I promised to write about my travels in India in an earlier post (see here) and here is an update. I have completed a week in India, traveling through Mumbai and Bangalore. Just as I expected, travels in India are always full of surprises. Once I open my mind, I always do, I can find anything and its exact opposite in India. This time, I was looking out for hope. I got hope and despair in the same measure.
India is, indeed, no country for someone looking for new ideas in education. And, it is not just because the country can not lift itself up from the colonial hangover of privileged classes. It is also because Indian education is, at least mostly, deeply corrupt. The new private universities in India, which have expanded rapidly, have come about mostly through a rigged accreditation process, oiled through donations to whichever party remains to be in power in a given state (and indeed, if you are too sympathetic to the opposition, you dont get a license). But, also, public universities, at least in particular parts of India, have systemic corruption.
At the outset, it made no sense to me that the University Grants Commission (UGC) and other regulatory bodies in India were so opposed to Distance and Online Education. In a country like India, newer formats of education are common sense, the only way to educate the aspiring millions fast and well. However, it all made sense to me when, during this visit, I got to understand the dynamic of online education better.
Before I get into it though, here are two disclaimers. First, my information is derived from people who knows, the providers of Online Higher Education who work closely with these universities. I can not claim this information to be any more authoritative than the credibility and experience of my sources, and while I fact-checked this with several sources (everyone shrugged so as to indicate this is common knowledge), I did not have the resources of a professional journalist to verify these observations beyond a certain point. Second, I do not mean to generalise my observations. Given the nature of my sources, these observations, even if they are true, relate to systemic corruption in specific universities. While my key argument - that the skepticism about the value of all online degrees come from existence of such corruption - remains valid, I am hopeful that these corruptions are exceptions rather than the rule (though I got the opposite impression).
So, here is what I learned. A Vice Chancellor's post in a public university in some Southern States is usually sold at about $1 million, going up to about $5 million for bigger public universities. Now, once this money is paid, and the position secured, the VCs are often in the running to earn back multiple times the investment. Online education, for them, provides the perfect opportunity to do so. The university gives out franchises to private providers to do online education, and a part of the money is paid to the VCs privately. This amount is often greater than the amount paid to the institution itself, but the VC ensures that the university efficiently supports the Online degree, which often means that no questions were ever asked.
Notwithstanding the hypocrisy of these university functionaries as they rail against profit motive in education (the Association of Indian Universities remain steadfastly against For-Profit universities), this is good business. The fact that these are some of the most respected regional universities working as Diploma Mills shows that the students are not asking the questions about the value of a degree. This is the Demand Curse. In India, whatever you do, you get students, and therefore, the need to innovate or do something interesting does not exist.
The point, of course, is that the message I want to give is hopelessly lost in the middle of this. I am frustrated when the students come and ask whether our degrees are recognised. It is even more frustrating when some of my Indian colleagues ponder over such issues, even though they have full knowledge what recognition is. It is the lack of courage to change, or speak the language of change, that mark my Indian educational experience. In fact, in India, I am told that I am an idealist because I talk about changing this paradigm. Being a realist, in India, necessarily means accepting all the shortcomings of reality. Elsewhere, it merely means recognising the constraints while having the courage to challenge the practises as they stand.
This defines my engagement with India, in a way. I am seeking out people who wants to change the system, and have discarded the Not-Invented-Here mindset. They are seekers of good ideas and practical solutions, those who wish to make India happen. And, as in the case of India, once I start looking, I find them in abundance. Good, intelligent people from all walks of life, young and matured, with great dreams and unrelenting resolve, undaunted by the challenge and inspired by the possibility. As I sunk deep in despair about what I now see as the most corrupt education system in the world (perhaps), I started finding those people who are trying to change it from the inside as well as outside. They are speaking a different language and they are doing different things. This, somewhat, defines the focus of my work, seeking out these people - executives, educators and learners - who want to, as I said, make India happen.
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
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
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
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.