India used to be known as a sickly economy, known for its 'Hindu Rate of Growth'. A term originally coined by Economist Raj Krishna, to explain India's lowly rate of growth of 3.5% annually between 1950s and 1980s, the 'Hindu Rate of Growth' was to mean what the Economists call the Secular Rate of Growth, which means just the trend level of growth - the rate at which nothing really changes. India somewhat escaped the Hindu rate of Growth starting 1990s, when freeing up of the entrepreneurial energies of Indians allowed the economy to progress, and some changes did indeed happen, particularly in the Middle Class life and in the Cities. However, lately, this faltered and India returned to an anorexic growth rate.
So, the primary job of the newly elected Hindu Nationalist government in New Delhi is to prevent India going back to its 'Hindu rate of Growth'.
But we can introduce another term in the same vain, the 'Hindu Rate of Education', which may be used for a similar meaning - the rate of education which keeps society as it is - to represent a similarly daunting challenge for the new government. There is some growth to be squeezed out of structural inefficiencies, but if an Indian miracle has to happen, it will happen only by transforming the Indian education model.
Post-Independence, India built a top-down state, very much around the British bureaucratic model. The Indian education system was built to support this model, to create bureaucrats who can control everything from the commanding heights of the state machinery and large corporations and banks. While this principle of statecraft may have been abandoned in the nineties, the attendant idea of education have now survived five decades: Education is still for social privilege in India, a good job, dowry etc. This is for the select few who will rule, manage or lead the others. This idea refuses to die: The previous government made bold noises about vocational education - education for the less able as if it is their fault - and wasted a lot of money on it. Underlying this, however, was the same Elite-Commoner divide that I am complaining about.
Seen this way, India's rather pathetic enrolment ratio of 15% - only 1 in 8 eligible young people go into Higher Education - sounds about right. This is not about citizenship; this is not about economic possibility; this is not about knowing India and contributing to society. This rate - this is The Hindu Rate of Education - is reflective of how India saw education.
The attempts to change it by expanding capacity has failed. Even if the capacity was expanded manifold - more than half of India's higher education capacity has been created in the last six years - the enrolment rate declined to budge. Part of this is India's growing young population; but the other part is the pointlessness of the whole education business in India.
There may be new colleges with shiny infrastructure, but no new ideas: The best Indian colleges could do is try to borrow curriculum and ideas from their old colonial masters, Britain, and some from America. For all the expansion, there is not a single coherent discussion about how education should be in India. Rather, Higher Ed is the playground for political privileges; donations to a local politician is the best way to set up an university there. And, indeed, India has some really frightening universities therefore, with no efforts to do anything meaningful. No one can blame the students shying away from these places, and in fact, that they do is good for the nation: There is nothing worse than bad education, and citizens who think they are educated when they are not. (Or, more practically, when incompetent Engineers build bridges, Doctors who bought their certificates perform operations, or, on a personal note, you submit to an untrained dentist's chair)
The new Indian government has made its intent clear: That they want a Hindu system of Education. Though this has no connection with what we imply with the 'Hindu rate of Education', the former is likely to reinforce the latter. Hindu education, which is basically the education of the classics and the arts for a select few (in fact, most castes are prohibited from learning): This is the problem that underlie the 'Hindu Rate of Education', or the British-imposed Education to Govern (just read English rather than the Vedas).
The argument I am pursuing is that to avoid going back to Hindu Rate of Growth, the Hindu Nationalist Government in Delhi has to break the trap of Hindu Rate of Education: While their minds are set upon a Hindu System, an exclusive, privilege-based idea which aims to produce a governing elite, this is not going to happen. The root-and-branch reform of Indian Higher Ed is not about throwing away English (far from that: I actually believe that India should look at ways of accepting and integrating English without its inherent colonial rhetoric and ideas: See Contra Macaulay) but throwing away the colonial idea of education for a special social privilege and to create a governing elite.
Indeed, even a rose-eyed optimist knows that it is not going to happen. The people who run the new Higher Education institutions are in the game not to rock the boat but to make money from it. And, the Public Higher Education system is too politicised, too distracted, and too elitist anyway to do anything for anything.
Therefore, a self-perpetuating Hindu Rate of Education will persist. The only hope is that some business person somewhere will realise how fragile all this is, and will change everything. Yes, to make money, but India is one place where one can make a lot of money in Education and build the Google or Facebook of education, rather than making small money to hide under the carpet. All one needs to build is a smart education that works; teachers who teach, courses which make sense, a system that respect and encourage the student rather than demean and intimidate them. All the government has to do, when such a business emerge, is to stay out of its path. This is unlikely (as such an winning idea would upset a lot of powerful people) but the urgency for growth may just allow them to act sensibly.
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
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.
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
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: 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
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
I spent the last week at the Ideas for India conference in London. This conference had different strands, and brought the diaspora Indians, India watchers and a number of delegates from India together. Because Rahul Gandhi chose to attend - a rather last minute thing which changed the published agenda somewhat - the media narrative revolved around his 40-odd minutes of talk. And, of course, a sense of discomfort hung over the whole conference: A wholly new thing for me and it shows how much India has changed. Somehow, the people in India seemed to think that no conversation about India should happen anywhere else in the world, a strange thing for a country which is anxious to assert its global importance. Additionally, anything outside the official channel is seen as conspiracy. Gone are those days when the presumptive opposition candidate, the current Prime Minister, could freely interact with the diaspora Indians and slam Dr Manmohan Singh's lack of initiative; today, this wou
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.