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.

National Security Of India Must Be Strengthened

National security of India is a crucial aspect that has been ignored by Indian politicians for long. The catastrophic consequences of the same are very apparent in the form of terrorists’ attacks and cyber terrorism in India. Time has arisen when we must rejuvenate the national security and internal security of India. The recent proposal by the Home Minister to strengthen Indian National Security and Internal Security must be strictly adhered to by the Indian government. It should not merely be another proposal with no actual implementation and execution.

National security of India has recently received a rejuvenation attempt by the Government of India (GOI). This is good news at a time where the national security issues are grossly ignored in India. The national security of India and internal security of India are suffering not only on the count of lack of political will but also due to absence of suitable policies and strategies.

The ICT Trends of India 2009 have also proved that India has failed on the fronts of Cyber law of India, Cyber Terrorism in India, E-Courts in India, E-Learning in India, Unique Identification Project of India, Serious Frauds and White Collar Crimes, National Security Issues, Crime Reporting by Media, Internet Banking Frauds, Cyber Security of Defense Forces, Cyber War in India, E-Surveillance in India, etc.

According to Praveen Dalal, Managing Partner of Perry4Law and the leading Techno-Legal Expert of India, “Indian approach in this regard is not sensible at all. We should not invest thousands of crores of Indian rupees into security projects that can be manipulated and sabotaged in minutes. Rather we should first analyse the weaknesses and security holes of the same before buying and installing it.

After all security of a Nation is proper application of “common sense” rather than wasting unlimited amount of money. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) of India, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI), Rs 800 crores centralised facility to control phone tapping activities in India, etc are some of the projects that require common sense application before their implementation. They have to be tested in a “limited environment” before using them in a full fledged manner, says Praveen Dalal.

It seems Indian security initiatives have to be holistically analysed and suitably applied. The Indian security infrastructure and workforces are not in good shape and require rejuvenation. We need a techno-legal security workforce and not personnel who do not have even the basic facilities and technological means and knowledge. The terrorist attacks have really shattered the deep pervasive false sense of security present in the Indian government mentality. We have to think and act against such internal and external threats by going beyond a "political debate". We can fool ourselves by bragging about India’s capabilities and victories against terrorism and cyber terrorism and keep on facing future attacks and bear the traumatic casualties. Alternatively, we must accept our weaknesses against such attacks and take constructive steps to anticipate, prevent and counter such future terrorist and cyber terrorism activities, warns Praveen Dalal.

With a new ray of hope shown by the recent stress upon national security of India we can expect some good results in this direction. However, India is famous for mere assurances and proposals without actually implementing them. Similarly, due to faulty management and policies even the implemented projects have failed in the past. Let us hope that this time India would do the proper homework before starting an initiative that it cannot implement and run.