Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Mohandas and his good intentions

Mohandas Pai recently resigned from Infosys, and seems to be a victim of nepotism. In this interview post his resignation he talks about his interests in education. 

I agree with him, education is in crisis like many things in our country. Talking about challenges of education sector he says "Today, the space lacks autonomy, quality, faculty, good ideas and financial muscle."
Unfortunately his proposal is erroneous "I believe we can ask ten eminent people/ institutions in the country to invest Rs 1,000 crore each to start 10 institutions of higher learning with the mandate that they emerge as world-class institutions within 25 or 50 years. People like the Ambanis, Birlas, Mahindras, Tatas, Premjis, Shiv Nadars, Murthys, TVS and a conglomeration of PSUs like ONGC, IOC, etc. could be enthused about it."

This enthusing of the Tata's, Birlas, Ambanis to invest thousands of Crores could mean a huge land grabbing scheme. In the name of quality education system these people would want to create hundreds of acres of campuses and they will ask the government to acquire land at preferential rates. The state as usual will engage in predatory land grabbing, abuse of property rights and the farmer will be rendered landless and looses everything to the state and its cronies.   
BTW, Infosys his previous employer has a track record of grabbing land. Today it is a real-estate and an IT company. This news item is dated  but will give you some details http://www.rediff.com/money/2006/jul/25infy.htm
Again, a well intentioned but misguided approach to solving problems.

Today the entry barriers to start a school is very high requiring massive funds for infrastructure i.e. space, buildings  bribers for various licenses and permissions. This means that the the opportunity is only for the "big players" with big bucks and political influence and forcing the small players who are genuinely interested in education out of the scene.

Education cannot be that expensive an affair after all what is required to teach students especially the junior & middle schools are bunch of books, minimal teaching aids and good teachers. This can be done out of small facility.
India has a rich tradition of learning which was mostly "informal" never ran like an "industry" it was a system where the only stake holders where the Guru and the parents along with the student. This meant the schools remained very small with great attention to each student had full autonomy on what & how they taught. The result of this system was a thinking person with useful skills. 

Similarly may other useful skills such as carpentry, house construction etc., were also taught in an informal way without text books and focus was learning rather than a culture of passing examinations and getting certificates.
I’m not advocating a system of gurukul rather making a point for freeing the education so that the teachers and parents along with students can decide what is best for them.

Today that is not the case it is an "Industry", the schools in the city resemble office towers with Air conditioners, unnecessary and expensive teaching aids, useless curriculum (computer lab for Grade 1 students)  etc.,. 

The stakeholders have also changed, the government was the first to step in to issue licenses, to define standard curricula, to enforce compliance to varied number of silly rules (easily violated by paying bribes), to conduct exams, to grade etc.,, we also have  banks involved in
providing student loans, urban planners, industry "players" providing teach aids, teacher training schools etc., etc., 

This all means teachers and the parents have very little say and the quality suffers and the costs rise. 
We Indians have come to understand education & learning to be same as passing examinations. This change has its roots with the British meddling with our system of course they wanted to create more number of "administrators" so that they can rule the empire. It was the begnning of standardized curriculum, and educational bureaucracy in the form of various ministries/departments of education, national text book authority, a system of grading & examinations etc., 
Post independence we have continued to expand this system set-up by the British, we have huge  educational bureaucracy both at central and state level.

I pity today’s  students that they have to take so many examinations.

The output of such a system means poor quality and unemployable graduates, and business have to further invest to re-equip these students.

The solution to improve India's education is to dismantle the bureaucracy abolish the
ministries and departments let the schools and colleges be free. We don’t want government as partner they have nothing to offer nor do they have any business meddling in affairs between us, our kids and the teachers & schools.

We need separation of the Separation of School & State!
This article here makes a good argument, even though it is for an American reader it applies to us Indians  http://www.lewrockwell.com/hornberger/hornberger86.html
And check out http://www.schoolandstate.org

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