What is a political reality is now entangled in a complex judicial web!
It is time Mr.Arjun Singh, the HRD, minister makes way for a new comer!
Indian education caught in a man-made crisis!

Indian education system is something gigantic by world standards. It  caters to a billion population. India is also a young country. That means education matters a lot to a lot of people.

One aspect is the numbers, the quantitative factor. We have to provide education right from the start to the end of a professional career for lots of aspirants who now constitute the aspirations middle class. Second, there is the quality of Indian education.
On both the counts India  has done well, as far the statistics goes. But the statistics don’t go far enough.

There are now newer issues that have clogged the system with lots of backlogs, airpockets, social resistance, the case and the class and the new marketisation of education as a commodity. So, education is no more a concept that can be defined in any clear and simple academic terms. We have of course many well-meaning experts and genuine educators, idealists and experts in every branch of education.

But what is being missed today is that both on the quantitative and qualitative terms we have lots of broader vision. We have got stuck in some man-made crises.

One is the lack of progress on numbers in terms of the Millennium Development Goals. We have to push the education for all scheme more vigorously. This can be done only by the government, government machinery plus, may, be some private sector participation, NGOs and what have you. The Public-Private Partnership is a new concept that has to be imaginatively applied and result achieved.

SarvaShiksha Abyan is a great concept. But what is the progress? What is in store for the concept in the 11th Plan?

Of course children education is also closely tied up with ICDS and other midday-meals and other health and social sector spending, more on girl children.

When it comes to the higher education, all hell breaks lose!
There is a total chaos. Everyone who is anyone is a politician or heads a politically lobby, often partisan politics plays a role. HRD minister Mr.Arjun Singh ,it seem, is losing his battle almost by the day for he has created a whole lot of confusion. He is a senior leader of the Congress party but that doesn’t absolve him of his capacity to deliver.
The OBC controversy that is now before the Supreme Court is entirely his creation and one simply doesn’t have a clue as to its final outcome. One thing can be sure. The final outcome may not be to the liking of either the minister of the OBC politicians. The historic trends are against them. Caste as a basic for pursuing higher education, professional education is weak and at best has only one component of the current debate. Justice has a totally different meaning, other than caste based admissions to professional courses.
It is the creamy layer that is the culprit. All the creamy layer now is of the politicians in power and they want all their children first to get the plum admissions and the plum salaries that come with them. IITians and MBAs  now command all time high salaries, they also migrate to the USA at the first opportunity. So, to simply pander to the political pull of these OBC families to admit them on criteria, other than academic merit and then see them off to US shores wont win too many votes, if properly made understood to the very same OBC population at large.

Now comes the  other issues, that of the declining standards of the ITTians.
The IITians  are no  more the new Brahmins?
Then why OBC quotas in IITs and IIMs fought so fiercely?
IITians are unsuitable for employment?

The IITs, there are 7 in the country, are always  sought after. Their products are supposed to be on par with international standards. Every year thousands compete for a place in these elite institutions. Almost the IITians have turned themselves into a caste, they excel in their own self-adulation, they  play the  role of new Brahmins in an otherwise backward Indian society!

Now, a star among themselves, the MD of Tata Steel, B. Muthuraman has spilled the beans. In a recent  old boys meet in Chennai, the Tata  man said that in future his company might not recruit from the ranks of IITians, as they are seem to be falling behind in terms of the skills  the industry needs. He and others like him have come out against the sort of coaching factors these students seek after to get into these elite institutions. In the educationally backwrad state of Rajasthan, in Kota in fact, there exist a parasite-like growth of the coaching factores that make a reported Rs.2,000 per year by preparing the students to the Joint Entrance Exams, JEE and the result is the students have all become  experts in tricks in passing the exams and in the process they have lost all original skills, no curiosity to know things, no reasoning, no understanding of the real world realities and as every other IITians dream is to migrate at the first opportunity, they know or they are trained in what American market wants, but very poor for Indian needs.
In the just concluded  exam nearly 2.5 lakh students took the exam for the 4,600 seats in 7 IITs. In another statistics provided by a dean in one of the IITs,  there is this curious twist to figures. For South India, out of 979 students selected, 769 are from AP alone, TN just 94, Karnataka 84, Kerala 32. The explanation is that Hyderabad is only next to Kota to have these coaching factories!

What Muthuraman and other critics say is this: a set of final year students did not even know who the authors of the books they were supposed to have read! He made many other related statements. The IITs have only the “reputation of the past” and he actually preferred students from other colleges to company training.The current crop of IITians are imagining themselves a bit too much of themselves, he said.

A classmate of Muthuraman who was in the audience said that the TISCo chief has stirred the honest’s nest!,the JEE needed revision and another, Mr. Shenoy of the pioneer batch of IIT, Madras, said that he later discovered that many from other companies shared a similar view of Muthuraman. Mr.Dunu Roy of the IIT Bombay alumnus also was quite unsparing, calling the current crop of IITians as “big fools” who knew nothing about India or the villages, they were more focused on what the US wanted. The IITians must have a more integrated study, they must have humanities, social sciences and logic and ethics etc. But these were excluded to produce what he calls a more “unreal” technologists.
These rather critical opinions come at a time when the OBC quota issue is hooting up. What would such views’ impact on the OBC controversy is going to be like? How the anti-reservationists’ agenda of promoting excedllence and merit is going to be served, given this new insight into the calibre of the IITians?

