Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Education and empowerment

Kapil Sibal, the HRD minister, spoke at IISc yesterday on the occasion of Sir Vithal N Chandavarkar Memorial Lecture. He spoke on empowerment through education. He talked about the enrollment ratios. The growth enrollment ratio, defined as the number of students who attend university to the number of students who attend school, is presently 12.4 per cent of 220 million and this should touch 30 per cent. Many developed countries have around 50 per cent. Similarly, the higher graduate enrollment ratio, defined as the number of students who do doctorate to the number of students who are graduates, is currently only 1% in India, as opposed to 10% in developed countries. He did not make the latter point in his talk.

He spoke on the connection of education to GDP, lack of more than a million elementary school teachers, the foreign university bill and various other reforms including the education finance corporation indicating that priority lending rate should be given to investors in education. He also mentioned that the education sector would witness investments to the tune of billions of dollars in the next two decades and become the fastest growing sector in the country. My colleague, Abi, asked him about the role of philanthropists in education and he mentioned that a few philanthropists indeed can make a huge difference in the education sector and gave the example of Azim Premji of Wipro.

Overall, it was a good talk and his two quotes "We believe education is as, if not more, important than infrastructure." "The government wants to be far removed from the processes of education but not from the objectives of education."  stood out.


Anonymous said...

I had high expectations from the intelligent and articulate Mr Sibal but he seems to be no different from previous HRD ministers except that he is more polished and suave! Just recollect his remarks on the Vishy Anand fiasco where he said along with the apology (which was a nice gesture by the way): 'we will give him the honorary doctorate whenever he wants'!!! First, Anand did not WANT the doctorate. Second, who are you to give the doctorate?? Do you or your ministry OWN the university in question??? This "we know all" mindset is manifested in all the decisions that the ministry is taking, from foreign university bill to academic recruitments to research agenda to 35 dollar laptops!

Anonymous said...

Kapil Sibal is a product of the same system that the rest of us are, and so, he is no different than the rest of us, good or bad. It is nice to see that he is trying to make a change in the system that is the perfect example of the "chalta hai" attitude that most Indians have.

I agree with the fact that he has a "we know all" attitude, but so do most faculty members in IITs/IISc. I just read this rather comical news story today that the IITs have a large number of vacant faculty positions and they are trying to fix it by saying that now they are going to hire foreign faculty on a permanent basis:

What a joke! You have sub-standard salaries and substandard benefits including accommodation, for new faculty. So, now, you are going to offer the same crap to eminent professors who make $150k+ a year in US universities! As if there is a long line of nobel laureates waiting to get into the IITs with a faculty position that pays $1000 a month and houses you in an accommodation that people don't even keep cows in.

Which moron do you think came up with this proposal? And now, it will ripple up through the administration all the way to Sibal. If he laughs at it, he will be called arrogant. If he agrees, we will revisit the problem in a year from now by saying that most nobel laureates did not come because even they did not meet our extremely high standards.

The entire higher education system in India needs to be overhauled and privatized with non-permanent faculty positions. May be, we will get rid of some gas bags.

Anonymous said...

Going by the pace and momentum if the idea has to come from someone it is Mr. Kapil Sibal himself ... pls. spare ordinary IIT faculty members from bestowing this credit.

iitmsriram said...

Dear Anon@10am,

Foreign faculty may not solve the numbers problem, but they can contribute. IITM has two on its rolls now and both are seen as good fits in their departments. No, they may not be stellar eminent professors, but quite competent. The one in my department (Aero) has just been promoted as full professor.

Anonymous said...

It is shocking to note that the senior faculty of our 'premier institutes' are so disconnected from reality. They paint the picture of a bunch of people sitting in a fantasy world with an exaggerated sense of self importance, seeing things only in black & white and totally oblivious to the outside world. Almost all my interactions with some senior IITB (my alma mater) faculty left me this impression too. It would be interesting to examine if the isolated stay in the campus contributes to this!

And for anyone who expects, by this measure, so many future nobel laurates to queue up for that 'prestigious On Contract Assistant Professorships' in IIXs.. good luck!

Anonymous said...

Anon@September 10, 2010 1:23 AM

That was a breathtakingly adhoc comment. Can you be more precise? For example, what reality are the professors you mention disconnected from?

parveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
parveen said...

If we want to improve the quality of higher education in INDIA, we need to improve the quality of education in Universities by increasing their positive interaction at the various level with India`s premier institutes. This will help in improving the quality of education which in turn gives well educated human resource for the Country.
Because I feel only tough recruitment policy will not help in improving the quality of education.