It’s Here, The Privatisation of Higher Education In India

I do not exaggerate. I am not being hasty. The writing is on the wall. What started as a glimmer in the eyes of the IIC-frequenting bureaucrat, the industrialist with profit-making dreams and the politician with an obscenely large government house in Lutyens’ Delhi is now a raging reality. Pick up any newspaper or magazine and check out the number of advertisements for private universities. Do a google search for the latest news reports on committees on higher education. If you have the time and patience, go through all the government documents on higher education in the past five years, almost neatly coinciding with the exit of Arjun Singh as Human Resources Minister and the entry of Kapil Sibal. Speaking of Mr. Sibal, if his cheerfully unapologetic blundering on the 2G scam is anything to go by, we should have an idea of the kind of subtle and layered approach he has in mind when he speaks of ‘reforming the education system.’

So why do we need a subtle and layered approach one may ask. Isn’t there an utter rot in higher education? Simple answer, NO. The very fact that you as a reader are able to read and understand what I’m saying here is in all likelihood because you went to college in India. We MUST ask why the Indian Government now feels the need to launch a full-scale attack on everything that had existed in the past in terms of higher education. Why must the very system that produced the policy makers of the UGC and the HRD, not to mention the army of workers and CEOs in the private sector wait for death by a thousands cuts? Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe teachers should have never produced bureaucrats and industrialists. We are participating in a system that is so deeply hierarchical that it is used to kicking away the ladder it climbed on. Further, as a nation, we are increasingly habituated to disregarding our past, even hating it and feeling ashamed of it in some twisted Freudian way. Everything that is associated with our childhood, with the culture of scarcity and indigenous invention we are so familiar with, must be destroyed without ceremony or sentimentality. That includes the simple school desk, the adored teacher and the opportunity for epiphany in the midst of a revered, sightly mysterious process called education. There is a whole battery of experts and leaders, captains of industry and lieutenant colonels of bureaucracy that have lined up to tell us that to be attached anything ‘less’ than ‘global standards’ is laughable, pathetic. But I’m being deliberately obtuse and psychoanalytical here perhaps, because, indeed the reasons are quite simple.  MONEY. Let’s make no mistake, the new universities are for those who can afford them. If the fees of the ‘partially-funded’ Ambedkar University in Delhi is a rough indication, we can expect fees in the range of 16,000-30,000 rupees per student, per semester. For an Arts Course! Check out the recommendations of a new ‘high-power committee’ (sounds like a microwave no?) on education, chief recommendation being the ‘upgradation’ of current colleges in India to varsities.

Among the ‘freedoms’ recommended for the new autonomous institutions is the right to appoint faculty from anywhere ‘irrespective of citizenship’, decide on what fees to be charged from students, invite distinguished faculty from any part of the world to receive honorary doctorates etc. and in general evolve into institutions of ‘higher global excellence’ (whatever that means!). The autonomous institutions will be subject to a “comprehensive review of their functioning once in 10 years by an External Peer Review Board (EPRB), to be constituted by the HRD Ministry from a large panel comprising eminent educationists, scientists, public figures and stalwarts from industry, living in India or abroad.” Apart from wanting to bring in ‘stalwarts from industry’ (What’s their claim to superior judgement in educational matters? Producing wealth?), the report also seems obsessed with ‘academics from abroad’ – why the eagerness to pave the way for appointment of foreign faculty, instead of for instance, investing in faculty development for those living and teaching here? Oh, I forgot – we have been deemed worthless in the brave new world. Our teaching smells of rice and dal.

Given the staggering range of problems that have been and will be activated by the ongoing process of privatisation we need a massive debate at all levels, and a promise of transparency from the authorities about the actual logistics of this process, plus the democratic right to protest and oppose measures where necessary. Instead, what we have is breathtaking pig-headedness, subterfuge, intimidation and strong-arm tactics by authorities. A culture of fear or apathy is being carefully put into place among university teachers, so that even if some feel the need to speak up against some of the obviously destructive or asinine new policies, they are isolated and branded as trouble-makers. In short, apart from the sweeping change in the nature of academics itself, the university system is being sought to be remoulded in the image of the private sector – with silent, atomised workers, bitchy and competitive towards each other, perfectly docile and obedient towards management. The system of teacher evaluation and the recent HC order against striking teachers from Kalindi College are all steps towards the breakup of the one space of dissent and thought that has existed within the system of education in this country, school teachers having already been rendered toothless by their utter devaluation. I and others have spoken earlier about this and related issues.

I want to place excerpts from a few emails circulating among the university teaching community on the struggle against the semester system in order to give wider readers a sense of the actual turmoil within the University system today (unlike the Disney version given by newspapers and television channels), as well as to pay homage to the courage of the hundreds of colleagues all over the country standing up against the dishonesty and hubris of the authorities, holding authorities to account to the most basic of democratic norms evolved over decades within the university system.  Before I do so however, I want to address a common response to the privatisation of higher education. This is that we don’t need to get our panties all in a twist because the best laid plans of the HRD, UGC, NKC and sundry other committees and university authorities are doomed to fail. The sheer scale of the enterprise and the short-sightedness of the authorities will ensure that nothing close to the ambitious nature of these plans will succeed. Fair enough, and this is in all likelihood going to happen. My worry is what half-baked monster will be created in the process. The Sixth Pay Commission has already linked promotion of teachers to performance in a ridiculous point system that has been widely critiqued, but it has not been revoked. We can expect it to be used as a whip to silence teachers and to reward a range of extra-curricular behaviours – something that has already begun to happen. The exponentially high student fees even for humanities and arts courses are a reality in several universities (you can multiply that by a figure of x to get a sense of the fees for science and commerce courses, not to mention professional courses). The battle for the semester system has been so fierce that University authorities posted police outside the room where the English Department was holding a GBM on the issue, plus a new practice of taking down names of dissenters (for future punitive action?) has been inaugurated.

It’s war out there, and the war is about privatisation, making education accessible only to those who can afford it, and breaking up one of the more successful white collar unions in the country. The university authorities and Mr. Sibal would do well to remember that if their new system is ‘global’, so is the history of resistance to it.

The following excerpt is from a mail is by Dr. Abha Dev Habib of Miranda House Physics Department:

“Letters have been served to Heads of those Departments which have not got syllabi ready as of now. The Registrar’s letter served to the Heads is of the same nature as the letters which had threatened the college teachers last year. The Registrar’s letters (copy attached) not only are threats issued to the Heads but also to Department and College teachers. It is a threat to academic freedom, the freedom to debate and discuss. In the Arts Faculty meeting of 14 March, courses ,none of which were circulated in advance, were tabled for approval and passed with only few dissents. The meeting was of the same flavour as the Faculty of Science meeting last year. Most of the college teachers were not even informed. Each course has its own interpretation of Empowered Committee documents.

Beyond a point, I do not see the entire issue which is engulfing us today as just a fight between being in annual or semester mode. I see it as a greater crisis- crisis of our existence in a system which shall rot with an unimaginable rate. It is all about ‘what is a University?’ and ‘will DU remain a University where honest people who love being part of it and who love their work are able to breathe?’ The ethos of the University is being sacrificed to implement this system.

The English Department GBM on Wednesday, 16 March brought forth the sentiments of the teachers and the rationale of the opposition of semester system in a very effective manner. On 19 March, both PGCC and UGCC met. The entire Arts Faculty was locked up with just one side door left open. The door was guarded by several guards who restricted entry. To express solidarity with those who were to take forward the resolution of the GBM, a group of concerned English teachers and JAB members collected outside in the parking-lot of Arts Faculty.

In spite of calls from the VC’s Office, the PGCC completely rejected the idea of semesterization and honored the GBM’s resolution. However, violating the norms of secret voting, names of people on either side were recorded. The meeting lasted for five hours. The UGCC meeting was held shortly after that. It failed to uphold the English Dept GBM’s resolution passed on Wednesday, 16 March. The UGCC, however, did not pass any syllabi and resolved that due processes have to be followed. No syllabi were passed on 19 March.

It is very important to understand that it is just a chance that we are part of a Statutory body – Committee of Courses or Faculty and it is important to refrain from voting against what the GBM of that Department has decided. It may be that personally one feels that semester is not a bad idea but we need to note that its implementation (2009-10) and subsequent failure at M.A. level points at the problems in having this system at DU. An appeal

We appeal to all teachers who are on Committee of Courses or Faculty to voice the considered opinion of the teachers in this matter. In a Faculty meeting, as a member you have all the right to not only question the courses from your own Department but also others. The questions may include: asking for minutes of the Committee of Courses, the number of meetings in which a course has been prepared, whether the course was circulated (hard copy) to Colleges before CoC passed it and the feedback sent by the colleges. We also need to see what framework is being used by Departments and if the course placed for approval includes syllabi/contents of all the papers or not as a course cannot be passed in bits and pieces.There is a meeting of Arts Faculty on 28 March at 11:00 am (copy attached). Please check the Statutes defining the composition of the Faculty (given at the end of this mail).

Please continue to support the idea of being just and free. As teachers who occupy this space and time, it is our responsibility to create a system which will benefit generations of students and teachers. Today, many of us will continue to resist as much as possible at the cost of our energy, our time and our research work.

Another excerpt from a mail by Dr. Parihar of DU:

“Why only Kalindi College? I think teachers wherever they protest must be out of their senses!.that’s what at least the courts seem to think. Court has given an interim injunction on protests in Dyal Singh College–an interim injunction that deserves to be in Guinness Book of World Record for being in force for over two & a half years (& still going strong!) and not having had one hearing. Teachers haven’t been heard all through! But the Courts and ‘Authorities’ can never go wrong!

