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Indian Education :The Unseen Pain

June 9, 2008

“Dont talk about that, its too unethical”
“It hurts me to even talk about it”

We have heard such phrases, comments ad infinitum. As if not talking about it, will lead the pain to go away. As if hushing it up will make it more ethical. You remember, sayings from Cold War themed spy movies, “Dont ask, dont tell”?
In many ways, our Indian education is a testimony to these undercurrents in our thinking. Nobody is actually talking about it. The lethargic education system in place, the huge chasm in quality of education, the immense students to teachers ratio. All practically all the evils, let me cut them short for I really don’t want to depress myself!

Our Indian education is highly defective. Right from the core and dna of it. Our technical education system is highly flawed and inadequate. Quality people are few and far in between and today, and in society’s eyes those fools become teachers who can’t get into Infosys. What a pity! What a pity! I am left gasping for air, and some fresh mint soda. What a pity!

From where have our education system come to? Sample this: A BPO professional presses a button on her VoIP phone and speaks for seven hours in a particular night shift and gets 15k to 18k(if she is lucky and has a good voice!) in hand.
Typical age: 18-22
Education: Undergraduate/+2 passed
Work Experience : 0
So a fresher speaks for seven hours and gets 15k per month.
On the severe contrast one entry level lecturer gets anywhere from 11k-12k in hand,that too after screaming at the top of the voice for 8-9 hours. And you think, your sons lecturers are not doing their job?
Where is the problem?
In Tamil Nadu itself, there are over 200 engineering colleges(citation needed) in far flung villages, tehsils and kasbas and districts. Where is all the money to pay the lecturers out there?
Where is the money, where is then the quality and you think with 12k to an entry level lecturer, a person with real passion and dedication will come to teach people over here?
Passion needs money to keep the fire going, my friend, it needs money.


Lets move over to a different facet. How much is the research spending by Indian government this financial year? Any idea? After taking out Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and other gimmicks like mid day meals and others, out of 34,400 crore allocated for education in budget, what remains is, a measly 8746 crores(slightly over $2 billion). But before you actually rejoice, consider this, only 750 crore for upgradation of over 300 ITIs, thats just 2.5 crores for each ITI. And in the above mentioned USD2billion, there is a whole lot of starred subnotes and notes for upgrading madrasas,money for Commonwealth games, films, art (yawn!) and maybe perhaps who knows, giving awards to Himesh and Imraan Hashmi and his cronies..


Dilution! Dilution! Dilution… thats what I see. And thats for the government ITIs! Who knows, what happens to government colleges. And YOU SAY WE EXPECT BETTER?

Have you seen Gangaajal?
A good film; you should watch that, you know?
Amit Kumar (Ajay Devgan) in one of his best film speeches, says, that a society gets a police force, as the society in itself is.
Translated: Police reflects the society.

In a very similar way, education reflects government’s deepest benevolent feelings and as a whole, reflect society’s concern for it.
Seeing the situation of Indian education, its not only this government, but also the governments on the past 60 years have been party to this fiasco. What has the government done to inject real amount of money to pursue research in our education?
First reason is simple but I would like to digress… You have seen ostrich? Yeah those birds with long necks, beaks and stuff like that. [In short, chics with long legs 😉 ]. In case you have not seen, you can have a picture of it here.
Whenever, any question on education comes up, all the established powers in Center do is dig a hole and put their neck in that, and say “Oh yeah, oh yeah, we are trying you know. Hey FM! Give them some alms yaar! A million here and a million there” And pat comes the dole. Nobody realizes that there is a deeper problem running inside this system.
Where are the intellectuals who accept that it is not possible for government to come in and dole out research grants for such a big country and a population. Where are the policy makers who realize that, government doles and grants are just “band aid on an amputated limb”.
And when the only solution gets cleared in a brain storming, it gets shot down before even it sees the light of the day. The idea being, privatisation and private sector involvement in education.
Why it gets shot down is but anybody’s guess? Something like this the established thinking goes:

Education? Whats the need for privatisation? If the rogue businessmen come and spread their “talons” on such a “pristine garden” of education, then where will the poor go? Where will the poor study?
No we can’t have that. We can’t have that at all.
Wrap up the tents boy… no private investment in education/ research!

