The new education policy that the Indian government is rolling out is significant, only if it's the first such policy pronouncement in over 30 years.
The last one was in 1985. As the saying goes, past was a different country and they did things differently then. In the meantime, India has grown to be reasonably prosperous, demographically vibrant and disproportionately confident. The geopolitically realities have changed: The cold war is distant past, Russia has fallen and risen again in a new guise as China shook the world in the meantime. This new education policy, therefore, has to be really new and see the world with a fresh pair of eyes.
From that perspective, the refreshing honesty of the draft of the policy is a great start. One huge obstacle of any change in India is that no one wants to admit that there is any problem. Kishore Mahbubani's diagnosis of India being an open society with a closed mind is right on the money. What's worse is that any discussion of shortcoming has become inherently partisan. More difficult still it is for a person like me, an Indian living abroad, as I can always be labelled as ignorant and disloyal at the first hint of criticism.
Therefore, the new education policy - the part of it that relates to Higher Education more specifically - makes a great start laying out the inadequacies of the sector. In summary, the following limitations were identified:
(a) Fragmentation - too many Higher Education institutions, with many having less than 100 students;
(b) Narrowness - rigid disciplinary divisions, with a narrow focus on one or another area;
(c) Limited Participation - access to Higher Education still too difficult and provisions are not geographically dispersed;
(d) Lack of autonomy - lack of flexibility and complete absence of incentives to innovate and excel for the Higher Education providers;
(e) Lack of opportunity and career progression for faculty and institutional leaders
(f) Suboptimal governance of the HEIs
(g) Suboptimal regulatory system - one that constricts innovation of those trying to remain compliant but can't close down those who openly defy the regulation
The policy document follows this up with a set of prescriptions - more statements of ambition, really - as to how India should love forward. There is an intriguing proposal of creating clusters that reminds one of Clark Kerr's reorganisation of the Californian Higher Ed, though, from a reading of the policy, I could not be entirely sure how this would work within India's federal, multi-lingual Higher Education context. But, nonetheless, the diagnosis of fragmentation is entirely correct, and something needs to be done to create scale in the sector. Many of the other issues, such as career progression opportunities, lack of able administrators and lack of quality research can be addressed if the scale issue is addressed.
The governance and innovation issues are somewhat related to this as well. Creating clusters would enable localised and multi-tier governance and hopefully provide individual institutions with a level of flexibility and autonomy within the cluster. One would hope that this would also strengthen the regulatory system by creating multi-tier oversight, though why this should be introduced when the model of affiliated colleges are falling out of favour should be asked separately.
Finally, I believe the most difficult question here is that of narrow curricular focus, which is somewhat related to both the history of Indian higher education as well as the recent developments in the Indian economy. It's not being discussed, but the success of the IT Services industry in India has affected the priorities of Indian Higher Education quite significantly, rewarding this very model of narrow specialisation handsomely. For the readily available jobs, the candidates did not need anything but an engineering degree and they did not need to be very good engineers. A suboptimal level of education is just one price that the country will pay for its unthinking dash to become the capital of global gruntwork.
I intend to write more about this last point in subsequent posts but I shall not belabour the point here. But many people in India know that the model of undergraduate education needs to change in India, but not sure how to break the mould. Many of my most interesting conversations on this subject end with an abject surrender to the status quo, citing student apathy to any experimentation. While my experience is otherwise - it's the university administrators trying to predict what students may think rather than the students - the trouble is that change in educational models is hard and change in India is impossible.
However, I am keeping my faith for now and hoping that the national education policy will make a new beginning.
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
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
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.