I am sure there are very many more examples. DUTA has been suppressed to an extent that its members feel more free to speak individually than collectively! Student leadership in many colleges has gone for a six as an aftermath of the Lyngdoh ‘reforms’. Ad-hoc teachers, by & large, are unable to remove the shackles of slavery and permanent do not feel free to express. One can only imagine the plight of the karamcharis. Therefore, all components of the University system are being driven to nothingness. I fear, very soon the whole country will have pay for it.”

37 thoughts on “It’s Here, The Privatisation of Higher Education In India”

  1. Since we, as a nation, have by default agreed to the de-facto privatisation of our government into family run scams whether at the Center or in the States, why should Higher Education be spared from the tender mercies of the Gandhi-Nehru or Karunanidhi type of families!!


  2. It is a sinister attempt. To de-politicise higher education. To re-Sanskritise the environment. To make money flow more grandiosely than ideas. To strangulate dissent. To humiliate Social Science and Literature. To encourage capitalist fiefdoms. To turn educational institutions into the Big Bazars of cheap, marketable goods. To governmentalise everyone’s mindset. To aggravate the Deluzian nightmare of a global society of control. To create new norms for a new exception: totalitarian democracy.

  3. This is a very serious issue and I think we need to forge a network [expanding ongoing work in small pockets] that foregrounds the work of teachers in state universities under very difficult situations, and initiates dialogue with them on concrete ways to strengthen teaching and learning in the face of an alarming withdrawal of resources and virtual absence of teaching materials in these institutions located outside the metropoles. Despite this, teachers for the most part have been garnering materials in ingenuous ways and delivering in adverse circumstances. However, there is a disillusionment among them as well, that springs from their devaluation,and a sense of hopelessness that we need to fight off.

  4. Manash, very well said. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    Ravi Nayar, do I sense an undercurrent of faith in the Advani-Modi-Jayalalitha brigade? We should remember that many of the seeds of these changes were laid by Murli Manohar Joshi as HRD Minister. Although I agree that the Congress has outdone even our wildest suspicions on scams and greed, the privatisation issue is basically structural and not party or dynasty-based. The smell of money is too strong in post-liberalisation India, along with the attendant mottos of each-one-to-themselves, I’m-not-my-brother’s keeper, dog-eat-dog, why-should-my-taxes-pay-for-your-education/healthcare, nothing-that-doesn’t-fetch-money-is-worth-it…etc etc.

  5. Sunalini’s post would have sounded a lot more convincing but for one fact — barring a few isolated examples the quality of higher education in India is abysmal. Just like the quality of all other services and goods the Indian state has undertaken to deliver to its citizens in the last 60 years. And the worst sufferers are the poor in whose name the state seeks to monopolize so many sectors of the economy.

    The lady who comes to my house to work as a domestic help has a cell phone now, something that was unthinkable in the era of MTNL Raj. You say comparing cell phones to education is like comparing apples to oranges? I suspect not. My hunch is that the same fundamental socio-economic principles apply to both, education and cell phones.

    I got a BA in History from an American university and, for what it is worth, found the semester system very effective. As a student I also liked the fact that we had to fill out a detailed assessment form for each and every professor who taught us and that our views were taken very seriously by the university in evaluating the teachers’ performance.

    A few lines explaining why introducing the semester system is a bad idea; what is wrong with hiring foreign faculty; and how private universities will be worse than state universities would be most helpful for laymen such as myself.

  6. Sunalini,
    Happy to see that there are more people out there beginning to see what’s unfolding in higher education. I’d written about this in an almost identical fashion about 5 months ago in Tehelka; please see the following link:
    This long-term agenda needs to be brought into the public space – written about, discussed, resisted – more urgently, and resisted more ferociously – as ferociously as it is being pushed. What is at stake is not just the character of higher education in the country, and the understanding of the university as a critical space (in every sense of that term), but the potential for fostering and reproducing the idea(s) of democracy itself. This must be defended at all costs.

    1. PK Vijayan, thanks for the link to your excellent article, which addresses many of the nitty gritties of this debate. However, I certainly don’t believe you or I or some scattered writers are the only people ‘beginning to see what’s happening.’ The signs, as I’ve been mentioning, have been there for a while, and there has been a storm of debate at all levels. Kafila has had a few articles on this in the past; I linked to mine and Vrijendra’s in my post; also see Kriti Budhiraja’s post on related issues (biometric attendance) And of course, Kafila is by no means the only space where this is being discussed; there are several blogs and facebook pages dedicated to these discussions, not to mention the odd article in mainstream papers too. And of course, the issue of privatisation has been reflected upon with concern in journals like EPW for years now.
      I also mentioned emails written and circulated by DU teachers as a potent form of public mobilisation and debate; the point of my post was that hundreds of colleagues in universities all over the country are fighting this at various levels, and their courage inspired me to record some of the turmoil.

  7. Given the first-order problem of intellectual liberty and democratic freedoms now confronting the university world at a very practical level – values which in the universities have perhaps their fullest expression in humanist and literary studies – it should be borne in mind that the issue in the present matter – enforcement of semester scheduling in Delhi University colleges – is way larger and more foundational than what might be supposed. Something more than merely legalistic is at issue. Secrecy clauses, by-laws and functional protocols are important to respect, but not absolutely, and not where they stand in the way of transparency with regard to public knowledge and the protection of vital community interests. ‘Information’ tendered for official use on the other hand may have quite other connotations altogether, including those implicated in potential for abuse by those wielding power. After all, a power structure’s priorities and authoritative imperatives may not (and oftentimes likely will not) coincide with the demands of disinterested free inquiry, objective thought, democratic collective deliberation and unconstrained articulation and decision making in the intellectual sphere; ipso facto these are distinct and in important ways mutually contradictive concepts.
    Given this reality, reporting on functional detail of meetings and exchanges of ideas on a matter in which the education bureaucracy has developed quite extraordinary stakes – in a situation where preferment of such detail is very liable to be used as part of coercive moves to curtail intellectual freedoms inside in faculty exchanges and inside the academe at large, is a case of such a kind where Knowledge and Power are positioned for dissensus. Here ‘information’ gathered by official agencies can and most likely will be pressed in the service of inhibiting educators’ right to their opinion. This isn’t just Orwellian fantasy. There is in fact already a recent precedent where, tragically and scandalously, information as regards persons/college departments of English taking an “unfriendly” stand apropos the semesterisation issue has been made available and reprehensibly used by the university officialdom.The latter, reportedly moving form the highest levels, used such gleaned and gathered particulars to weigh in with college administrators (who have nothing to do with English syllabi or academic scheduling rationales for the subject) to lean on individual teachers in their colleges and try and induce them to modify their stand on semesterisation and wanting it discussed in a GBM. Such a situation to my knowledge is unheard of and totally unprecedented; it is incompatible with the concept of intellectual freedom.

    Democracy, which has been described as the worst system ever devised with the exception of all the others, requires that we vigorously pursue our variant positions and voice our differences with all the intellectual and moral force at our command; it also implies that we as individuals can find a way to ultimately accommodate ourselves, regardless of personal inclination and private wisdom, to the collective wisdom that arises in the public sphere from the concerted application and interchange of multiple rationalities. The importance of such a dialectical synthesis cannot be overstressed. We have seen how in the 20th century hole heroic ventures and zeal for a tranformatory oeuvre and idea which could not tolerate, encompass and embrace democratic think, speak and action, succumbed historically to the distrust of a democratic culture. The intellectual sphere certainly needs such a culture as its very condition of survival. In the English Department, to which reference has been made in a post above, a recent General Body of all teachers called by the Head of the Department of English, Delhi U, comprehensively rejected the semester scheme by an overwhelming majority. Days later, committees of courses were quickly convened by the Head, with evident intent to, if possible, override the aforesaid decision of a General Body convened by the very same official! These ‘academic’ meetings were held ‘in camera’ with the Faculty of Arts under police cordon! This extreme expedient was resorted to when in fact, after the GBM, it should now have been possible for all in the Department to extendly and collectively move forward drawing guidance and legitimacy from where things stood following the decision of the Departmental Council of All Teachers – an entity mooted for curricular purposes during the tenure of Vice Chancellor K N Raj. At any rate, nothing explicitly should have been done that went directly contrary to the spirit of that GB decision, for which some minimum respect ought to have been shown, making it possible to drown all other considerations and priorities, in the pursuit of a larger and more fundamental good. That is the spirit of democracy; it is also the way of rational participative decision making. There are many ways of doing things and achieving purposes, but getting beyond a means-ends instrumental rationality with its expedient and functionalist (and oftentimes nearly cynical) approach to securing objectives, to the primary rationality of the straightest way ahead would in the long run have strengthened those in academia in the most beneficial way, and yielded the healthiest results – even if there were some not inconsiderable difficulties en route. What is saddening and disturbing in the way it has actually unfolded, is not merely what the authorities want, but how many of us within academia are apparently willing to collaborate with official agendas dictated from outside the educational sphere by nakedly marketist calculations, as Sunalini’s essay so effectively argues.

