I discussed some ideas about how a new Indian university could be imagined (See Imagining A New Indian University and Imagining A New Indian University: Part 2). As the university creation reaches a fever pitch in India, with states jumping in to grant university licenses, this discussion is relevant enough to indulge in. Many new universities have started out without a clear sense of purpose, or even a sustainable 'business model' other than build-it-and-they-will-come, an assumption based on India's swelling student population but one that underestimates the essentially pragmatic nature of Indian students. An urgent debate about what an university should be needs to happen in India.
At the very basic level, the new Indian universities should approach the Education and Employment gap. This need is well understood - with students demanding 'placement' and universities bending over backwards to attract employers - but the methods of it are often muddled. Well-endowed universities are putting in a lot of sales efforts, formally or informally, trying to attract one employer or the other to their campuses; however, very little could be seen in terms of employer engagement in curriculum development or teaching processes, and almost nothing in research. The universities, whose licenses were primarily granted as the government struggled to find ways to make the country's young population productive, fail their essential purpose when they can't make their students productive and employable.
If this failure demonstrates a fundamental lack of engagement, one should know that making students employable only a part of an university's agenda, even if this was the most explicit goal at the time of their creation. The employer demands are always shifting, and they are even more dynamic today as the globalisation and technologies of automation are reaching a tipping point. The shifts in the jobs and careers make the failure of imagination in Indian universities appear in sharper relief: Their failure to be relevant for the present is amplified by the absence of any views about the future. The curriculum, even in those rare cases where employers were consulted, fails to go beyond the HR Managers' specifications for here-and-now requirements; there is no frame of reference that the university may provide.
Finally, the lack of engagement with the present and absence of imagination about the future is expectedly supplemented by emptiness as far as a sense of the past is concerned. Apart from borrowing some phrases from the Western counterparts, one being 'Liberal Arts', Indian universities have done little to define what values they stand for, or indeed, if they should stand for any values at all. The conversation in the universities are about the net worth of the parents rather than what the learning is worth, and the students in most cases are not troubled by debates such as creationism versus evolution, because their world seemed to have started from their rich fathers (or in most cases, rich grandfathers).
Yet, Indian universities, if they are successful, could represent a model for the entire developing world. China has traversed the path already and created great universities, but the Chinese model, given its social, political and financial peculiarities, are hardly replicable. The surplus demand, the millions of young people seeking education, makes Indian universities to be so complacent, but this could be their great strength in creating world class institutions once they have found themselves a purpose. Like the Indian software companies, which are caught into the opportunistic services trap and are mostly unable to create products or brands, the Indian university culture is busy with industrial scale teaching exercise, but nothing else. The difference, however, between these two sectors is that while the software businesses have to seek out the market and this makes the investment in products and brands so risky, the Indian universities are sitting on world's largest and fastest growing Higher Education market, and wasting the opportunity. They have the ultimate disruptive opportunity to change Higher Education as it is done, yet the best they can do is to ape the Western universities, though their operating environment and historical realities are completely different.
This sets the context of a new conversation: Is it at all possible to create a great university in India? What does one mean by a great university? What does it take to create one? Can this be created without endless amounts of money? Do the new universities must follow the historical model, or should they imagine the idea of an university all over again? What is the role of public policy in facilitating the creation of a great university? I am hoping that, with my renewed engagements with India and Indian Higher Ed, I can engage in this conversation, which I shall report, hopefully, on this blog.
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.