interest diminished. I tried to keep myself abreast with the happenings in the sector by reading (including your blogs - although must confess, not regularly and not all of them), helping my daughter & nephews who were finishing high school / graduation in their search for higher education and jobs – this gave me the student perspective, and undertook few teaching assignments as a visiting faculty in a couple of “B” level management institutes in the country – this gave me the academia perspective. So penning my thoughts on, what, I think are the key issues for this sector in India. Before I start, would like to mention that these thoughts are at the best an outside – inside view into the sector.
1. The Indian higher education sector has 3 players – Government: that has the job of policy making, regulating and ensuring that the education reaches the masses; Educational machinery: Universities, colleges with its infrastructure- passive (buildings, equipment etc) & active (Teachers, content, softwares etc); and Industry (corporate & social sector) - who consume the output of the education system- the students and provide feedback to the first 2 entities. Needless to say, all 3 have to work in tandem – but easier said than done. Enveloping all these 3 is the technology that is changing at a pace that adds a totally new and critical dimension to the entire sector.
2. Technology is the piece that is running much faster and ahead of the entire ecosystem. Picture it like the 3 pillar ecosystem being in a box and technology is the wind, or should I say hurricane, that is blowing the box away and the 3 elements inside the box are all turned upside down and disoriented. Developments in content aggregation and delivery methodologies & mechanisms are running far ahead of other elements. One can see the active infrastructure catching up, but what is really struggling to keep pace is the passive infrastructure, the policy framework and the industry – academia interaction platforms. While, there is plenty of work happening in the areas of policy formulation and facilitating industry – academia interaction, although limited by the government’s inability and probably, unwillingness to implement these, it is the way forward on passive infrastructure that is the piece that does not fit in. In this regard, I would refer to one of your posts, where you questioned the continuing relevance of universities as they way they have existed till now in wake of growth of MOOCs (notwithstanding the challenges) and building of online learning communities. Not that the physical infrastructure will lose relevance, but it will have to change and move towards sharing of infrastructure (more like it happens in telecom companies).
3. Another area that requires urgent attention is the industry – academia interface. Today there is just not enough of it happening, with both blaming the other for lack of interest and understanding. I have interacted with the academia in a few institutions, and can say while there is a good amount of appreciation of the need to have much greater interaction with the industry, there is an appalling lack of urgency in driving initiatives to do so. They are still content on just filling in seats for their courses and churning out graduates. There is almost, a shocking gap between what the graduates perceive their place to be in the industry (in terms of job content, salary package, position) and what the industry thinks of their capabilities. Result is just a ballooning number of unemployable graduates, which is getting highlighted in study after study. The problem is that the culmination of this gap is going to be felt most by society at large, and could, in its extreme form, be in shape of social unrest.
While in the above comments, I have highlighted what is not happening right, I must also mention, what I think, are encouraging trends. First of these is the just developing trend of liberal arts program. This program, at least partially, aims to address the issues of employability as outlined in your blog of 7th August. While evaluating various options for my daughter (post her completing 12 grade from Mumbai CBSE board), I went into this in certain depth. This course differs from other “mainstream “courses in four aspects. Firstly it is a 4 year course as against 3 year graduate course, with the first year being devoted exclusively to foundation courses required for every student, irrespective of specialisation he/she chooses. Secondly this course allows the field of specialisation to be decided in 2nd year, thus allowing more time for student to decide away from the influence of parents ‘choices. Thirdly the program builds in internship program and actual industry experience as a part of curriculum- thus attempting to bridge the industry – academia gap. Fourthly it allows the students to mix and match courses (double major, major-minor etc) thus allowing multiple skills to be acquired in line with changing industry requirements.
These programs are still very exclusive with a course costing anything between 3-5 lacs per annum and offered by institutes like Symbiosis, FLAME (both in Pune) and now being offered by Ashoka University and OP Jindal University. The last 2 are starting off this year. (Was quite impressed by Ashoka University for variety of reasons – but would leave an exclusive discussion on this to when we meet later this month).
Another exciting and related development – which subsequently turned out to be a big disappointment, was the 4 Year under Graduate program (FYUP) of Delhi University, that aimed to provide the very frame work of Liberal Arts to the masses, which none of the universities mentioned in previous paragraph could. Unfortunately, this initiative was scuttled, thanks to political interference. (We have already exchanged views on this in earlier interactions).
Notwithstanding the collapse of the FYUP, this probably shows the framework of a program that may work and could be developed further to convert an idea of higher education into an implementable venture that could have the backing of all concerned – academia, Government and Industry with meaningful participation from all.
Look forward to your views and discussions on this when you are in Mumbai later this month.
Thanks & Best Regards
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.