    This kind of real life ‘narrative’ raises questions of primary concern. What is at stake in respect of a matter – semester scheduling for undergraduate college courses – that might too easily be taken as after all no more than one or another approach to annual scheduling, in fact runs way deeper than what appears on the surface, and the potential ramifications and repercussions in terms of the emerging CULTURE of academic centres are profoundly disturbing. I have written more than once, to two different Vice Chancellors, on what I think on the nitty-gritties of semesterisation in colleges, and I won’t go there in this post. Today I want to address something more basic. This entire issue now pertains foundationally to the possibility of uncoerced and free expression of ideas, beliefs and positions within the academe. Academies, especially in the Humanities and in intepretive-heuristic domains like literary studies, absolutely require as their lifeblood and oxygen that condition described by Rabindranath Tagore when he spoke of a desiderated realm “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high/Where knowledge is free [and] the mind is led forward by thee/Into ever widening thought and action.” Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that the daroghas and bureaucrats of education today have no intention whatsoever of letting “our country awake” into any such “heaven of freedom” as Tagore might have imagined and dreamed of. It seems the men in commanding positions within the power centres of higher learning would much rather depend now on a thought police that will help them forcibly impose pedagogical regimes dictated by Accreditation Councils and so-called “Knowledge Commissions” (nearly as oxymoronic and repellent a rubric as “Human Resources”) defined by the Birlas and Ambanis, than they’d care to respect and pay heed to the views and deep concerns voiced by educators and enlightened men of letters.

    It is of a piece with this larger schema that “who said what” and “how people voted” in faculty and academic meetings is now to be treated as dossiered political ‘information’ meant to be passed on pronto to the university hawks – as a stand-up count of believers and heretics. Not too far off, it appears, from the Age of the Not So Holy Inquisition which burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for propounding ‘unpardonable’ views and grilled and bullied a ‘heretical’ Galileo into recanting his honestly and rationally held astronomical opinions. Or from the House Committee on so-called Un-American activities (better remembered, notoriously, as the McCarthy Commission) which went about hounding and collecting ‘incriminating’ information on ‘disloyal’ performing arts giants all the way from Paul Robeson to Charlie Chaplin and WG Robinson! But the earth, heresy notwithstanding, still circles the sun, Chaplin still spells Cinema, and Robeson is still among the bravest and finest sons of America ever, and surely the greatest of all bass-baritones ever to have walked and warbled upon the circling earth!! And semester still sucks as a system of choice for teaching literature and most other disciplines, especially in the Humanities!!! Maybe a new Arthur Miller will have to write a fresh edition of the Crucible and the Salem Witch Trials shall need to be revisited – tragicomically in the hallowed portals of Delhi U.

    Reminds you of Ceaucescu’s Rumania where the employment problem reputedly had been solved by recruiting the better part of the population as state spies. Lovers and spouses, it was said, feared to sleep in the same bed in those times and climes – lest they should talk in their sleep, and the partner next morning report the contents of those inadvertent nocturnal mumblings and ramblings to the Intelligence Department!

    And when furthermore those “inexcusable” infractions in the inconsolable matter of certain stationery and notepaper being used for penning a resolution at a university meeting become germane to the maintenance of threatened official “prestige” – a fancy word for ego riding on status – and a colonial police bandobast is called in to stand guard over closed door deliberations on syllabi and academic scheduling, the academe, clearly, is well on its way to morphing into a properly Kafkaesque universe.

  8. I had in my earlier post in this thread refrained from comments on the demerits of semesterisation in Delhi colleges, confining myself to the core issue of academic freedom. But I just noticed above a question in this regard in one of the earlier posts. The person who asks says he has benefited from semester sessions in American universities. Accordingly, I’m mentioning some points for consideration here.
    A key point worth considering in this regard is the structural-functional one. The Amerian system is designed for self-designed, self-conducted, self-supervised and self-evaluated, primarily seminar based courses for compact groups per teacher/course supervisor. Delhi University has a totally different set of structural-functional conditions based on a system of affiliated colleges, over 70 of them, with 200,000 students on its rolls. Courses and examinations aren’t individually but centrally designed and run. In this very large and nearly gargantuan federal system, historically a suitable pattern was developed appropriate to the operant conditions, extrapolated from but not identical with the British universities model. Forget 6-monthly exams, in Oxford and Cambridge they had exams end of 3 years; education wasn’t about finishing segments and modules and then getting on to the next set of ‘credits’, but about adding layer upon connected layer in an accumulative and interlarded model of introduction, assimilation, reflection and developing articulation. Exams and modules at any rate wasn’t what it was primarily about. English university education wasn’t a failure; as a higher education system these universities were identified with figures from Newton to Darwin, and from Bertrand Russel to Wittgenstein, Christopher Hill and E. P. Thompson. No one can seriously allege thatl these persons were products and practitioners of a failed academic system. And neither can one call those persons academic failures who having benefited from and participated in the DU system, a system which has served us well for decades, and which we are now twisting ourselves into algorithms of incredible torsion to undo with an inflexibility of purpose hard to understand as something born of unquestionable good faith.
    Fundamentally, it isn’t simply a ‘legalistic’ question of procedures, nor simply of one party being ‘pro-reform’ and ‘forward looking’, or another party being doggedly and perversely ‘anti-reform’. What effects will a reform actually have in particular operational conditions? This is the real question. There are fundamental nitty-gritty issues of academic and pedagogic import and problems of objective implementation actualities implicated here.

    I am touching here on some of these difficulties with special reference to my own discipline of English literature. The English department, a very large body, has rejected semesterisation repeatedly. Most teachers of the subject are agreed that in our obtaining operational conditions in the colleges, the best, most vital educational goals in the discipline will suffer major losses under a semester system. This also holds for other Humanities and social science disciplines, and many, perhaps most teachers in these subjects too have grave reservations. At the very least, an enlightened and fair-minded university administration should be sensitive and responsive to such concerns, both as to the institutional realities and the discipline-centric specifics, rather than simply dismiss all questions, reservations and misgivings out of hand and settle for enforcing by fiat a catch-all answer to all cases.

    Such an enlightened sensitive response would not rush with unholy alacrity for hasty enforced implementation of semesterisation, and would respect the place of a more deliberative/dialogic effort to understand the teachers’s case. They would also not limit themselves to carrying DOWN the governmental plans on the matter, but, as representatives of the university fraternity, would make a sincere effort to understand and communicate to upper echelons in the education ministry and other concerned levels, the teaching community’s reasons for their opposition to the scheme. The would give some respect to the fact that resistance to semesterisation in colleges isn’t prompted by bread and butter stakes and calculations of ‘advantage’ – teachers’ emoluments and service benefits aren’t being determined by the scheduling of the teaching year. On the contrary teachers have been enduring the risks and travails of organising and agitating on what is purely a principled pedagogic concern for them as educators. It isn’t wise of the authorities to dismiss such genuine concerns apropos the realities on the ground without giving them a careful hearing with an open mind.
    It is the honest and genuine opinion of a vast majority of teachers in Delhi University colleges, that the proposed implementation of the semester scheme at the undergraduate level is ill-conceived as to its substantive content and merits, and can only be implemented with a ‘show of democracy’ not amounting to genuine democratic responsiveness to the collective will of those who have to operationalise the scheme on the ground.
    As earlier seen in the way that the internal assessment system was pushed through without factoring in grassroots opinion and realities, and especially in the many deleterious consequences that thus developed in the IA system’s actual execution, the problem they are facing comes from a now settled tendency among some in the University establishment to set actively in motion large pedagogic and systemic processes modeled on outside paradigms without adequate crosschecking and sufficient consideration of the new systems’ applicability and relevance to specifics at home. In the process, an innovation may be introduced which if in some ways well intentioned, may end up doing more harm than good because it is-ill suited to the on-the-ground situation obtaining here. The road to hell as we know may be paved with good intentions. And if we remember that, we can keep hell at bay if we pay serious attention to the arguments of those whose task it will be to implement these ‘reformed’ systems because they are the ones with the experience to sense and know what it would really be like down there, in actual operational conditions.
    Delhi University works its undergrad syllabi in a vast and highly diverse set of colleges through an intensive-extensive lecture based pedagogic system. Semester teaching plus exams in this DU model are perhaps acceptable at the PG level, although I know for a fact that the diluting effects of semesterisation have been noticed even here by some outstanding and indeed famed PG educators. Still, semesters in MA are perhaps more workable than in the undergrad colleges, relatively speaking. That is because students by the time of the Master’s are sufficiently grounded in the basics of the discipline, certain fundamentals of knowledge can be taken for granted, and it is possible to deliver fairly advanced, intensive and propulsive lectures that wrap things up within 10-12 meetings on a course unit.
    Things are very different at the undergraduate college level. In many disciplines such as mine for example (English literature), college entrants with a CBSE type background haven’t a clue as to how literary criticism is ‘done’ and are ill-equipped to get this in a hurry – initiating them into the nitty-gritties involves a very slow, very gradual form of exposure, a path of passage involving active demonstration and a sort of ongoing apprenticeship in which the learner in time picks up the fundamentals. It happens very slowly, very gradually, nearly unconsciously – almost by a process of osmosis.
    Moreoever, there is a good deal of ‘background’ contextualising (social history, intellectual history, esthetic categories and ‘period’/genre grounding, critical/theoretical concepts, interpretational debates etc., etc) requisite to be introduced to students before textual components can be effectively and meaningfully tackled in the classroom. All this takes time, something that semesters will not allow. In a semester running between July and December, with admissions on till September and the latter involving categories of students perhaps most in need of educator help and guidance, real teaching time would be squeezed down to barely 3-4 months.
    It should also be borne in mind that this slow and nearly arduous process of ‘laying out’ the syllabus components in undergraduate classrooms in assimilable depth and detail is continually affected by the many programmes, involvements, extramural festivals et al that punctuate and interrupt the academic calendar in colleges. Delhi University is hard put to manage one annual examination for the enormous combo of courses and colleges it services; how it will manage this for two examinations per year, with teachers not on a summer break and thus more free for evaluation work but hard pressed to get on with the 2nd semester teaching, is open season for speculation.
    In such operational conditions, the semester system can have only one effect: to lead to the thinning out of course contents and encourage capsule-type hurried teaching and coaching-centre type of ‘examination answer preparation’ – rather than reflexive and deliberative liberal education in the fuller meaning. Yet the self-reflexive moment in relation to their conditions of existence is something that societies need; administrations by contrast have no particular interest in keeping people reflexive, analytical and sharply critical. To have the system under intelligent and literate scrutiny is not especially convenient when the arrangements of pelf and power are not especially equitable and even handed.
    One may now see where this is leading. The casualty in college level semesterisation, inevitably, will be in-depth explication, intellectual substance, participative interaction, and authentic understanding. Teachers, under pressure simply to ‘finish the syllabus’, will be compelled to adopt a superficial, tokenist approach to the study objects. Vital elements, perhaps the most valuable ones, would have to be sacrificed and left out. Students will begin to prefer ‘model answer’ type pedagogics. Minimalism will flourish. The best, richest, most explorative and curious academic values of study and teaching at DU will stand compromised. Education will have been sacrificed to System.
    What will be gained in the trade-off is unclear. A mere rescheduling of the academic calendar – it’s bifurcation in 2 halves -, in the absence of other features of the concept in say American universities (fully self-designed, self-evaluated seminar and term-paper based courses and small classes per individual course supervisor), shall not amount to serious academic reform, in the fuller, more serious meaning. It would in fact be no more than mere procedural-functional tinkering and time-tabling redistribution: a purported ‘reform’ measure better described as ‘bureaucratic’ and ‘prudentially motivated’, than as ‘academic’.
    In the bargain, we will be left with, simultaneously, the limitations and weaknesses of our own present system at DU conflating with those of the American pattern now being sought to be imported – while bracketing out the best features and strengths of either.
    That the new academic calendar will be in better tandem with American concepts and schedules is in any case to say little as to its intrinsic virtues and merits, especially for us, in our functional conditions. ‘Americanisation’, in and of itself, is a questionable mantra. Six decades into independence India’s premier general education university should have more pride and belief in its own traditions, systems and values – and the logic behind these – than simply to ape ‘something’ in the Occident just because ‘they know better’. We should have more self-respect and self-belief. We should have more trust in ourselves and our own people. Our university system should have more empathy for the concerns and worries of its own teachers in the colleges – some 8000 of them. One particularly should not adopt the approach of a George Bush Jr who went arrogantly and heedlessly forward with bombarding Iraq on suspect arguments, even when the whole world cried nay, simply because he had already so decided. Simply to genuflect and reset our schedules and priorities to minor functional exigencies of the geopolitical metropolis of our own day (a metropolitan centre which one should add has for some time been facing a profound crisis that should cause anyone planning to blindly follow suit, to pause and think!) is still to be colonised – or should one say ‘post-colonised’?
    In such circumstances it would be good if the head of a great University such as Delhi U would evince some respect (rather than its opposite) towards the several thousand college teachers who are the real and stable strength behind the effectiveness of college education here, individuals most of whom are deeply invested in their work, having made it their life and avocation by active choice, and who in any case are the persons the University would have to depend upon to operationalise any system in force. On the other hand, it would be a great pity if the bulk of teachers are envisioned as ‘The Enemy’ by administration of the university in which they work and to which they have dedicated their lives, viewed as a sort of undesirable errant group that deserves no more than to be dismissively ignored, bypassed or disciplined by forcible fiat. (In any case, those few individuals who, let us say, are chronically diseased, and which profession doesn’t have a few of those, cannot be cured or disciplined by one or another system of ‘scheduling’ or ‘evaluation’ or whatever, and it is simply perverse, as administrations are so fond of doing, to come up with ‘reforms’ as a way of ‘correcting’ the innocent and the dedicated for the sins of the dedicatedly conscience-less)!

