But free movement of people! That seems a big current issue! Oxford Vice Chancellor is in India!

The Madam Chancellor wants more Indian students. But then the British government puts a cap on free entry of Indian students.The UK universities relax qualifications for the Chinese students.So, more money might come from China. How many Indian educators think of these issues? Neither the Indian government nor the private education institutions!

Professor Louise Richardson

Professor Louise Richardson

Louise Richardson, the current Vice Chancellor of the Oxford University (ranked the world’s top university this year also in terms of prestige, academic excellence) was in India and spoke about a range of education issues; the current tight visa regime for Indian students seeking admission to UK universities. Once upon a time Britain was the big draw for Indian universities. But not anymore! First, the cost of British education is going up. Second, the US universities draw more students. Also, the job prospects are much better in the USA. An American visa and also the chances to over-stay, even the illegal over-stays; let us admit it, are much brighter in the American country.

These are the realities for Indian students who want to pursue higher education.There are still lots of issues that can be debated and resolved for raising the quality of Indian higher education. Now, for the Oxford VC, she says, that according to the data from the UK’s Higher Education Statistical Agency the number of Indian students in the UK has been declining at CAGR of 5.7%, although it has risen at a CAGR of 2.7% at the University of Oxford. She said this in an interview.

EU students too might be affected said the VC because of the Brexit. But then what the Oxford VC says has lot of bearings on the Indian higher education. That is the question of the functions of universities. These places must be the sources of new ideas, new discoveries and new insights into the world. Universities should play crucial role in seeking solutions of many of the current world challenges like pollution, environment and climate change etc.

Only those who don’t have any idea of any of the larger things would talk in such narrow terms like superstitious issues like Hindustan and the sciences in ancient India etc.

It is patently wrong for politicians and businessmen, the so-called corporate heavyweights to enter into higher education world. Ideally, it is for the intellectuals, scientists and creative minds from humanities, why even artists and writers to talk about new ideas and new discoveries.

Universities, ideally, must be left to themselves, i.e. fully autonomous. Again autonomy doesn’t come at the drop of a hat! Autonomy must have a history and tradition. Perhaps, that is why long histories of universities matter. In India itself, we have three older universities at Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. We have to nurture and promote and get funds for very many new courses and departments.Sciences and humanities in these universities must have equal share in funding and, the recruitment of faculty must be, ideally, from an international pool.

There are very many talented Indian academics; also we can recruit internationally for some of the rare fields.Culture matters a lot. We were recently in Florence in Italy; Florence had a great history in arts and humanities.Why not collaborate with some of the world famous seats of learning? The PM must be a drawer of talents, ideas and must be seen talking and meeting and mingling with great minds.Politics alone is not life!

Culture of people matters.We have wonderful opportunities; with a range of online learning courses. Bring home any course, any great mind or minds to the doorsteps of our universities. Webinar etc. enables to do this at a fraction of costs! It is imagination, passion and commitment that matters at the end of the day!

Indian education has to accomplish range of roles to protect and promote India’s multiple languages

Of course, retain the English language as an all India medium. Make India an education hub. The many ironies, contradictions and anomalies of Indian education are there and it is for the genius to resolve issues and draw up a comprehensive policy.  Mr.Venkaiah Naidu, the Hon’ble Vice-President says the English language is a disease for India. The VP also says that we have to promote Hindi language as an all India language. These are all emotional issues and also controversial view points. In the last 70 years of freedom, India has gone through many phases of language agitations and even now, the issue is not satisfactorily resolved.

Venkaiah Naidu

Venkaiah Naidu

What the Tamils under the Dravidian politics are made to adopt is again not unanimous. May be the cue other states got from the TN experience is to clamour for more languages to be declared   language. I am not sure what this declaration would achieve. In fact, the standards of education, more so in TN, are so fallen that as a result there is a clamour for doing away with NEET exams and other all India exams. With the present permission to write even the IAS exams in regional languages (?), the standards are really progressively going down.

