Thursday, December 24, 2009

Education Reforms In India Are Urgently Required

Educational reforms in India are urgently required. However, the progress in this regard is far from satisfactory despite the best efforts of Ministry of Human Resource Development through Union Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal. The position is worst when it comes to online education in India. The educational reforms in India are victim of “Political Nepotism”, say experts like Praveen Dalal. Unless Government of India adopts an open mind approach and utilise the expertise of knowledgeable people, Indian educational reforms would always remain in doldrums. In the below mentioned wonderful article (See article for full version), M D Nalapat has provided some of the reasons for failures of Indian educational sector reforms.

Today, the immense regulatory framework of Indian education has spawned corruption and sloth. Academic freedom is non-existent, and attempts at excellence and innovation are slapped down. Many within the regulatory agencies have enriched themselves, giving sanction to undeserving institutions on payment of bribes. It is such people who are resisting change.

In India selection to key committees depends on personal friendships rather than on professional expertise. The National Security Advisory Board is an example. The NSAB was set up to provide advice on security issues, and meets each month (if not more often).The members get to stay in 5-star hotels and travel Business Class on aircraft, and each meeting costs the Indian taxpayer millions of rupees. However, very little enlightenment comes out of such deliberations, for the reason that almost all the members have been chosen because of their personal connections. Each National Security Advisor fills the NSAB with friends and admirers, thus repaying old favours and generating new ones. Those who are honest in their criticisms, or are not favourites at the darbars of the powerful, get ignored. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has followed precedent in ensuring that several of his old friends have gotten accommodated in key committees An example is the Education Committee set up under the chairmanship of a close friend of the Prime Minister, Dr Yash Pal.

Unless the Prime Minister breaks out of the sociology that confines itself only to friends and admirers, and looks for talent from elsewhere than within such ranks, he will not succeed in creating the “education revolution” favoured by Union Minister. Kapil Sibal is trying to see that the all-powerful (and in many cases corrupt) regulatory bodies that control accreditation to medical and technical education in India are either removed or have their powers diluted. This stand has put him at odds with several politicians and officials, who are each making millions of rupees each year because of the vast powers the regulatory bodies have. However, unless he succeeds, Indian higher education will continue to be bereft of excellence, except in a few pockets such as the Indian Institutes of Technology. Another necessary step is to create a framework for foreign universities to come to India. At present, nearly 300,000 students go from India to other countries to study each year, at a cost of $12 billion. They seek the flexibility and excellence of institutions in the US, the EU and elsewhere. Should Kapil Sibal succeed in convincing the Prime Minister to back him in his efforts at getting foreign universities to set up campuses in India, then India could become a major international education provider, earning rather than losing billions of dollars each year. Standards in many parts of India are far better than in countries such as Australia (where racial attacks on Indian students has multiplied), but the complex web of controls that is shackling Indian education needs to be lifted. Education Minister Sibal is seeking just that, and hopefully he will succeed

Every student in India needs to have an education that is modern and which gives her or him skills that are useful in a modern economy. This includes familiarity with computers and the internet. Hopefully, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will look beyond the narrow circle of his friends and admirers to identify those who can suggest education reforms. Hopefully, he will ensure that his government puts in place such reforms. For that is the only way to generate more Indian Nobel Prizes, more cutting-edge R&D in India, so that the country develops an education sector as modern as its Information Technology industry.