This is a guest post by THANE RICHARD
I recently read an article in Kafila – more like an angry, reflective rant – written by some students from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. To quickly summarize, the piece criticized the draconian views of the Principal of St. Stephen’s College regarding curfews on women’s dormitories and his stymying of his students’ democratic ideals of discussion, protest, and open criticism. More broadly, though, the article’s writers seemed to be speaking about the larger stagnant institution of Indian higher education, overseen by a class of rigid administrators represented by this sexist and bigoted Principal, as described by the students. The students’ frustration was palpable in the text and their story felt to me like a perfect example of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Except Indian students are not an unstoppable force. Not even close. Continue reading Academic Excellence and St. Stephen’s College: A response by Thane Richard
Guest post by RAM KRISHNASWAMY
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal seems to be getting a lot of flak from so many quarters on Jan Lok Pal Bill, HRD Computer Tablet Aakash and now his backing of ISEET, one common national entrance exam for science and engineering. Now as HRD Minister he has inadvertently attracted the wrath of over 1,75,000 IIT alumni globally; as also faculty and students of all IITs who are opposed to his idea of killing IIT-JEE and replacing it with a common national exam called ISEET.
Yes, Kapil Sibal is the HRD Minister but he is a lawyer and a politician and is not a technologis. It appears that he is being advised by technologists who are misleading him and telling him what he wants to hear, as opposed to giving him solid advice in the interest of the nation.
Let us just look at IITs and JEE alone.
Let us see what truly is wrong with IITs & JEE and what recommendations the HRD Minister has received and from whom.
If we were to simplify the problem with JEE as it is administered in 2012 they can be listed as follows (not a comprehensive list):
Continue reading Is India’s HRD Ministry Barking Up The Wrong Tree?
Guest post by PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY
There is a moral compass that every freshman must inculcate, says Harvard College Dean Thomas Dingman. To that end, Dean Dingman has asked incoming Harvard students to sign the ‘Class of 2015 Pledge,’ a solemn testament that reflects a set of distinctive values: “That message serves as a kind of moral compass for the education Harvard College imparts. In the classroom, in extracurricular endeavors, and in the Yard and Houses, students are expected to act with integrity, respect, and industry, and to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility.” The document goes on to hope that entryways and yards will be places where everyone can thrive and where the “exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment…we want to have an environment in which people can flourish academically.”
Continue reading ‘The Quality of Mercy’: Kindness and Compassion in Higher Education: Prasanta Chakravarty
The Ministry of Higher Education has issued a directive that all state universities should hire the services of Rakna Lanka Ltd for provision of security services. The undersigned of the University academic community considers that directive to be in complete contravention of the norms and conventions by which universities are expected to function.
The letter issued by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education seeks to bypass standard procedures that are followed in the university system in the hiring and outsourcing of services. That process requires tenders to be called for and for a suitable company to be selected in a transparent and independent manner. The Secretary’s instruction therefore is in violation of established processes and is contrary to the underpinning principles of governance and the autonomy of academic institutions.
Read the whole article here.
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.’
Continue reading It’s Here, The Privatisation of Higher Education In India
(To translate for non-Hindi speakers, “teachers…unions…what nonsense is this, my friend?)
Terrible translation, but you get the gist. Those who have spent any time in Delhi University will immediately recognise the picture I paint now…imagine a long-haired, loose-jeaned youth of about twenty, casually lounging against a wall, sipping a banta (lemon soda) and occasionally scanning the horizon for that pretty girl from his business studies class…his friends will agree, “teacher-veacher union-shunion, kya bakwas hai yaar?” These are serious students lets assume, with dreams of MBAs post-graduation and eight-figure salaries. One of them might then say, “Mittal sir, he is the best, yaar; he never goes on strike, and his notes got us first divisions.”
I mean lets face it; as stereotypes of the teaching profession immortalised on screen we have the hot teacher (Main Hoon Na, and millions of others – usually involves a seemingly prim woman suddenly taking her glasses off, and shaking her bun open in slow motion), the radical teacher who inspires his students to question the system (Dead Poet’s Society), the truly inspiring teacher who turns students’ lives around (To Sir With Love) and the cool teacher, who is the students’ best friend (too many to recount). But the teacher who is an employee, joins a union and goes on strike?? Continue reading Teacher-Veacher, Union-Shunion…Kya Bakwaas Hai Yaar?
This guest post has been sent to us by VRIJENDRA, who teaches at a college affiliated to Bombay University
Of late, higher education in India has been in the news for many reasons. The new HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has been busy drafting new bills and formulating new policies to give a big push to higher education and to open up the higher education sector to foreign universities and their affiliates. In this scenario, two issues have been the major focus:
(a) The need to improve the enrolment ratio from the present, dismal ratio of about 10 percent – that is, only 10 percent of eligible young students enrol in colleges in India – to about 15/20 per cent in the next decade to catch up with the rest of the world in some ways. (Though the official enrolment ratio in India is about 11 per cent, if we go by how many of these students are really learning anything in reasonably well–equipped colleges, my guess is that the ratio will be down to alarmingly low level of about 5 per cent.) For example, in the US and Europe, the enrolment ratio is more than 60 percent. Even in China, our favourite competitor these days, the ratio is about 19 percent.
(b) The need to urgently improve the quality of higher education in the country to make it more competitive globally and to emerge ‘global knowledge hub’ in the near future.
However, any meaningful discussion on these two issues has to recognize two alarming features of higher education system in the country.
Continue reading Divide in higher education in India: Vrijendra