  9. Sunalini,

    I am a poor little scientist with my origins from one of the poorest states in India, and have no idea about political theory, ‘liberalization’ and the like, and my views on this come from what I have seen around me.

    Privatization of education means just one thing: the ‘authorities’, whoever or whatever they are, would like us to study ONLY what private companies want to teach us, and private companies want nothing more than glamorous clerks.

    On a related note, every country needs innovation in order to tackle rising problems faced by all of us all over the world, from food, water and electricity shortages to growing concerns about climate shifts. Are any ‘private’ colleges going to make innovators out of us?

    The simple answer is: NO. They do not need innovation; they just need enough money to purchase power. Who, then, is going to really educate us enough to make us realize what problems we face?

    What I am trying to say is that in a country that has not been known for creating or promulgating any new idea in the last few centuries, every single possibility of innovation is being systematically wiped out.


  10. Dear all, thanks for your comments, questions and critique. Kalpana, absolutely, there is a need to have networks – local, regional and national. Governments and the private sector (organised power, in other words) have never taken kindly to unionisation and mobilisation of any sort, and the challenge in our times, where every worker finds herself pitted against her colleague, is enormous. SSM, I couldn’t agree more.

    Himanshu, fair enough. There is much that needs to be explained; however I don’t imagine I alone can fulfil that task. The debate has been raging for years now, which is not surprising, given the range and complexity of issues that will be brought up when you try to think of what constitutes a ‘good’ university system. What makes the whole thing tricky especially when you speak of resolving such complexity in public debate, is the number of intangibles involved, plus the fact that theory which appears enlightened in an abstract discussion becomes an entirely different beast on the ground. That is where the experience of those who have been working within the system is so invaluable, and why posts like this immediately resonate with so many colleagues at Delhi University and other universities.

    But let me address a couple of questions you’ve raised. One, the semester system. As Ahmer Anwer has written in his comment, the issue is much larger than a simple technical debate on which temporal rhythm is best suited to teaching. The question is about historical timing. Simply put, why now, why this? Semesterisation is the means, I would even say the weapon chosen by the education bureaucracy and the university authorities to gradually dismantle the current monolith called a central university (at some other point, I can explain the mechanics of this, for now just bear with me). Sounds good in principle, right? To dismantle something we’ve been told ad nauseum is a grossly ‘inefficient’, lumbering system (very much like the Indian State itself)? I would like us to be asking who is painting this picture of the university system and whether that exercise is innocent of motivations. You can imagine the number and kind of players that are going to jump into the picture when you open the door to privatisation of higher education. Do we have the resources, the commitment, the motivation to ensure quality and access outside the current State-funded colleges and universities? How much do incidents like the TriValley University or the hundreds of ‘deemed universities’ that are periodically found unfit weigh on our conscience? Let’s face it, if PLU’s (people like us) don’t go to these places, then as far as we are concerned, they can stew in the hell of their own painful personal choices. We can brush everything under the carpet of individual responsibility, which we are now very fond of doing. “Arre, in bachchon ne soch samajhke kyun nahin apply kiya?” Normally, our children won’t really get caught in these soups, or if they individually do, we’ll bail them out with family resources, including cultural capital. Television, for instance, seems to work entirely on ‘contacts’. English news channels especially seem to only care whether you went to LSR or St. Stephens. What about the thousands of graduates from other places? Now you will say exactly, that’s the problem with State-funded education. It’s not helping the poor much. I agree, and one of the reasons is that access is automatically restricted because of marks and cut-offs, which in turn depend to a large extent on whether you could go to a public school. So the problem begins because the school system is fifty times more elitist than the university system. So is the solution to reproduce the university system in the image of the damning hierarchy in India between public schools and government schools? By the way, I don’t agree that it’s the poor who suffer the worst with public services, because they have been shouting the loudest to keep those services alive.

    Honestly, if a college is functioning on the profit principle, as SSM has pointed out above, how is it fair to expect them to think about education in terms of all its larger meanings and purposes? Why would they have non-profitable courses and take in poor students? Ok, let’s assume every deserving candidate is given a scholarship or freeship in these new universities (something that requires a real stretch to assume). Why should the fee-paying students not feel like they are subsidising the freeship students, and treat them like dirt inside the classroom, or feel like they deserve better attention and services from faculty and administration, because they are “paying for it”? Already, as a Delhi University teacher, I have to face the condescension of upper class students who figure out that their pocket money is roughly equal to my month’ salary! Creating a truly egalitarian society (not one where everybody is identical, but one which really gives everybody roughly equal ‘life-chances’) requires massive investment, including investment that will not yield immediate returns, socially or economically. If you are willing to publicly state that egalitarian cultures of learning and access for underprivileged come second to efficiency and profit, then we are already on different pages.

    We are both concerned with ensuring quality in the higher education system, right? What according to you can ensure that? Since you have already checked the record of State services, I would ask you to check the record of private universities in India. Almost three decades after the government started encouraging private players in education, every single kid’s top choice is still government funded institutions – AIIMS, IITs, IIMs, Delhi University, JNU, you name it. Education and cell phones are not the same, apparently. Education is one of those things (like a country’s nuclear programme, that middle-class Indians so readily support), that requires long-term support and investment, not to mention protection from the vicissitudes of the market. Imagine if our nuclear programme was given to the Ambanis, and somewhere along the way they abandoned it for lack of resources, or skimped on some security measures. Why do we think education can be disseminated by the next vendor on the street?

