Some media reports emerged that the Indian Government has now quietly dropped the Foreign Education Provider Bill from its legislative agenda. This may not be surprising, given that this bill was around - in different forms - for more than 10 years now, but was never a priority; despite a late flourish during the first 100 days of the UPA government, this was never much talked about, debated or considered important enough.
Despite the disappointments this will bring, this may actually be good news. The bill, as it stood, was deeply flawed. It was conceived with the justification of stemming the flow of Indian students to universities abroad, worth $4 Billion of expenses a year: However, such mercantilism is out of step with the global world, and would have ended in a failure anyway. Given this limited goal, the bill was highly protectionist, focused on limiting any outflow that may happen from the Foreign Education providers' activities in India, and left little financial incentive for any foreign university to set up a campus in India. In its original form, the opportunity was only open to Top 500 universities in the world, another demonstration with India's obsession with prestigious education for its privileged, which demonstrated a poor understanding of how Higher Education institutions really operate [Most High Prestige institutions being concerned with limiting the access, rather than expanding]. Though a later amendment took this requirement (of being ranked in Top 500) away, overall the bill was impractical, disconnected from India's needs and requirements and little more than a political grandstanding.
That the political priorities have changed and the bill will be dropped is, therefore, completely unsurprising. The Indian middle class isn't the focus of the government anymore, and it was always unlikely that the government will spend its scarce political capital in pushing through a bill which would have still been highly unpopular, hitting the politicians where it really mattered, in their pockets. Though this may be disappointing for some foreign universities, most have already come to accept that Indian market will never open up (any residue optimism wiped out after a close reading of the proposed bill in question), and this should hardly change their approach to India.
The only question worth exploring, therefore, whether the demise of the bill will leave Indian students disadvantaged, and the answer, reassuringly, is negative. Indian students need education, not foreign education: Whether foreign campuses are set up in India or not, has no impact on an average student's life prospects. It matters much more whether India can help develop a better Higher Education system on its own, and this is where minds and hearts need to be focused.
The current government's agenda is defined by a focus on eradicating poverty, and India can boast some serious achievements on that count. The rural poverty is noticeably down and literacy has improved across the board. Indeed, these achievements have not translated into overall prosperity and rather caused runaway price increases and consequent sluggishness of the economy (and a noticeable flight of capital) because the government failed to create conditions of productivity increases and achieve reduction of transaction costs. If anything, productivity growth has stalled, as bad education crowded out the diffusion of expertise through global exposure; the transaction costs have gone up with massive corruption, which usually accompany privatisation efforts of any state with weak institutions, and poor infrastructure. If Higher Education was one of the priority areas for the current government, for the next one, due after election of May 2014, it will be one of the life-or-disaster issues, as the relative rural prosperity must find a sustainable path to general prosperity and progress. Neither the productivity growth, nor enabling institutions, can really be achieved without a functioning Higher Education sector, which India somewhat lacks (outside a few elite institutions).
Foreign education providers, as planned in the now irrelevant bill, would not have solved any of these problems: They would have created more options for the already privileged 0.1% of the Indian students; they would have helped lure away the best researchers and teachers from Indian institutions, particularly the state funded ones, and would have created a further cycle of disadvantage at even the top end of the scholastic spectrum. However, enhancements through learning from established practices elsewhere would be of critical importance, and hopefully the demise of this high profile bill will now allow practical, grassroots conversations about academic collaboration, exchange and pathway programmes to assume a new seriousness, which, in effect, will be better for the country.
So, this is hardly a time of mourning, another sign of retrograde direction of Indian policy: This may be, instead, much needed return to realism and the opportunity to re-imagine the educational needs of the country. This may also be the time to bring a twenty-first century update in educational policy thinking - isn't foreign campuses so passe already - and to create space for new conversations about open qualifications and credit systems, technologies of learning, and a new risk- and outcome-based approach to regulatory systems rather than clinging to the old, planned economy ones.
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
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
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
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.
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,
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
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
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.