Mr.Arjun Singh, the HRD minister, in his position for the second time. A two-term HRD minister must be seen as a man with a vision and a mission.
The minister doesn’t display both these assets.
All we can hope to remember about the minister is his penchant for playing his card as a pro-Marxist minister. That is why we heard for some time his obsession with the “detoxification” of the BJP-written Hindutva distortations in the school textbooks. Unfortunately for Mr.Arjun Singh, he is now presented with a new distortion of history as demonstrated by the Kerala government’s newly distorted history text books. The Kerala social science textbook is a great shame for Kerala’s otherwise highly skilled writers! The textbook in Malayalam itself came for severe criticism by educators. Ksert’s English version, it is said, to have altered Nehru’s own will in butler English! The English version, as presented by Kerala education minister, M.A.Baby is full of “howlers, worse than the original, Pidgin English, malapropisms and would have shamed Sheridan, the great writer whose masterpieces are quoted for these original jokes. Even A.K.Gopalan, the spiritual ancestor of these new-fangled rich Communists! His own autobiography is badly written in English. Etc, etc.
Now, Arjun Singh finds himself totally clueless when it comes to the emerging trends in higher education.
Gross commercialisation of higher education. Most private sector engineering, medical and other para-technical and medical training schools are plain cash cows! No standards, no infrastructure and the persons engaged in this trade are highly unqualified.
Now, Mr.Arjun Singh had come to Bangalore and had participated at a “private university”s function. Her he had spoken about the indispensability of such institutions.
Very soon, foreign private universities are going to set shops here. So too private sector in the country too investing in new university-like institutions. Already the so-called deemed to be universities are mushrooming. The deemed status is not for upgrading faculty or infrastructure for world class institutions. For the simple common-sense reason of milking dry the helpless parents and students for a ride! Yes, it is as simple as that!
The HRD minister has some powers to regulate the universities. But from seeing what he has done in the last four and a half years, he has only given to the pressure from the bureaucracy. The HRD bureaucrats neatly carved out a domain for themselves in the name of another university for education research. If the NCERT also turns itself into a university, no one should be surprised. The UGC has no clear role in the current environment. It has not enough funds, so the UGC doesn’t do any of its mandated jobs. Neither enough funds for all the universities nor any power to control and regulate the university standards.
In some of the reputed universities, we have visited, Visva Bharat in the North and Gandhigram rural university in the South, you cant have any more a badly run and badly motivated universities in the country!
One is headed as the chancellor by the Prime Minister. The other is headed by the Vice-President!
None seems to have remembered these titles that come with their high offices!
Even the Vice-Chancellors are not selected and appointed in time. One is also not clear where the states Governors come in as visitors or chancellors do!
Nor the HRD minister has any idea of what an ideal university should be like!
There is no university in the country, we can dare say, where university autonomy is an example!
There is simply no conception of an all India university, the Central universities are functioning like local district universities (Visva Bharati is an example again).
A Central university, by definition, must make provision for all Indian student intake and also all India based faculty recruitment.
Can the HRD minister point to one university over which he can take some pride?
Then, what for a second-time minister is staying in the job?
Yes, these are all not very pleasant scenarios, as far as the standards of our university education are concerned.
But India must move forward.
India must aim for world class education, at least at some of the select universities.
Will the HRD minister please stand up and be counted?