For those who felt change is always slow and cumbersome in India, the recent move by the Indian government to annul the Rs. 500 and Rs 1000 notes overnight should be a clear sign that things have changed. Indeed, there are certain things which never change - the implementation was poor and thoughtless and the bewildering array of tinkering that came afterwards demonstrated the jugaad mentality - but Chinese-style decisive action may have now become politically fashionable.
This may give hope to those who thought India would open up its Higher Education sector eventually. There has been a bill, drafted and redrafted several times but never acted upon, to this effect dating back to 1990s. Various governments since then expressed its intention to make the Indian Higher Ed competitive globally, but in reality, had done the opposite. While India expanded its Higher Ed capacity significantly since 2006, creating a few thousand seats every day on average, the sector remained steadfastly parochial, corrupt and disconnected from global realities.
This is a tragedy if one considers the demographic and demand factors.
India hit a point of demographic advantage, with 2.1 million people turning 25 every single month in India. This made it the fastest growing Higher Education market in the world, with almost a quarter of the prospective students for college level education globally. Poor education made real the Confucian double threat: "Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is dangerous."
Because of the demographic advantage, India is also poised to offer a quarter of world's new workers, about 25 million every year. And, yet, its very own IT service industries, caught in global recession, and threatened by increasing automation of what used to be called 'knowledge work', were poised to lose too many jobs. By some estimate, three-quarters of new service sector jobs in India, the ones that sustained the creation of the 'new middle class', are under threat of automation. And, while the talk is of 'moving up the value chain', the strengths that helped create the IT services industry - abundant pool of cheap manpower available for back office work - are precisely the weakness that prevents such a move.
The Indian students going abroad, given the rising aspirations and poor state of Indian Higher Education in general, is growing, though it was severely disrupted by the anti-immigration sentiments first in Australia (2007-8) and then in the UK (2011 onwards), two of three most popular destinations. However, despite this, the number of students travelling abroad for education is growing at almost 18% a year, and currently stands at 360,000 a year. Only China, with 700,000 students annually, has more students looking for global education (To put this in perspective, China's Higher Ed sector is nearly the double the size of India's in terms of number of students, the per capita income in China is about 5 times that of India and a number of foreign institutions have campuses or collaborative arrangements in China but almost nothing in India).
While India set itself on a path to create an open global economy, starting with structural reforms more than two decades ago, its insistence on a closed Higher Education system, which has become out of step with the rest of the world and decidedly anti-innovation, is inexplicable. The only explanation why things are this way can perhaps be found in the lobbying power of the 'Education Barons', the large, mostly South Indian (but not exclusively) College groups that would go any lengths to keep the market to themselves.
These groups were enormously powerful, not least because these colleges were effective licenses to print money. India, because of the demographic factors, is a sellers' market in education. It is also a market which combined excess demand with state regulation of fees that could be charged, resulting in a thriving black economy where the families would pay extortionate 'capitation fees' (or, once this was made illegal, some other form of payment) to send their children to college. The phenomena was well known and indeed the corruption was at all levels - a former Head of Indian Medical Council, which controls the Medical Schools across the country, was caught accepting a cash bribe from one of the colleges wanting to expand capacity - but these colleges controlled the politics through their money. Often, indeed, the college owners are the politicians, and vice versa.
However, this may be finally changing. When the government annulled the high denomination notes, these colleges were among the most affected: The very fact that it could even be done indicates a political shift. One could speculate about a weakening of the private education business in India: The low employability (about 18% for Engineering graduates), competition from different states (private engineering colleges and universities are no longer a monopoly of South Indian states), the demographic shift within India (with North and East having younger population, and South Indian population gradually ageing) and the weakness of the Indian IT services industries may all have contributed to the position.
The neglect of Higher Education has affected an entire generation of Indians, and the current government's mandate is, implicitly, to improve their lot. This may now happen. There are conversations in India about ring-fencing the profitable sectors, like Engineering and Medical Education, for domestic players, but allowing the Foreign Universities to offer courses in Basic Sciences and Liberal Arts. This may not be the ideal solution, but could be an important first step towards opening up an arcane and inward-looking system. There is also another idea, floated by the Indian Commerce Minister recently, about allowing Foreign Universities to open from Special Economic Zones, more like the UAE model (expect some 'Academic Cities'). This could work too, and there are some obvious candidate cities, like the upcoming city of Amravati, being built to become the capital of newly structured Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The government's intention in transforming the education sector in general is evident in its efforts to get a new education bill passed (after a thirty year gap) and in breaking the monopoly of some professional organisations, like the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) or Indian Medical Council, on respective professional education areas. The current government, though socially conservative, is perhaps more aware than the previous ones about the middle class consensus that got it into office (and which can, in time, drive it out of it) and as a result, acutely keen on jobs and education that leads to jobs.
Overall, there is an opening - even if just a sliver of it right now - and a possibility of rapid transition of Indian Higher Ed sector. We have heard this before, but this time, it is more solid than it ever had been. The institutions in UK, which have more or less given up on India, because of the failed expectations, and Indian students, because of UK government's single-minded persecution of them, should now wake up and prepare to re-engage. And, indeed, they may need a different set of strategies than they used in the past: The usual institutional visits to Indian colleges, which had failed to yield any returns, intellectual or financial, now need to be abandoned. The Indian government is likely to depend on private initiatives to reform the Higher Ed sector, and it is likely that Indian companies and industrial groups would be the prime sponsors of the new projects involving foreign universities. This is a different kind of conversation, though not without precedent. But, this, a new institution-to-business conversation, may open up the world's most exciting Higher Education market for the UK universities, just as they ponder their options in the face of a sudden exit from European Union.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.