The JEE coaching is supposed to be an irrationally high standard, which makes students dependent upon intensive coaching at the cost of systematic and scientific education and normal teenage activities. “teaching and coaching are two different activities. Even the best coaching does not attempt to clarify concepts, it does not inculcate the spirit of inquiry, it doesn’t train persons to start from first principles. Instead it  relies on pattern recognition, do enough problems, then once you see a problem, you can recall the special trick required to obtain the answer. Young people have been reduced to robots, they all seem the same people, no personality differentiation, gone are the sparkling eyes, scintillating engagements, these are a teachers joy”. Says so Prof.M.R.Madhav of IIT of Madras.

And now comes another piece of news that the HRD minister is also blocking the expansion of the IITs to other states. A popular weekly that came out with the revelation of the falling standards of IITians also carried another story. This time it is about how the HRD ministry shot down the proposals of two IITs, the one in Madras and the other in Bombay to open similar institutions in Kerala (by the IIT, Madras) and in Gujarat (Bombay IIT) with the respective governments and even MOU signed. The Gujarat campus on 300 acres and the project at Rs.600 crores. An additional 10,000 more students can be accommodated in the new two campuses. Yet in March this year, these proposals were shot down by the HRD ministry on the  ground that it is the prerogative of the Central government to take the initiative and not the states! One still hopes that this is a correct report. However, the very fact, that the progress on this front had gone to the extent that it has so far, it is  not a  good gestureon the part of Mr.Arjun Singh to kill the proposals.So, the 27 per cent OBC quota in IITs and IMMs is bound suffer for want of physical space in the campuses.

Anyway, the truth is out. This over-kill of producing robots for the Western markets.
The same can be said of the IIMs and also other equally high costs and highly expensive training. After the dealing quality of IITians became public knowledge there was a huge cry from among the old IITians. There were about 15 letters and emails in the subsequent issue of the same magazine. Some are very detailed and they all conveyed the same fears. On the whole the tenor of the letters is that the IITians have developed “bloated egos” ,”a mood self-congratulation”, there is more students from the “lower strata” from B-towns,,  some old IITians went back to their  campuses and when they did some recruitments they found the standards declined.  But what is happening is not just the decline in standards in IITs,   there is this intense competition from the private players, they lower the fees, lower the minimum entry level standards and be it engineering or medical or dental course, they raise the fees or reduce them just to fill up the vacant seats that are artificially inflated every year.

The more the politicians  have entered into the education  businesses, the more is the pressure to lower standards in higher education. University autonomy is wakened and there is a need to do some corrections to stem the tide against the growth of high quality   education.

In higher education the current issues are very complex. First, when we see the international ranking of universities, India doesn’t find its name among the first 100 universities in the world. Only in the next league, among the 200, we find either the Indian Institute of Science or Culcatta university. Even Chinese universities are ranked higher than Indian ones.

Second, even in the much-touted IT sector, we find that ,as per the Microsoft India boss, that only  one out of every four  fresh  engineering graduates is employable and the others have to be trained by the companies which cost them much. So, whether we like it or not, we have to concede the entry of the private sector, private companies, entering into the higher education sector to create a large employable high-cost engineering graduates! This is a reality. So, when we critics the entry of private universities or private sector into higher education, as a group of academics did the other day in Bangalore where they opposed the  National Knowledge Commission report by Sam Pitroda, we have to come out with suitable alternatives, alternative approaches to make Indian education basically India-centric, from the start of the education ladder to the top of the  pile.
The education minister Mr.Arjun Singh convened a national education advisory council with artists and intellectuals, like musicians, academics, language teachers and others and gave the impression he is a progressive thinker. Fine. But the progressive thinking or inputs didn’t create any waves in secondary education curricula. It remains still bookish, very narrowly focused, it doesn’t create an Indian personality of the youngsters. Instead,  the same fear complex, the inferiority complex,the same poverty of minds we find in our youngsters.

Tagore envisaged such an Indian personality of the Indians. But unfortunately ,again for the present incumbent of the Shastri Bhavan, he didn’t even take any initiatives to revive the Visva Bharati University of which the President is visitor, Prime Minister is chancellor and  yet, as the Central University, it is going for dogs! All my letters to the  above  office holders went unanswered! The VC of Visva Bharati, according to my sources who posted their replies to my “Open letter to the Prime Minister” say the present Vice Chancellor of the university doesn’t even stay for more than 20 days at Santiniketan for the whole of a year!What sort of universities we are running? For what ends?

Brain drain, illegal immigration, illegal human-trafficking involving our own MPs and MLAs and the OBC quota reservations and agitations and counter-agitations could take even more uglier and stranger forms, if we don’t reform our education system with a bold and imaginative vision and dertmination.

These are some of my thoughts why India needs a new education minister, a new face, to bring in fresh winds into the dust-laden path that is Indian education today!

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