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Regulating foreign universities: 7 ideas for Indian policy-makers

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I wrote about the case for allowing foreign universities to be allowed to operate in India. In this connection, I mentioned the Foreign Higher Education Providers Bill, which has appeared in different names and versions since the 1990s before the Indian cabinet and parliament and never went anywhere. I argued that though the foreign providers have more or less given up on the Indian government providing a workable legal framework and settled for various expedient semi-legal arrangements with politically influential education barons, the jobs and skills crisis should force Indian policy-makers to rethink the approach. 
However, even if this conversation is reopened in the new parliament in 2019, simply passing the bill as it was proposed wouldn't get us anywhere, and this point is worth belabouring. Several reasons for this, including that the bill in its current form is unattractive for any foreign provider, and it is unlikely that anyone would prefer to operate within such a fra…

Foreign Universities in India: The case restated

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Whether foreign universities would be permitted to operate in India, the way they do in Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, or even in China, has been one of the most vexing policy questions that never gets a straight answer. On this issue, it is India at its worst - it seems unable to make up its mind: The 'Foreign Universities Bill' remains always on the legislative agenda, but it remained so for more than 20 years now. Even its latest version, which was so restrictive that it would have excited no one, hasn't gone beyond the cabinet. The current Indian government, last great hope of the foreign institutions because it had a parliamentary majority, singularly failed to put this even on the agenda, despite making all sorts of noise about reforming Indian education. The interested foreign universities, after repeated disappointment, have now given up: The topic doesn't excite anyone anymore.
And, yet, the case for allowing the foreign universities in India was never been …

The New Model for Critical Thinking

The trouble with Critical Thinking is that we live in a society based on Mimicry. If we take away the mimicry, the whole society falls apart.
That innovation is the basis of our economic progress is a modern myth, propagated in an industrial scale. But doing things similarly, rather than differently, is what keeps our society going. The trouble is that we have so convinced ourselves with the innovation myth.
The whole idea of capitalist society stands on mimicry. Dating back to Adam Smith, its foundational idea was that we would desire things that others desire, because their desire indicated that these things are worth desiring after all. This is the fundamental idea that creates consumer demand, industrial production, finance capital and so on. It is about aspiring to be the same, rather than aspiring to be different, that drives our economy.
Surely, the argument has moved forward since the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. As the individual has become the centre of the social …

Indulgence of Alternative History: Without the British India?

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Alternative history is usually treated as nonsense or worse - by historians! Justifiably so, as there is so much falsification of history already. At a time of battle against the alternative facts, it is best to stand guard against the intrusion of even the slightest hint of imaginary history-making. 
What-ifs have no space in real life. History has happened, irreversibly so it seems, and there is no point going back on what could have happened. But, in that very statement itself, there is a hint why alternative historical imaginary may be useful. History may have happened, but it was no way inevitable: Speculations of alternative history guards against the tendency of treating history as it happened as inevitable; emphasising the contingency leads to an escape from teleology trap.
So, that was my indulgence on a World Cup free day: What if the British did never rule India? Sure, they did rule India, for about 190 years starting the triumph in Bengal, and now we see that obvious - th…

The Point of Happiness

Do we live to pursue Happiness?
Well, before you say that it is self-evident, here is the logic of the question: If happiness is inside us, why would have to live to pursue it?
Jeffersonian happiness, it seems to me, is an external object, that one has to get. Even if it was not originally meant to be, it is easy to imagine happiness as an object, therefore. Something outside, something to work for. Something like the bank balance, perhaps: definitely that sounds persuasive!
Besides, is there an end to happiness? Can one be happy enough and not pursue any more? Like that feeling of being home, when you wish the moment could last forever! If the pursuit of happiness is a self-evident truth, one must reassess those moments: While happiness is all around, its pursuit may not be self-evident anymore.
I used to feel like that, sitting outside our home in Calcutta in the winter mornings! I wanted the moment to last forever and didn't want to go anywhere else. I knew that the moment wou…

A Liberal Education for India

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The conversation in India has now turned to liberal education. About time, one would say, to recognise a major problem - that the education became too vocational, too narrow and too focused on jobs that don't exist anymore - and do something about it. As the great Indian engineering machine that produced millions of graduates with an overtly theoretical training and pushed them into various IT services companies doing process jobs stuttered, the desperate search for alternatives led to the discovery of liberal education. Like all Indian 'education thought', this idea of Liberal Education came from the vocational angle, imported from North America in style and content, and without much thinking about its purpose and context. Only now, when the graduates of the new Liberal Arts colleges reaching the job market, and endorsements from leading corporations and celebrity intellectuals making it an attractive proposition for private investment, which is driving the expansion of…

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