What is it then, if not ostrich mentality of the HRD? Today whatever research initiative takes place, happens due to the “deluge” of funds brought out by government [okay that was sarcastic!]. Look at the research quality of Stanfords and Berkeley’s,and look at where IITs are.
A very interesting case is Stanford[more of it given down]
And Secondly,even intellectuals get all worked up and all excited and offended, when they think, the pristine guru-shishya relationship mired and marred by profits of hungry and profit seeking industrialists!
Its ignorance….
By the way there is another reason.Its called ignorance.
Stanford is perhaps one university which is actually a glowing example of private investment and cooperation in education. If possible read the report called Lenoir.doc writter by Lenoir et al on Stanford.
Tradionally Stanford being a private university, government grants for it were perennially short and as a result Stanford was always cash-strapped. Established in 1907, and till 1945, it went through this big cash crunch. But in one of the greatest, visionary decisions by one man , Frederick Terman (who has actually an interesting history) returned from WW-II as Director of Radio Research Laboratory and his stint in MIT to take the position of Dean of Stanford.
One dream, one man and a legend he created. That was Stanford. He wanted to put that institution in a nation’s map of education. Its a wonder that still Stanford has to pull up around 88% of the total expenditure all by itself. Research is a money sinker but also has great returns and a long gestation period. Do you think, it is possible for an institution to carry on cutting edge research with dew drops of finance it gets from nation?
You know what Terman did? He bought huge tracts of land in and around Stanford, and a whole lot of land for Stanford University. And then called corporates like GE to come and set up their shops over there. Only with one condition, there has to be a constant knowledge transfer from GE to Stanford.
Every semester there has to be 2 senior GE research associates teaching in Stanford. And it was a win win situation for both. GE got to determine the education syllabus of select courses, a close interaction of education and industry and entrepreneurial management (how oxymoron it seems isn’t it?) did the unthinkable.
Today, Stanford has led from the front, each entrepreneurial revolution in the Silicon Valley. Intel, Freescale,Shockley Labs (which broke finally), SUN, Yahoo, Google. It has created an entire ecosystem. And till today, it raises around 88% of the multi billion dollar research budgets from private investment.
I strongly believe that education has to get a huge overhaul if India has to truly usher into a knowledge economy. Education is still marred and mired in the age old redundant “appendicitic” thinking of socialism.
That has to go and come down with a force.
We will have a new government tomorrow, Can we expect some sense from them?
I don’t know. I am just being optimistic. After all I am Jump!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2008 10:05 am

    Hey jump, I hear you loud and clear. Like a prof. from yale studying indian politics said ‘education in india is a continuous process of learning and Regurgitation in due time of the examinations’. I understand the point you are making because i have seen the working of a school on the adminstrative end. (i will get to that later).

    The student and parent
    I think the concept of life has been twisted in an average Indian’s mind which is, get born – study to get into a college – leave college with a distinction- get job – get a house- get other materialistic stuff – get married- get someone else born. The fact that life revolves around a kid getting A grades just to get a good job, is just too wrong. Yes i do agree that one has to get a minimum of a degree to survive in competitive India. But whats the point in studying something that is a pop industry (popular industry, i just created a word. lol).People should study what they want to do, and parents should let them. I still have friends who are doing this and find it hard to understand.

    The Education boards
    Education boards in India are a joke, their syllabus makes the student just regurgitate on and on again. I study architecture now in a foreign university, I recently realized the way i was taught History in school was just appauling. I had to literally ‘mug’ the number of pillars or the dates of the paintings and stuff like that. I am now learning through a better perspective, through observation and analysis. My sister studies at RV (architecture too) the VTU hasn’t even updated their syllabus. Which sucks when the students are competing with each other around the global.

    The government.
    Make the parents happy, who in turn don’t care very much.

    The schools.
    On seeing how the administrative end works, I think the schools have a huge responsibility. Schools should provide that gap in their institutions that, the edu boards don’t provide.
    The vital, aspect of making education engaging and interesting. Schools should take a step further and introduce various challenges and experiences to a student. Because whatever happens to them then is going to change their lives forever. (eg. i got hooked on to legos as a child, and now im learning how to actually build stuff i used to with them). Drama, arts and literature should be presented to them in a alternative perspective.

