February 16, 2004
More on India's educational free market

When, as I regularly go, I type "education" into google, most of the stuff I get occupies a sort of parallel universe of political posturing, a world in which press releases are one thing, and what is actually happening is something utterly different and can only be vaguely guessed at. This article, about education in India, is rather different. It gives you a real feeling for what is going on out there. In case it entirely disappears soon, here it is in full. It's today's special story (whatever that means) from News Today (which describes itself as "South India's leading English evening newspaper"):

Coming out in favour grant of full autonomy to educational institutions, Governor P S Ramamohan Rao today said government intervention would affect the quality of education in the country.

Speaking after inaugurating a nine-storeyed staff quarters of the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) here, built at a cost of Rs 8.5 crore, Rao said, 'full autonomy should be given to educational institutions which will help improve the quality of education. Even the Judiciary should not intervene in the field of education, leave alone the government', he said.

To realise the dream of President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam of India becoming a superpower, students should enrich their knowledge through various sources and not depend on classroom-teaching alone. Students (mainly those in the engineering and management streams) should be innovative and strive for self-employment rather than depend on government jobs.

'Maintaining law and order, providing healthcare, basic amenities and education are the main focus areas of the government and not providing jobs in the government. It (job) should come from one's own effort', he said.

Referring to a recent study done by a group of economists, he said it had been projected that in the next 30-35 years, India would become the third largest economy in the world after China and the US. However, this growth would be mainly due to its large population rather than in terms of per capita income.

This would not be real growth and only if the country's per capita income was raised, it could see real growth. For this to happen, students should work hard in their respective fields.

Earlier, G Viswanathan, Chancellor, VIT, said there should be no barrier in students from a particular State appearing for entrance exams of neighbouring States as was the case now, according to certain University Grants Commission (UGC) norms.

This barrier, he said, should be removed by bringing in changes appropriate changes in the existing UGC norms.

Viswanathan said governments seemed to be more keen on giving licenses to educational institutions to start colleges or universities rather than verifying if there was need for their being set up. This had led to a decline in the quality of the education as a large number of colleges and universities had cropped up. At present, there were 15,000 universities in the country. In Tamilnadu alone, there were more than 250 engineering colleges, he said.

G V Selvam, Pro-Chancellor, VIT and P Radhakrishnan, Vice-Chancellor, VIT, also spoke.

Maybe it's my Anglo-Saxon prejudice that the way to understand something is to witness an argument about it, rather than just be bludgeoned by unanimous experts. But personally, I that that the way to understand something is to witness an argument about it, rather than just be bludgeoned by unanimous experts.

I also, of course, agree with Governor P S Ramamohan Ra. I think it's great that the government of India is just dishing out "licenses" (whatever that means) regardless, rather then second guessing the people of India about whether there is a "need" for new colleges to be set up. Sounds like the free market in education out there is really motoring, and this really will turn India into a superpower.

I have a busy Monday, so that is probably all for today. Thank you News Today, for doing all the work.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:32 AM
Category: Higher educationIndia