    Further, in an elite-driven society like ours, the fact that the children of the elite study in a particular college/university will ensure a certain standard of teaching and infrastructure in that place. Now if the university also keeps fees low and remains centralised, then non-elite children can also come and reap the benefits of that elite-driven quality control. If it starts privatising and breaking up into ‘performing’ and non performing institutions, then where is the incentive or pressure for quality to be maintained at the non-performing spaces? By an operation of social Darwinism, the non-elite kids will go to the lower fee-paying, low quality spaces. In the old system, the possibility still exists that a non elite kid from one of the non prestigious Delhi University colleges gets to be taught by a really committed, talented teacher, because faculty recruitment within the university is centralised to a degree. That kid also has a better chance in the job market because Delhi University as a whole commands respect as an institution. That chance will be lost completely. And it’s not a minor loss, if you take all the central universities in India, and all the kids who have been given that chance.

    Simply put, what the government is saying about higher education now is this: let those kids who want a chance in the market pay for it, damned if we care where they put together the money from. Those courses and institutions that are not market-friendly don’t deserve to exist, so if you want a PhD in Pali from JNU, pay through your nose for it, or study it at Harvard, because ‘they’ have the resources to indulge your delicate pursuits. For the rest, let’s get down and dirty and compete. Millions of students from poorer families won’t make it, but that’s ok because who cares if they, given time and attention may develop a real talent for, say, Drama or theoretical physics? We don’t have the patience, we don’t have the money, we certainly don’t want to be sentimental. But yes, we can continue to pay for our nuclear programme.

  11. Well, I strongly believe that the article is in the favour of mass segment. Although I don’t understand the whole concept of so called privatisation of higher education, I strongly believe education sector having humongous opportunity for an investment is what govt looking for. If I were to go with what has been enlighten in one of the comment for this article is of politician and corporate are seeking their potential in the sector, I think it’s probably be right, as all of us know both of them need large audience and education sector is not only the productive to deliver return on investment, but also is a sector which forms an opinion. All I care is that what govt is trying to do out here? If filling out investment gap is the only aim to strengthen economy then I must say this can’t be done on the stake of young generation. Why isn’t govt concentrating on proper warehousing of crop that goes wasted just because of rain for that matter? We still have majority of population below 54% of literacy rate, but emphasis are just for the name sake. By privatisation of higher education are we trying to compete with so called develop countries? If at all that is the motive then I believe thoughts needs to be put on to the fact that half of the young generation of these countries can’t afford higher education just because of cost implication. Why the hell govt wants to make it impossible for the advantage we have over the world of having youngest generation by having such illogical rationale of privatisation of education. First of all there should be a need based analysis before reaching up to the conclusion of implementing or I would rather call it suggesting or proposing such plans. Has the govt analyzed current need in higher education sector? If yes where are those analysis? What is the frame work that suggests that privatisation is the best possible solution to the education sector or for that matter it is good for the economic growth (if at all this is the aim). As per the present scenario privatisation should not be allowed in the higher education reason being that government education system is the only best destination that public can afford and reach as compared to private education system which not only be the higher in terms of cost but there will be several other issues like quality of education etc. I am not completely in favour denying privatisation of education down the 20 years but I would rather emphasise the process that should take a steps to eradicate inequality in regards with letting potential candidate to fulfil her/his dreams and make it big for the country.

  12. I agree to almost everything you say except that the higher education system is not rotten. Its absolutely rotten. I am able to understand what you have written not because of the college I went to but because I have mostly self-taught myself. Here you are speaking of high end colleges which are themselves portals of exclusivism.
    I am posting via a new id because like you express the possibility of future punitive action against dissenting teachers, I am certain I will not be left unpenalised if I was to post with my name here.
    Rest, I absolutely agree

  13. Sunalini,

    Even our so-called nuclear programme is just reverse engineering mostly ancient American and Soviet science and technology – there is NOTHING new there. Mind you, I do not support the nuclear programme, but couldn’t do even that properly? Let us take a look at what really happens with “Science and Technology” in India – these are first-hand experiences. Before I begin, I will point out that I am discussing this because of my profession; I have no idea about what happens in the fields of Arts and Social Sciences, but as far as I know, the rot there is even worse.

    There are several research institutes in India for experimental and theoretical physics – the range of expertise that these institutes claim to have is truly impressive. However, on closer examination, you will find that no notable work has been done at these places for decades; if there is any hint of progress, it would have been made by young researchers collaborating with people in the US, Europe or Australia, paid about the same salary as drivers of limousines in posh areas of Delhi. Mind you, hardly any of these young researchers have a permanent job; those senior ‘scientists’ that do stop doing research.

    Year after year these senior ‘scientists’ complain about the ‘falling standards of students’. And year after year, these ‘low-standard students’ get admissions in universities in the US and do fantastic original work there. It NEVER occurs to these bloody morons that IT IS THEIR JOB to teach and motivate these students. These young people, having tasted success and respect in the US NEVER come back.

    Of course, there are a few like me who are stupid enough to come back to try and make a difference. It is impossible to describe what these glorious institutes have done to me over the last 3 years. Suffice it to say that they rejoiced when they saw my broken spirit. I came back from the US a happy, healthy man full of ideas about what I could do for this country and myself; two years in this glorious institute and I had high blood pressure, a near-heart-attack, diabetes and several other stress disorders.

    The only positive thing that came out of this was that they toyed around with a young scientist and aged him by 15 years in 20 months.

    People who join these glorious institutes from rural areas go through worse experiences. I have witnessed interviews in these glorious research institutes where students from rural areas (who happen to be better at experimental science than their urban and sophisticated counterparts) are made fun of until they break down. Reason? Their English sounds funny, so these senior professors poke fun at them until they are in tears.

    The only other thing I can add is the shoddy approach towards experimental science – senior scientists in India, like most of the staunch Hindus, believe that theoretical physics is akin to meditation, and is therefore the only “true Science”. Science in India is structured strictly on a caste-system: String Theorists, the most useless of scientists, at the top, and experimental scientists at the bottom. Is it any surprise, then, that the crucial connection between scientific research and industry is absent? This connection is what drives innovation, but all we care about is String Theory and outsourced jobs.

    I am trying, in a very haphazard way, to convey that every success we claim in science and technology is actually a failure (the best examples are Chandrayaan and Astrosat. Chandrayan overheated and crashed, yet, somehow, it was a “95% success”; Astrosat was supposed to be launched in 2005; no instrument on it will be ready for another year; Students involved with Astrosat have no future in science unless they decide to escape the horrible reality that India is), so that the money spent goes quite literally down the drain.

    In conclusion, our real talent lies in being glorified clerks and in claiming distressing failures as successes.

    Global Power indeed!

  14. Manoj, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I want to address a common concern raised by faltu and SSM – that state-funded institutions have several structural problems – one, a deep hierarchy between senior permanent faculty and juniors, and two, between the regional/provincial universities and central ones, and between elite and non-elite pockets within the same institution. I absolutely agree on both counts. I’m wondering how we should move forward on trying to fix the rot (although if you read my post again you will see I’m trying to argue that the rot is NOT universal, that there are still thousands of graduates that go on to have fulfilling careers because of the fact that a critical mass of committed faculty and students do good work within this system). Anyhow, there are huge problems with the current system, agreed. What teachers who are committed to their work, are good at it and want to stay with this system are saying is this: “take us into confidence; ask us where the problem areas are within this system, so we may all move forward trying to build a better one; be transparent about what you believe the future goals of this ‘reform’ are; set up democratic procedures to have real debate on the pros and cons of different systems, and work with the body of knowledge and experience we have acquired within this system, or you are going to throw out a huge legacy of local expertise and competence in your zeal to turn everything upside down.” It takes decades to build an institution, any bureaucrat knows this instinctively, so why the hurry to discredit every single tradition, rule and procedure that has been in place for the past fifty years? Even if we agree that every single convention, every way of doing things was rotten, do you really believe a new system can be put into place overnight? In some cases, academic committees and departments have been given a single week to design a new syllabus for the semester system. Usually, a syllabus committee takes about six months to create and fine tune a new syllabus. Which is because the question of syllabi is not a minor one. Suppose a fierce debate broke out out in the history department between the Hindutva version of the Aryan invasion theory and the Left-liberal version, and we had a week to finalise the syllabus, we would have two options: dismiss one side summarily, thereby excluding them from academic expression for the foreseeable future and creating bubbling resentment forever, or keep both versions, leaving students to figure it all out (some of these are eighteen years old, they don’t even know why they chose history in the first place). Situations like this happen all the time, across disciplines (it’s not a social science or humanities problem alone – SSM above has hinted at the Great Divides that rock theoretical physics). That’s because forms of knowledge are diverse and value is a contested domain. This administration believes we can design and implement a wholly new system in a few weeks’ time. Anywhere else this would be a ridiculous argument, but in higher education we should accept it? To make a partially facile comparison, any idea how much research is required to launch a new car model? At least three years. What do you have at the end of it? One more polluting machine on the planet. With a new history, mathematics or philosophy syllabus, a couple of weeks should be enough, we are told. Hmm.
    Which brings me to the second point raised by SSM – about education losing the capacity for innovation if it is not connected to industry. I am in complete sympathy when you describe your experience with the Indian science establishment (I’ve met some of these messiahs, and they are unbearable in their arrogance and hubris). Certainly, there is evidence that a tie-up with industry has driven a bulk of research. However, one, it doesn’t work very well for the pure humanities and some branches of the social sciences, and two, even in science, isn’t it true that industry will impose its own imperatives on research? To continue the car industry example, why is it that billions of dollars are spent on private vehicle innovation and a fraction of that on non-polluting transport systems? Money and profits drive innovation in the world we live in, and several humanitarian, environmental and educational concerns are simply not ‘profitable’. And unless there is a seismic change in the structure of our societies and the way we produce wealth, those areas are not likely to become profitable. So for this model of growth and development, one can only demand that ‘profitable’ areas subsidise non-profitable areas of knowledge production if we are to survive as a civilisation. The advantage with state or public support in these matters as I hinted above is that the ‘public’ by definition belongs to all, so it in principle can provide a level playing field to resolve thorny disagreements over how to distribute resources. With individual players and the private sector, there is no commitment to equality and equal participation even in principle, so one can imagine how much less equal the field could get in reality.