    I could go and on… will wait for more takes on the topic.

  2. Soham Das permalink*
    June 9, 2008 11:44 am


    Many points are extremely valid and logical. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to figure it out… but it has to be observed, that how actually can we remove these ills from the system.

    The entire point of this article is not, whats happening and how do we lack. Because they are just superficial things in this entire quagmire of Indian Education.
    They are just symptoms.
    If you really ask me, I don’t blame the parents. Yes, what you said is actually perfect. Parents dont have that awareness which is needed to make their wards competitive.

    But that is not the excuse, for India not having a strong education/research program and initiative. Society will be happy with whatever you give it to it, even if it is unadequate. Society today is happy with just a ‘job’ which pays 20k p.m and sitting in AC offices working in software industry. Twenty years back, it was just as happy, if they are sitting under a rickety old fan whirring for eternity and sitting with ledgers on their desk. Society can’t think nor can they articulate for they are ordinary people like you and me.

    But what is needed is the intelligentsia of the society,those who can actually think, and form policies and strategies, not for today heck! not even for tomorrow but for the ages unseen, so that the saplings of vision we sow today, grows into a full blossomed tree from which the India of tomorrow can benefit.

    Knowledge Economy with present degree of education quality is just a sham. Do you really think, private colleges with less than 1 crore for each year to spend is adequate to do something really pathbreaking?
    When I was in college there was a whole lot of debate around why we dont have a single Nobel Prize coming up from India. How come can we have that, if researchers are not granted state-of-the-art equipments and research facilities.

    EU has CERN a trillion dollar worth research facility. US has a decentralised research program, in academics, in government agencies and military facilities. What does India have?

    Because we are still lacking, in that elusive thing called FUNDING. How does it come then?
    Increased Private Sector involvement. Increased private-public partnership.
    But still we yell, “No.. no rogue industrialists in pure education”
    This is insane and yes, foolery of the first order.

    Just last year HRD turned down a proposal for increased private-public initiative in education.

    And one important thing, I didnt mention here is, government too is lethargic in following up with this, because it thinks education is just a dead beat game, with no profits or taxes to cover from it. So they are as lethargic for it. And unfortunately nobody really is bothered because quantity can be measured but quality cant be.

  3. Paulraj Madasamy permalink
    June 10, 2008 1:31 pm

    guess who ?? 😛

    nice stuff man.. will keep reading.. you keep writing 🙂

  4. Soham Das permalink*
    June 10, 2008 8:13 pm

    Hey Paul… thanks 🙂

    To keep writing, well thats the plan! 😉

  5. Rohan permalink
    June 11, 2008 10:09 pm

    hey jump..

    stuff is nice.selection of topic is good.U made good points.
    I think tagging HRD shooting down private-public partnership as short shightedness, or the lack of will power/ability of the intelligensia is not correct.

    Main concern of the govt. is to bring more and more students under the education umbrella and increase the no. of skilled man power. There r still huge dropout numbers from schools at primary and secondary education levels. Govt has initiated several programs just to keep this increasing no. in check.
    Pri. schools have better education standards but have low affordability. But the Govt. run Kendriya vidyalay have managed to compete with them. Funds r working at least for schools if not the colleges.

    Govt. has less funds and in turn colleges-true at the moment. But u might have read a psychological theory by Maslow-Maslow’s Pyramid of human psychology.

    Given the resource crunch, what would one try to get.
    Luxury comes after the need. I dont say that the quality education is luxury but its imp. to have stomach full, dessert is ok once in a while.

    Todays India-Much respected and even feared than the one in the past is all because we could do substantial development in technological sector. Thanks to the affordable college and higher edecation, opening of IITs and so many colleges. Education was more imp. than the quality. So, the policies were correct.

    Involvement of private sector in education At This Time may be productive coz of improvement in std. of living, Resource availability in terms of loans, scholarships etc. and awareness.

    Still only small nos. make it to colleges and if privatisation changes the fee structure, then this no. will dwindle as u will be aware of grass root realities. And this will be counter productive to the govt. efforts coz..
    1. increase in unemployment
    2. lesser skilled manpower
    3. increse in social divide
    4. demand for more class favouring policies
    5. and more law and order problem

    there r other factors as well and the comments above are not to counter ur arguments and favour the govt.
    But there r factors to be looked upon and how they affect with time. One need to interpolate the realities on the time scale and to check whether policy implementation will do more good or Not more good.

    any way.. keep writing this kinda stuff.