HRD ministry is supposed to give us a picture, an educational ideology and an educational vision. But as on date, in our view, there is none. English is the world’s common language – language of science and commerce, science and technology. Where is the Indian society heading?

It seems like that. A few jobs, that too humble jobs like constables, attract thousands, why even lakhs of applicants! This is the real education disease! The Education for migration! Of course, when it comes to education, we have seen that the education and jobs go hand in hand with the aspirations of millions of youngsters.

Indian education and job seeking has become so much interwoven that there is a point in the life of a young man or a young woman, that most of them, if not all eligible ones want to migrate to the American shores.

As per the latest statistics given out by no less than the powerful White House, by Donald Trump himself, there are about 4 million (40 lakh) illegal migrants already inside the American shores. More are reported to be moving into the American borders through the Mexican boundary and the illegal migrants enter and get caught and yet they get protection by way of welfare payments. As per one account by an American think tank, Cato Institute, a Washington based think tank, after the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the applications for the Green Card (there are 632,219 Indian immigrants with their spouses and minor children),  the time to get a Green Card can take an unbelievably 151 years! 6, 32,219 migrants from India are on the waiting list! Yet, such risks are worth taking considering the alternatives are less attractive!

In UK too, the Visa issues are gathering lot of tension and in the UK too the over stayers are not fewer. So, for the next many years, there will be an influx of educated Indians, as doctors and engineers or technically qualified to migrate and settle down abroad. So, a question we can ask is: what is the shape of education we are likely to impart in our schools and universities?

The government schools, for instance don’t draw students as in the past. This is for the simple reason that the government education policies as in the case of the medium of education, the
incumbent government say so, has to be in the mother tongue of students. That means, for instance in Tamil in TN or Kannada in Karnataka. But private schools are ready and also do offer English medium right from the LKG and charge donations upto even one lakh and more for a seat in the LKG! There are powerful lobbies for private education as it is shaping up and there is now news that even in the government schools (or aided schools), there are sections that offer English medium in one part of the same building!

The point here is that there are schools that are becoming empty, no parent wants to send their children to government schools but want only English medium. We have to protect the government schools. We have to promote the Indian languages. We have to teach, ofcourse, some classical languages like Sanskrit. The point is that we are not adding any new input for our thinking bag! Let us start and make our education pursuits a creative endeavour!

Education reforms not so easy and that calls for deep thought!

BhagwatPranabFormer President Pranab Mukherjee was in Nagpur the other day. That raised many eyebrows. For the right and wrong reasons! The guest speaker said that India’s identity is about tolerance. Fine, perhaps we would have said, Indian polity too should be known for its great tolerance. Diversity is another Indian character, said the former head of state. We would have said rather diversity of thought, speech and writing is our defining character. And so it can go on. On the whole, contrary to the much fear and apprehension expressed at many fora, Pranab da surprised everyone by winning hearts at the RSS camp as well as in the Congress fraternity.

That is wisdom and experience and a bit of a tolerant outlook on the part of the senior Congress leader. Now, we see the education sector in India and decry the steep fall in standards and shall we say in the way the education ministry is going about in its endeavour to search for an identity for its own programmes. Education is a serious field. We should know that in ancient Greece, education was a very serious affair. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974 edition has a 100 page write up under the head, education! We would recommend our hon’ble ministers of education in the states and the Centre must glance through these pages.

Now, in the four years that elapsed, the Central Government didn’t do a thing for which we may like to recall and remember after this government completes its term. For the simple reason, we imagine, the government didn’t think it right to call for the experts, great thinkers and intellectuals or see what is happening in other progressive countries and societies.

Now, we read a small news item, so small that we might have missed that this government wanted to replace the many education regulators, UGC, AICTE and others with a single body. Please don’t do that! It might lead to more confusion. Why do we say this? You first show us the experts who can demonstrate some credibility. Niti Aayog has advised so, says the news item. Niti Aayog is not the competent body. You have to have an Education Commission and the names must be publicly known and winning credibility. Anyway, the proposed reform is postponed. Better it be so. Wait and invite opinions and views. There are eminent educationists in the country.

