Saturday, October 22, 2005

Education in India.

Let me take a dig at the 'desi blogging' community. ' We' (I don't wish to categorise all Indian bloggers together - but there is a reason behind this generalisation) are all rather well-educated (on the whole) and relatively well-off (either ourselves or our families). Look at the bulk of the people who blog today, almost everyone could qualify as urbane and suave. many Indian bloggers are University students (here or elsewhere) with very a socialist and libral POV. I don't think there has been an ethography survey of Indian bloggers as yet - but (I'm sorry if this sounds rude) a few communities would be seen in numbers far exceeding their proportion in the census (Bongs, TamBrams and Mallus). Now before this tangential line of thought goes too far, the point here is that most bloggers have gone to the better schools and colleges, and we easily forget that for many Indian education is still a challenge.
For example, today the government goes around claiming that illiteracy has reduced from 45% twenty years ago to under 30% today. Thirty percent of Indian's adult population (16-plus) is still over 200 million people, which is more than the population of 95% of the world's nations. Anyway, what is the definition of a 'literate' person - over here every state uses a different milestone. The ability to read a letter or newpaper or even to understand the TV news in my opinion would make a person fairly literate. But what about the ability to form opinions about the things that might matter? Opinions about things such as educational institutes for example? By that yardstick, I would reckon only five percent of India is actually literate.
Schools like IIPM are the tip of the ideberg. 'We' all went after this particular school because its founder and owner claimed to be tens of things that he was not - like being a 'Noted Economist' - I know people who hold Doctoral degrees in the subject from Oxbridge who'll have heart attacks if you call them 'noted economists'. Of course, our friend the ponytail never bothered with the doctoral degree, but like his father he could always claim he acquired one from a non-existent place.
Yet, keep in mind that people always want their children to have a better future, so places like IIPM will find their own future assured.
But are other educational degree-shop owners any different? They all claim that they are degree holders from all sorts of places, but no-one cares to double check. Shivam was telling me a story about how a prominent north Indian daily (which recently launched here too) in their 'educational supplement' did a huge article about a University that is actually blacklisted by the UGC and unrecognised by AICTE. People in upcountry cities and villages, or even for that matter in major urban centres who have never heard about Google. This recent example of the withdrawl of AICTE recognition for the Amity Business School in Noida went almost uncovered by the media. Not highly surprising. For example, there are a lot of 'study centres' claiming to be affiliated with various Universities - something that is not recognised by the UGC.
The sad fact of the matter is that suuplements and magazines will continue to do stories on some of these Universities and students from families who are not so well off will continue to get ripped off. Yet, because all these Universities (and Schools for that matter) enjoy some political patronage (because education is a good way to make a very fast buck and that too tax-free - just ask so many bit politicians in UP) no-body will ever be able to shut them down. And with the government more interested in providing new avenues to corruption to bureaucrats (the National Employment Guarantee Programme) rather than building up its educational infrastructure, nothing will change in the near future.
Just to take an example, look at Delhi University. Every year the University's 70-plus colleges admit close to one lakh students - but over three and half times that number graduate from schools inside the state borders of Delhi every year. Because the government hasn't allowed vocational training courses to flourish (ITI's and the like) the only option for someone finishing school is either to barge their way into DU (where he must compete for the seats with several lakh more out-of-city school leavers) by hook or crook or if he or she doesn't manage to get into a top-rung professional course (Engineering or Medical) to go to a degree-shop like IIPM, which flourishes unrecognised. No minimum requirements and naam ke vaste you get a degree, so what if it is not recognised by anybody, including the Belgian Government.
So what do we do about this? You can't just tell people to stop educating their kids. I was lucky enough to have done well enough in my 12th to manage to make the cut-off for St. Stephen's (my marks today won't get me into Deshbandhu), but if I hadn't made it there or anywhere decent in DU (Debating/Quizzing quota?) I would have gone to one of these degree shops. OK, so I might have also headed off for the US (to some redneck country college) or like some others gone to Australia, but not everybody can afford that either. So those Universities (again, some really shady colleges that hardly ellicit a response in their own countries) come here (to rake in the bucks) and set up shop for a lot cheaper than it is going there. But not everybody can afford that either. So end of the day until somebody in the government does something, people will continue to get ripped off.
But the problem with HRD Ministers is that all they care about is either the 'saffronisation' or 'de-saffronisation' of history textbooks and not issues which can really impact the future of this country. Which is why the President of Microsoft India, Ravi Venkatesan once to told me, "We might have so many thousands of engineering and management graduates and quote that number liberally all over the world. But the fact of the matter is that the education system is so creaky and inadequate that only a few thousand engineers and a few hundred managers that come out of these colleges are really good." So when Infosys, TCS and Wipro talk about a lack of good talent you know what they mean.
And by the way, to Bangaloreans, instead of protesting against IIPM, will you please protest against our former (sleepy) PM. It took ten years to make Bangalore what it is today, Deve Gowda wants to ruin that in a few months.
EDIT : NYT's online edition has picked up on the IIPM fracas. I mean, the ponytail 'owns' a PR firm - ICPAR - but he actually allowed this incident to spin so badly out of control. I guess all that this does mean is that no-one should ever hire his PR firm.


Soumyadip said...

A phenomenon which is engulfing small-town India is of mass exodus of students to the big cities in search of 'better education.' In the city that I come from boasts of a number of good colleges, but many choose to opt for second and third grade institutes in Delhi, Bangalore and the like. Every parent there wants their sons/daughters to become engineers or doctors, if not atleast an MBA after the necessary graduation degree.

I was looked down upon when I opted for humanities. But when I look at my un or under-employed engineer friends and another who had to redo his dental course because the affiliating agency had derecognised his college, I feel that I followed my heart in the right direction and did not buckle under peer-and-relative-pressure.

iron man said...

dear k,

SURPRISE: even the biggest indian universities run these kind of shady degree mills. Lets take the example of a university (very old and prestigious) run by your current employers. They also dish out post graduate off campus management degrees and charge about a lakh for these scraps of paper which the SC has struck down. Will HT publish this story???

u no hoo

livinghigh said...

hehehe... well, am sure ppl will think twice abt hiring de pony tails' PR firm after dat rather enlightening argument, K.

PS: i wud have said hi, if not for de fact dat i have no idea what u look like, and my previous queries to meet up over a drink has resulted in stony silence from ure side.

oops. now i sound like a nagging matriarch. terrible. i must hound ponytail now. lol.

thalassa_mikra said...

K, that was a great post! And I agree with every one of your points. Of course there would always be diploma mills like these. But the idea is to pare them down on their outlandish claims.

The way I see it, since such private institutions are still in a nascent state of growth, we'll probably go through a decade of churning before the dust settles, enough parents and students feel violated, and stronger professional standards are established.

And it is the tip of the iceberg. I was looking at another private institute based in Delhi, and saw that the son of the founder-director, after a B.Com(Hons) from one of the dodgiest colleges in DU becomes a topper in Daddy's institute. His claims are as outlandish as Mr. Ponytail's.

shaun said...

Why don't you do an investigative story on the education mafia?

K said...

Hahahahahahahaha... Right, like someone is going to print it.

Shivangi said...

Shivam: Why don't you do an investigative story on the education mafia?
K: Hahahahahahahaha... Right, like someone is going to print it.

hahaha... good joke guys! really.

shaun said...

Okay, so I hope I'll get around to doing it some day :)