  15. Sunalini,

    No answers here, but just a shout-out in support of the points you raised. My point in bringing up what I did was this: if the system is so bad without industrial interference, imagine how bad it can be with privatization!

    Before we have a tie-up of scientific research with industry, let us be very clear why we are doing research and why we’re going for a tie-up. My opinions are outlined in the following example.

    Internet speeds in a large city dominated by software companies like Bangalore depend on how powerful the company that you work for is. But don’t poor school students in Bangalore have a right to access the internet? But how will they get any sort of access?

    Now, if a large institute like IISc were to control internet access, it can be FORCED to provide internet services to poor students without charging them. On the other hand, companies will have limited bandwidths in which to operate, forcing them to optimize their use of the internet and not waste resources provided by Indian taxpayers.

    I do not have a readymade solution when it comes to research, but I do have thoughts on how this can be done, for scientific research. For research in arts and social sciences, a different approach may be needed – I am no expert there.

    I’ll watch the discussions that follow, and then decide if I want to share my opinions on how scientific research ought to be done.

  16. Privatisation is not bad per se, its implementation has been..Private sector entry into higher education has only spawned the likes of “Latur Insttitue of Technology”..the debate should be how to stop proliferation of such shops and attracting the MITs into India..

    Semester system isnt bad per se…It is followed by some of the best schools around the world, its followed by the best schools in India…the issue is about centralisation of pedagogy, student enrollment and evaluation – there is no intelligible reason for Hindu College to have the same set of processes as Dayal singh college…the issue is of autonomy, to institutions and down to teachers…The agitation should be to demand that rather than railing against the semester system….

    SSM, your depiction of the Indian science establishment is interesting..I would have given some credence to them had it not been for your allusion to the Chandrayaan project..Knowing a few people involved in that, maybe you can substantiate how do you define it as a “failure”? What is your definition of a “failure” in such a mission? Maybe you should let NASA know as well, given their published reaction to the same…

    1. NASA’s refusal to include any Indian scientist’s name in their publication stemmed from the fact that they do not trust Indian scientists. They acknowledged the fact that the NASA mission had been carried on an Indian satellite, but that’s it – they refused to refer to the Indian science missions, even though one of them was supposed to be a joint venture. I know about this hesitation from colleagues of colleagues in the US, and I doubt that they are making this up.

      About giving credence to rocket scientists in Chandrayaan – yes, they did succeed; they made sure the devices reached an orbit around the moon. This is the only part that was a success, and these engineers and scientists MUST be lauded – their efforts paid off.

      But the aim of the mission was primarily scientific, and in that it was a failure.

      And yes, I realize that we can argue about this further and that I am being harsh, but you MUST be harsh on yourself to find out how you failed! The Green Bank Telescope in Virginia collapsed many decades ago because the engineers neglected to account for certain stresses. They managed to build another one, but NOT before they examined the reasons behind the structural collapse; they were highly critical of themselves even as they planned to replace the wreck of the old telescope with a new one.

      Do we have it in us as a scientific establishment to do this? In particular, will lessons be learnt that will allow India to build rockets and satellites that can carry instruments to L2, twice the distance from us as the moon, where most space instruments now sit? If they can lean these lessons and move on to build such satellites, believe me, I will be the first to jump at the opportunity and change my field and join them.

      But no, they won’t. My guess is that this self-congratulatory mode will extend well beyond Chandrayaan and Astrosat and will eat into any real progress we could have made. THIS is the time to pump in a huge amount of money and effort into a space programme that will benefit not just Astronomy, but several unrelated fields, and I know that nothing is being done.

      My frustration stems not from any sort of inability of our scientists, but their complete lack of vision and ambition. “We WERE so great 2000 years ago and we can be even greater if we want to be, but we’ll let the US and Europe lead and be happy” – this is their attitude. And no, this is not an inference on my part; I have HEARD senior scientists in a glorious institute which is responsible for a large bulk of instruments on Astrosat say this when asked by a foreign scientist why we are not able to tap into the talent of our youngsters.

      They say we are a poor country and cannot afford astronomical salaries for young scientists who return to India. Well, I am a young scientist who returned to India. For the sake of argument, let us assume that the government decides to give each Ph.D. student 60k rupees a month instead of 18k a month, and senior scientists’ salaries became 1 lakh a month. If you calculate the extra load on the Indian taxpayer, it turns out to be less than 50 crores! What percentage is it of India’s GDP? In return, can the govt. not ask me to work towards providing literacy, or educating people in science, or something else?

      50 lousy crores is impossible for the govt. to provide, and yet it is ok to spend many times over on stupid cricket matches.

      Shameless, I say.

      1. SSM,

        You make pertinent points, but unfortunately you are picking on the wrong target, ISRO…Compare the budget of ISRO to that of NASA – and then compare their respective output..Honest assessment would throw up very very positive results, IMO of course..NASA’s reluctance of giving enough credit first up to ISRO on the moon-minerology-mapper probe was a case of intellectual dishonesty..they rectified it subsequently..I dont know what your definition of “success” is in a space mission – would you consider the Hubble Telescope project a failure? Or the space shuttle mission? what is ISRO doing to build on Chandrayaan? Well, a Chandrayaan2, which will have a lander and a rover (compared to just an orbiter and an impact probe in Chadrayaan1)..Pushing the boundaries ever so much by a little bit..

        The science environment is India is mixed, very mixed I agree..A couple of generations of students migrated out of science early as a result (myself included)..But things have started changing..In 1999, Infosys started a fellowship programme in the IIMs, paying 3 lac rupees/year for research fellows working on information systems(and related areas)…I am told that the fellowship is now up to 7 lacs/year…ADA (aeronautical Development Agency) brought out ads recently asking for aeronautical engineers, with relatively junior positions being paid 1 lac/month…There was a proposal (just after Pok II) by the govt to delink the salaries of scientists working in the defence, space and atomic energy establishment from the rest of the science bureaucracy – it was scuttled by the broader scietific community..

        I am sure you would know better than most, the development of science in the US, especially R&D was predicated on a strong university culture..In India, science R&D got divorced from uni and centralised in monoliths like CSIR…the debate around higher education there should centre so much about autonomy of the institution and attracting the best from around the world…If IIT-Kgp sets up a school on speialised technology areas with Caltech, or IIM-Cal sets up an advanced school on information systems with MIT, they will immediately make for an enhancement in both quality of research as well we quality of people attracted by it…

  17. SSM, thanks! And yes, you must continue to contribute to this debate.

    Somanth, welcome! I was wondering when you would come in, although I have to say I’m a little disappointed, since you seem to have simply repeated here what you’ve said earlier on Kafila. Shockingly though, we seem to agree about one thing at least. Semester system isn’t bad per se. I had a fulfilling semester system experience at the MPhil level. But who am I? I went to a very elite public school in Delhi for high school, and then an equally elite college, and then a super-elite institution for masters. By the time I entered the MPhil I was well-entrenched in the ways of academia, you may say. The student ratios I saw in my universities were between fifteen and twenty five to a class; we had fantastic infrastructure (especially libraries); were exposed to cutting edge research and debates in our fields almost by osmosis given the atmosphere of the university; and had happy, committed faculty teaching us.

    In Delhi University we are talking about introducing semester system for the BA level, with student ratios of forty to fifty a class. Further, given the steady erosion of standards in school education we are dealing with a situation (and I’m speaking of an ‘elite’ college here) in which more than half my first-year class doesn’t know how to write an essay and make a coherent argument. We know how impossible it is to get a good exam result and a good job without English skills; I find I spend half of the first year simply getting language skills across to students from diverse backgrounds. You would be surprised how sketchy the skills of even public school educated students can be, if we’re talking of the specialised writing that social science requires. A colleague from the Mathematics department was complaining similarly about the lack of basic mathematical skills among her first year classes. We teachers regularly find that with patience and effort and a little bit of luck, students from clearly disadvantaged backgrounds improve in confidence and begin to really put their college experience to good use by the end of the first year. A semester system will destroy that chance.

    Further, it’s interesting that the government is introducing this new system with such obscene haste immediately after the effects of OBC reservation have begun to greatly expand intake in education. OBC admissions take about three months from the start of the academic session to complete, because of operational imperatives. One can expect these newly admitted kids who were supposed to have been given a decent chance at getting into good colleges to simply fail en masse at the first semester examination, conducted barely a month after they start coming to college. Oh sorry, was that the plan?

    Really, this discussion is moot, because what we are preparing for is autonomy and privatisation of universities, so Somnath your dream seems all set to come true. I do want to ask you why you think “there is no intelligible reason why Hindu and Dyal Singh need to have the same set of processes.” I can think of many reasons that are not only intelligible but quite intelligent (some of whom I have listed above), but you would much rather have a formal apartheid in higher education, in which those who got lucky with their cultural and social capital and hence their ‘merit’ corner all the resources, and the rest can be patted on the head and told to go home from the race. Why should a Dyal Singh even exist in your world, indeed? Or are you saying it should be destroyed?

    And it just struck me as interesting Somnath, that you take SSM’s experiences within the Indian science establishment quite seriously whereas all the experience I brought into my post as a social science/humanities teacher with more than a decade of experience learning and teaching at Indian universities is mere “railing”. Careful, your slip is showing.