Consult them and also consult even some foreign experts, invite scholars from Oxford and Harvard and beyond. Let one or two Nobel Prize winners join and give India the best expertise in the areas of specialisation, more so in higher education.

Education in an uncertain world
Education for Enlightenment! Please understand one and all!

Yes, Indian education today is being driven by the sheer mindless market forces! Everyday, we are flooded with full-page newspaper ads claiming this or that targets of first rankers or other exams. But do you know the world outside? There is resistance for migration and asylum seekers in the West. Why, even inside, we see there are vacancies in the much-rated IITs!

MaucaulayA total of 18,138 candidates out of 1, 55,158, who appeared qualified the JEE Advanced this year. So, there are vacancies here at the IITs too! Abroad, USA, UK, why even in Europe there is resistance to migrants into their countries. Italy refused to take in a migrant ship carrying 600 migrants. So, the long waiting list of Green Card seekers in the USA and the long list of illegal migrant in the UK must send some signal in the Indian academic world. But alas! Indian educators, the education entrepreneurs live in blissful ignorance or unconcern! So, where does our generation of youngster, the original Macaulay children, is left with? No one has an answer or a clue. So, what is education for?

We say it is not for education to get you into another country. May be you would be left with only to live in this country. So, you, all, please realize, sooner or later, that education is not for jobs or migration. It is for your own Enlightenment! We have had some education histories and these were long time ago. We are not sure of what is being taught in the large number of teacher’s education colleges or among the university departments of education. Macaulay had chosen the English medium in 1834 and since then English language had come to dominate and the consequences are so serious today to drive much of education activities towards a mind-killing memorization and  driving the students, bright Indian youngsters towards a soul-killing  competitive exams, a series of competitive exams that had replaced any learning as such.

Today, the newspapers, almost everyday, round the year, we see carrying so vulgar a scenario with the first two pages, why even four pages ads on full-page basis proclaiming all sorts of nonsense as education courses.

In the 18th century England, there arose an industrial and social and class differentiation that Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy) called the new classes emerging: Philistine, Barbarians and the Populace. A similar situation is now emerging in the Indian educated classes. We can call them here by the very same epithets. Are we not creating a new class of Indian barbarians among the so-called educated? The whole lot of people who benefit by the various dubious education courses from universities offering open-university degrees whose worth you have to check for yourself.

Everyone is cheating himself or herself with those degrees. And alas! The universities running such rackets whose actual activities have come out in the open and no one cares to correct the aberrations in the name of open-university degree courses. The most corrupt practices, the universities give affiliation and collects hefty fees and the colleges; most of them very third rate, in turn collect hefty fees and sign the degrees on paper.

This is called Open University degrees! Some universities in the South, we know for sure in Tamil Nadu which have open, or permitted to be opened in some 500 centres from all over India! A remote small town university had in fact indulged and what this seems to be the pattern elsewhere and this racket had now been stopped we learn, but we are not sure; till a new Governor, the Constitutional head of a university, has come and had stopped this racket by showing some active interest in the University administration. But the arrest of three Vice-Chancellors for corruption of this nature had been reported! The point here is that we in India had been witness to some blatant negligence of education as a serious and dedicated area of public service.

Unfortunately, we have perpetuated the old-style Macaulay, clerical education that is the worthlessness of education as a way to life, jobs and various skills, not learnt in the proper sense. Today, under the Narendra Modi regime, we haven’t improved in our opinion, even one percent in education reform. In a recent ‘substantial’ interview the current holder of the portfolio, the hon’ble Prakash Javadekar (The Hindu, June 13) the minister says about many things. But most of the questions and answers seem to us as not substantial but superficial, surface questions like the expansion of unregulated engineering colleges, deemed universities and autonomous colleges.