  6. Soham Das permalink*
    June 11, 2008 11:58 pm

    I know Rohan I know… first of all, its perfectly okay to counter things out here as long as sound logic is extended…

    But, I am concerned.. highly concerned when statistics like “every one out of three graduates are unemployable” come out in the open. I get all worked up and concerned, when I see, technology and newer frontiers opening up in other countries and in turn become monetizable opportunities, pegging countries like India one step down.

    I don’t consider given the present situation, there is any difference between Uganda and India.

    Uganda has the highest reserves of U-238, all untapped and unmined and unused for electric generation. Other countries come and take license for mining in return for some liquid cash.

    In effect India is same, only its not Uranium, something even more powerful, more valuable, more useful and more acute. Quality Human Talent.
    Primary Education is okay, but what about Higher Education, Post Graduation and Doctorate programs? What about them? Get the analogy?

    KVs are okay, but we don’t have single lab [except perhaps BARC and TIFR] to take on the Western tech prowess… I am looking at them. My only concern is, if we don’t get our pants up and start working for technology progress, then we will be just hollow superpowers… waiting for a breeze or a gale to come and dislodge us.

    We need funds for extensive research and sciences. Let private sector participate. We will soon find our deepest fears and apprehension to be a product of our imagination..

  7. Rohan permalink
    June 12, 2008 10:38 pm

    i hope wat u say comes true but there is time for everything. People wondered in ration card era when we will be like west. Better life, respect, self reliance etc. etc. were the dreams but one can see them turning into reality NOW.
    I agree in concept with u for the need of quality research, need of extensive funding , I see them coming though it will take time to fill the empty pot.
    Govt. spends on so many things with the little resources in hand and with political instability paralysing the quick decision making power needed to grab the global opportunities.
    There r people doing their bit but the question is r we among them…??
    U see the difference when u take example of Israel and Singapore. I have read ur blogs and am sure that u r aspiring person with quite a comfortable income source.

    Are u confident that u have done ur bit for India’s cause?
    We r there to share the glory but wat abt the pain??

  8. Rohan permalink
    June 12, 2008 11:01 pm

    my email id is rohanfeels at zapak dot com

  9. Soham Das permalink*
    June 14, 2008 12:32 am

    “…Govt. spends on so many things with the little resources in hand and with political instability paralysing the quick decision making power needed to grab the global opportunities….”

    See you answered it… yes government spends on so much that it is virtually impossible to ensure quality. When we already have so much of illiteracy and bad living conditions to take care of, it seems a luxury that we spend in higher education.

    Surely you see, where the flaw lies. Higher effective education/research is not like a faucet which you can turn on or off, and bam! results start coming. Its a matter of decades and perhaps even generations before anything worthwhile comes out. So only if we start today, then we will have something to show for in the coming decades.
    More importantly, quality education/research is a money sinker, thats precisely why I am calling for government to change its policy of “keep-all- baniyas-out-of-education” mentality.
    Privatisation has to come, if quality has to thrive.
    You admitted that, these days our living condition is resembling that of WEST. Why? Why ? Do you think it happened?
    One word : Opening of economy.

  10. Rohan permalink
    June 24, 2008 9:17 pm

    Opening of the economy led to the betterment of India…yes. It was the need of the hour and there was no way to keep ourselves out of that if at all we wanted to drink fresh, flowing and energetic water. Russia feels the pinch.
    But embracing the system as such emerged in select western countries may not fetch the same results . Those countries were robust economies with lot of resources and quite gud track record in imparting basic education.
    Their public education system is also well off. They need not bother as much as we got to do to include most if not all in the mainstream. The increasing disparity has already led to increase in law violations and increase in crimes to cite as an example.
    We r treading the western path so it was to come. My idea revolves around a theme- “Lesser inequality leads to a better, empowered society, which can take decisions faster and for good of its people, which can fare better before others.” And if u see todays scenario in any field is its manifestation. I seem to be fairly diverted but u see things are not isolated.

    Any way, ur ideas are good and energetic.. keep writing.

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