  18. Sunalini,

    Precisely for the reasons you quote should the debate and agitation be for complete autonomy of the higher educational set-up…People from the disadvantaged sections take time to catch up? Sure..(though I am not sure that OBC students are disadvataged – most OBCs are just the dominant castes in each state, but that is a different discussion)..I am sure you are aware of what the “elite” schools in India, ones that have entrenched semester systems, do to adress that..In the IITs and IIMs, there are preparatory classes held for all SC/ST students, upto 6 months before the start of the programme….Why can they be done? Lots of reasons, bu the biggest one is autonomy..these institutions have substantial autonomy to conduct their programmes…The difference between Dyal Singh and hindu isnt about “elitism”..Quite frankly, disdain for elitism only breeds uniform mediocrity…More to the point, the requirements of Dayal Singh and Hindu are different – their faculty, their student profiles, their institutional objectives are different..There is no reason why their set-up, curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation should be the same! I would go back to the IIT/IIM example – there are tons of courses, bulk of them at the begining of the programme, where lots of students falter big time (not just the “quota” types)…But most of them manage to “manage”…Extra tutorials , good libraries and generally extra-long hours enable most of the chaps to clear the first evaluations that start barely a month into the course…Now not all institutions would be the IIXs…They would need their own methodologies, which is precisely why, yet again, the debate should be to let all institutions define their own destinies…Not be hostage to sundry centralised bureaucracies – whether at university, state govt, or central govt levels…

    Privatisation? In case you didnt notice, its nothing new…Its been around for many decades…As I said earlier, all that it has spawned till now are Latur Institute of Technology and IIPM…the debate should be how to attract the MITs and Yales in the “privatised” network…It does not relieve the state of its responsibilities of funding higher education, it is about creating more choice and creating more centres of excellence in India…

    dont know if people remember – the initial IIXs were all setup through collaborations with AMerican unis – IIT-Kgp with Caltech, IIM-Cal with MIT, IIM-Ahd with Harvard and so on…Plus, a substantial amount of funding for their establishment came from the American govt…One of the pernicious things of the education outlook has been a steady erosion in these linkages…A smart provatisation iitiative will re-energise these linkages…Will encourage more students to turn to teaching and create greater opportuniites for researchers..(Today, a full prof at an IIM, someone with at least 15 years experience – perhaps the best-paid prof in India, gets paid less than the starting salary of a typical graduate of the school…No wonder, attracting faculty is such a challenge)…

    “Merit” somehow “corners” resources? the world’s best unis use their hige endowments to attract talent – the bright guys dont suffer for want of money…In India, again a typical IIM post grad programme costs today about 15-16 lacs – a big amount for most indians…Not a single student gets denied an opportuinity simply because he lacks the money – about 50% of the class these days I am told hold a scholaship….Again, not all institutions are IIT/IIMs, but ech of them will have its own requirements…The debate should be to get them to frame a path for themselves…

    And Sunalini, I am not “ignoring” your experiences as an academic in any way..I have only been a participant as a student in the academia, so would only have the perspective of a student (and later, a recruiter)…SSM’s perception on chandrayaan was too much off the reality as I know from people who have worked on the project – hence the query to him……

    1. @ Somnath: “I am not sure that OBC students are disadvataged – most OBCs are just the dominant castes in each state, but that is a different discussion.”

      Whoa, massive generalisation, and unfounded. Most OBCs are the dominant castes in each state? The Other Backward Caste category, while a colonial/governmental administrative category and hence a product of particular politics (social engineering/control motivations), is a very, very complex category in this country. It includes among other things, not simply castes whose status has dramatically changed from census to census, but also jati groups that are dominant in some areas and truly backward in others. For example, the Gujjars – they are landed peasantry in western UP and Delhi areas, some families are now very rich, but the same caste group is counted below the poverty line all over Rajasthan, as also educationally and culturally ‘backward’. There are countless other examples of such complexity; I can provide a bibliography if you are interested. Further, what do we mean when we say ‘dominant’? Educationally, a big chunk of the OBCs remain backward, if we are talking about access to public schools and the best colleges, as also comfort with English. So for instance, the Jats or Ahirs of the Delhi region have been landed middle peasantry for centuries, and have through reservations cornered a big portion of the government job market in certain pockets – police and bus drivers/conductors being two main ones. But it is only now that their children have begun to catch up significantly in other, more professional pockets of the urban job market, due in large part to the fact that a generation of Jat and Yadav children entered college in Delhi and Haryana from the mid nineties onwards. In contrast, the Gujjars of Outer Delhi and NCR, being somewhat below the Jats in the colonial era due to their propensity for crime and anti-British attitude, have only recently come into prosperity, with the expansion of real estate markets in NCR area. Their children are beginning to bridge the educational and professional gap only in this current generation that is going to college. It’s going to take another couple of generations for these families to be able to access the urban job market and urban society as easily as many of us do. The thing is, succeeding at education and professional job markets is not simply a function of the number of schools and colleges in every area (although, those would really help, since if we are speaking of backwardness, it’s time we introduced regional backwardness too). Education and professional success is very heavily cultural, which was my point about English news channels and St Stephens and LSR above. Although I’m not replying to Priti’s rather obvious pro-privatisation points in general, I would like to say to her point about reservations ‘celebrating mediocrity’ and your similar point that if you really want to find mediocrity you would find it all over the private sector, where a huge proportion of jobs is filled by ‘contacts’. I know so many talented students who are excellent at studies but never do well at interviews because they lack the cultural capital that some of us just breathe out like oxygen.

      So as would be obvious from my OBC examples above, reservations in education which appear to be engendering equality of outcomes (but are so in a really superficial sense, given that we don’t mark quota students differently in most final examinations, but only give a small margin during intake) are the only way to create rough equality of opportunities for the next generation, because no elite likes to let go of its hold over resources easily. I agree on one count. The government has failed miserably in universalising primary education, but is the solution again to encourage more private schools? What is the record of private schools in non-elite pockets of the country (refer to my point above about elite pressure being the only thing that seems to maintain standards in this country)? You know which school is the first choice for parents from backward regions (poorer sections of the city, mofussil towns, urban villages)? Kendriya Vidyalaya or Navodaya schools. To all the supporters of private players in higher education, I really want to say HAHA if you think the business elites in this country are interested in quality education to a degree that can substitute the long gestation periods and long-term vision I’ve been talking about. I’m a little tired of responding to these abstract American examples and standards but isn’t it time to think a little about the history of capitalism and investment in the two subcontinents – U.S and India? Almost every major philanthropic initiative in the West, including especially in education was built on a long history of colonial plunder (Cecil Rhodes being a shining example, or you should take one of these history walks at Ivy Leagues) or at the very least, a comfortable period of global financial dominance, which produces huge surpluses of capital. There was a period in India when the business families were so monopolistic that they simulated the Indian State in some places. At those times these business houses (primarily Tata) had enough vision and turnover to invest in education and research (although the fees for Tata Institute of Social Sciences has become prohibitive lately, something a friend who researches business houses told me reflects the very different vision of Ratan Tata compared to JRD). So all this talk of endowments amuses me, really. Because what we are dealing with in India right now, let’s make no mistake, is the dismantling of a system for the worst possible reasons, in the worst possible way, with a massive cost to those who can’t protest, and with no guarantee that the private sector will be anything close to a replacement.

      Which brings me to my other main point, Somnath. If we are discussing privatisation of education why do you continually compare semester system Delhi University colleges like Dyal Singh college to IITs and IIMs that are also government-funded? Your bias seems to be an old one, and in fact the same as the Indian State’s – in favour of science, technology and management. The reason IIT’s and IIM’s have much better conditions (being post-graduate teaching-plus-research institutes with excellent libraries, residential campuses, low student to faculty ratio, and resources for remedial teaching – all preconditions for a semester system to function properly) is because Indian elites always saw the economic potential of science and management in an industrialising society. My main question remains unanswered – what it it about central, state-funded educational institutions that seems to engender quality in India – they regularly produce graduates that are able to compete with the best of talent from around the world. My answer is that education requires innovation and relevance, but intellectual labour like many other creative forms of labour also requires a degree of distance from the ups and downs of markets. Put differently, as I asked earlier (and I am a little weary that I need to repeat myself), what is the incentive for private companies to think of long-term educational goals of a society that will not yield immediate or direct benefits to that company?

      Can’t resist a parting shot. You ask me if I haven’t noticed that privatisation in education is not new in India. I should ask you if you haven’t noticed that I said in my post, “Almost three decades after the government started encouraging private players in education…” You tell me, how do we avoid Latur Institute of Technology, and if you are going to say some mythical thing like ‘political will’ (one of the most tautological, useless terms ever invented), GROAN.

  19. Somnath: You have put you case really well. The point is there needs to be equality of opportunities, not equality of outcomes. The problem with our higher education is its geared towards equality of outcomes (so we have reservation, low fees, lower entry standards for quota students etc). If people were serious about providing equality of opportunity, these same people agitating against semester system, privatisation etc would be agitating for bettering the quality of schools (both public and private), bettering the quality of teachers (not through teachers unions but by actually insisting that teachers are well qualified and they teach, rather than be absent). I think a dose of reservation (not based on caste but incomes) is sorely required in primary education. Unless we can provide quality primary education, we will not be able to provide opportunity to a large section of our society. No amount of reservation in higher education is going to get you an egalitarian society or a society that is able to utilise the talent of its citizens. And higher education by definition has to be elitist (by elitist, I don’t mean it should be the preserve of the rich but the meritorious in the real sense). It makes no sense whatsoever for persons not capable to take up a degree course. By lowering standards to allow for more people, we are moving towards celebrating mediocrity rather than thinking of ways to ensure that only the best and the brightest from any strata of society are taken and their talents used. To me, it makes far more sense to ensure that disadvantaged students are given interest free education loans or full scholarships rather than lowering entrance standards. Basically, nobody should be denied entry because of his or her income level if he or she is able to clear the entrance exam. In the US the best universities are not public universities but the ones which are funded through endowments (Harvard) and student fees. You have to give differential salaries to professors to incentivise the good ones, you have to ensure that students who can afford it should pay for the courses. Unless these systems are put in place, higher education in India is doomed, privatisation or no privatisation.