The only news is that this BJP government had allocated 4% of the budget for education. Hardly this is news. May be he must have done some calculations how much money is collected by the new money-making class or the new class of Philistines and Barbarians and the Populace class, the unsuspected new class of education seekers. The new class of education seekers is of course helpless, so we can’t blame them, they might take this is the only way to escape from poverty and backwardness.

It is the new middle class that has come to corner much of the government jobs under various quotas and their only hope is to migrate at the first opportunity to the US shores or other countries where they are given an asylum. In UK alone there are reportedly some 3 lakh and odd illegal refugee Indians! All highly qualified. Is this the education we Indians feel proud to promote here? Is this the goal of education providers, in all these full-page advertisers?

In the teaching and coaching, tuition industry we have some of the biggest corporate names too! To that extent those corporate entities have to hang their heads in shame. Of course, we can see some bright lights in the form of Private Universities. We don’t know yet their real genuineness. We are sure that given the poor foundations on which these Universities have come to be established there can’t be any deeper foundations. They are in the state’s Higher Education Councils. One such is there on the Marina Beach in Chennai. You have to go into the premises to find out how ‘bogus’ the functioning of such bodies.

In conclusion, we would only say that we have to go back in history that our whole ideas of higher education have to start with Greece and Rome and come down to the later ages. Perhaps the European Enlightenment, the French Revolution, later-day developments to the establishment and fulfillment of the British Empire and the whole history of British education based on the Greek and Roman classics, the study of Greek and Latin languages and the Greek and Roman institutions of Athens and Rome, democracy, freedom and ethics and truth, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, down the ages we come to what we have to really call the Westernization of knowledge. This is a tough territory to go into. But we have to go into this tough territory and recast our idea of education, pursuit of truth and ethics in our public life.

We have to teach history, politics and Parliamentary history to give a rounded liberal education. There is no other alternative way in education. Please learn to digest the genuineness of this history. Someone has to bell the ‘cat’! Who can do it is a question that can’t be answered here!

The nitty-gritty of education! Yes, education for what? Skills, jobs or migration?

rteIndian education, in our view, is in deep crisis! No one in authority has a clue where our education is heading! It is heading simply in the way market forces to push education pursuits. The rising middle class, not the old middle class but the new middle class that comprises a whole lot of new social strata that often takes the political roles, one political outfit, we hesitate to call it a political party; calls the NEET to be abolished or tailored to promote students from one state only and no consideration for even the whole country.

More and more democratic politics becomes populist, more and more demands and more and more education streams are likely to permeate all sections. May be who knows a time may come when even quotas for admissions to LKG and UKG might come! The Right to Compulsory Education (RTE) has done wonders for school enrolment and there is now a sense of equity and equality in the sort of quality education. May be we have to see what new forces might come about from the more and more deprived sections of society.

Democracy in India is well-established at one level of looking at realities at the ground level. May be a time might come also for further levelling up. The exams also might become more liberal and why, even irrelevant and the attempts now made to introduce exams at the 8th or other levels might be given up. You see we have already levelled up education quality by many reforms. The very competitive providers of education call them by any name you like but don’t call them as educators, they are education entrepreneurs and there is such a fierce competition that newspaper, why even the TV channels are competing for ad space! Such is the education scenario now. Everyone is into the tuition industry and call them by whatever fancy name they are capable of.

Illiterates are educators now, the more uneducated the more clever they are. Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction in this category of 100% pass producing schools that at one Delhi’s better colleges the entire class of Commerce is filled with students from South Indian towns. The so-called cut-off marks syndrome is broken! This is the most degrading type of education. Skills? What are the types of skills? The very many competitive education market had almost destroyed all principles of good education, liberal, rational and philosophical foundations of a creative, cultural and innovative society.

India has become a material society pursuing all material wealth and education is all about scoring marks, writing further competitive exams and also committing suicides for further pursuits. Where are the education thinkers, policy makers, wise men and women?