    Privatisation is good for courses with high market value (applied sciences, MBAs, engineering, medicine etc). And I think its an unfounded fear that it will exclude the poor because it is in their best interest to attract the best and brightest, which would mean that they would ensure that scholarships are available to lower income students (it may however exclude caste based categories which ensures that the creamy layer corners all the benefits rather than the real poor). Humanities may fare badly (especially since our universities concentrate way too much on theory) so government funding will have to continue for them i.e. unless they can make the courses more relevant to the job market other than teaching. I think language courses (especially English), economics, statistics, law, geography will do well however ones like political science, sociology, history, anthropology will need to upgrade their syllabus drastically to make them more relevant to the present world. Other like women’s studies and subaltern studies will definitely need state funding (if we want them continue) since they have even lower value in the job market. Is it a bad thing? I don’t think so if it is well planned and regulated in the right manner, if colleges and universities are given autonomy to decide their courses and syllabi, hire and fire faculty, have the freedom to charge fees from students who can afford to pay, pay faculty good salaries and give incentives for better performance, and provide infrastructure.

    Certainly, the present system is dysfunctional in the extreme. I have studied in JNU but can testify that the quality of teaching is abysmal.

    1. Priti, given your low opinion of most of the social sciences and your repetition of some of the most banal cliches of our times, maybe it wasn’t the teaching at JNU that was abysmal, but your level of engagement with anything outside the comfort zone of your opinions.

  20. And yes, I realize that we can argue about this further and that I am being harsh, but you MUST be harsh on yourself to find out how you failed!

    My father — who spent all his life in the Indian bureaucracy — told me once that no project in the Indian bureaucracy will be acknowledged to be a failure. To do so is asking for trouble. The result is that every project will be described as a “success.” This has very bad effects, not the least of which is that projects which should be terminated keep going on and on and money wasted. A number of DRDO projects fall into this category. (How long have the LCA or MBT projects lasted?)

    On ISRO, I stopped believing their press briefings when I discovered that one of the satellites (I think an experimental one) had failed to reach its destined orbit. (It was close but not quite.) I found this accidentally through some other web site. Of course, the official press briefing described the launch as a “sucesss” without mentioning the orbit shortfall. If one investigates further, I am sure we will find that even when satellites reached their destined orbits, a few developed problems and could not fulfil their intended mission. This is exactly what SSM describes regarding the Chandrayaan mission.

    None of this is to blame ISRO as such. All who do research know that it is a process of trial and error. Many ideas don’t work out. Unfortunately the incentive structure of the Indian system leaves a lot to be desired. The culture of secrecy just makes matters worse.

  21. We teachers regularly find that with patience and effort and a little bit of luck, students from clearly disadvantaged backgrounds improve in confidence and begin to really put their college experience to good use by the end of the first year. A semester system will destroy that chance.

    If you spend a lot of time teaching things that should have been taught in school, then yes, those from disadvantaged backgrounds may benefit. What about those from “advantaged” backgrounds? Aren’t they being short changed?

    Perhaps those from “disadvantaged” backgrounds should be given a sort of “remedial” course before university starts. Or perhaps, those deemed “disadvantaged” should be put into a separate stream for the first year (where they get more intense and personal teaching) and then the two streams integrated at the start of the second year. I think something like this is done at some IITs but I may be mistaken.

    While conceding that much can be done to help the very diverse population entering our universities, it also has to be accepted that the universities cannot correct everything that is wrong with our society. At any rate, I still am not able to understand why additional effort targeting the disadvantaged students is incompatible with a semester system.

    Further, it’s interesting that the government is introducing this new system with such obscene haste immediately after the effects of OBC reservation have begun to greatly expand intake in education.

    What has expanded intake is not OBC reservation as such but rather the government’s undertaking that the number of “general” seats will be preserved at the pre-reservation level. It is surely obvious that if you have OBC reservations, then the only way of preserving the number of general seats at the pre-reservation level is to expand the intake.

    One can understand why the government gave this undertaking but it seems to have been given without looking at the question of whether the universities have the facilities to handle the increased intake. My understanding is that most universities lack the infrastructure to handle this expanded intake. Perhaps the social sciences and humanities can handle this better albeit with a loss in the quality of teaching due to the increased student-staff ratio. But I do wonder how the natural sciences where labs are an integral part are going to handle this expanded intake.

    At any rate — the additional intake is going to create additional problems in both the current yearly system and the proposed semester system. Is there some problem that is specific to the semester system?

    For what it’s worth, I think introducing a semester system to Delhi University is a bad idea. The point is that like Oxford or Cambridge but unlike most universities in the world, Delhi University at the **undergraduate** level exists only to conduct exams. That is, students study at different colleges but everyone writes the same exams conducted by the university. Furthermore, the marking of scripts is centralised. Currently, in the yearly system, this is done once a year. Under the semester system, this will be done twice a year and obviously there will be a big increase in the amount of work (setting exams, correct exam scripts etc.). It is not at all clear that there are benefits justifying the additional work.

    1. Suresh, “If you spend a lot of time teaching things that should have been taught in school, then yes, those from disadvantaged backgrounds may benefit. What about those from “advantaged” backgrounds? Aren’t they being short changed?” I believe you just answered your own question. How can the advantaged be ‘short-changed’? Or even if they are, why isn’t that a good thing, since it produces a more equal situation? In any case, let me tell you, that students from very ‘advantaged’ backgrounds also suffer from some chronic disadvantages (like impatience, disrespect of others, short-sightedness, narrow-mindedness, aggression) – many of these inhibit their ability to learn, absorb and process knowledge. Remedial teaching that brings everybody on the same plane actually helps these students enormously by teaching them crucial things that will probably save their lives and careers later – co-existence, teamwork, respect for difference, patience, appreciation of different kinds of life experiences. Thank god for mixed classrooms.

      1. Sunalini,

        With all due respect, what you are saying sounds like post-facto rationalisation to me. If you are spending an inordinate amount of time teaching stuff that should have been taught before, then that is short-changing some students — those you call “advantaged.” This is so even if the remedial teaching also benefits the “advantaged” students in some way . I don’t suppose we will agree, so I won’t say more.

        On this, though, I agree:

        Thank god for mixed classrooms.

        The only thing is I wish we had mixed classrooms at the school level. Having mixed classrooms at the university level is good, but having it at the school level is much better, in my opinion. (Attitudes are often substantially hardened by the time children get to the university.) And yet, even in the nation’s capital, there is a de facto segregation: “advantaged” children attend private schools with names like Delhi Public School, Springdales….while “disadvantaged” children attend schools with names like “Government School Number 8” or whatever. This is a disgrace but I guess a subject for a different rant.

    2. Suresh,

      You are picking on the wrong target as well. the Indo-Pak match you will see tomorrow will be carried on an ISRO satellite to your home…Trading on NSE (the most “advanced” electronic stock trading exhcnage) is carried on an ISRO satellite..these things wont work if the orbits have “shortfalls”..I can also go on about LCA etc, but would be besides the point..

      about the semester system, precisely again for the reasons you mention should there NOT be any centralisation by DU…Hindu and Dyal Singh should be left to themsleves to design what they deem fit…

  22. It seems relevant to introduce here a new report from the Royal Society ( which talks of the emergence of the new scientific superpower. As expected, the superpower is China.

    See also, some “wide canvas” research reported earlier in this Letter from China in the New Yorker:

    In India the newly rich IT billionaires hold perhaps too much sway and appeal for India’s own good.

    Excluding the likes of Azim Premji whose actions demonstrate social consciousness, the vast majority of other IT billionaires instinctively act based on a survival instinct. Perhaps it is a sign of the newly rich, but I digress.

    The IT industry needs a continuous supply of skilled manpower at depressed wage levels (depressed by international standards, but elevated by prevailing Indian standards) , to work as “IT consultants” for outsourcing. The reward for India is that it can be proud of being called the “IT Superpower”. This is the root of the flourishing nexus.

    Education policy is subject to lobbying, in all countries. In India, it is the IT industry lobby. (It is perhaps the military/industrial complex elsewhere).

    The time of India’s erstwhile pre-eminence in matters of science are acknowledged, but it is no longer a matter of pride to keep harking back to halcyon days (The “we invented zero”, heard too often, though true).

    Having been an “independent” country for over 60 years, where is the sign of maturity ? Higher education policy designed in board rooms will be a fatal mistake. Hopefully there will be something to learn from the debacle !

  23. M/s Brinda Bose and Prasanta Chakravarty of the Department of English, University of Delhi have contributed an article to The Hindu on the upcoming “Education Tribunals”. Shocked by this word ? It is a must read for all of us who have been educated or will have children to go through this educational system. No discussion has been reported in the media, cricket crazed as never before.

    Please read:

    I suspect somebody “up there” wants more than a finger, nay, their whole greedy fist, on the private education pie, and all this is setting the stage for it, in a quiet and stealthy manner.

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