Bihar — Part 1

Yesterday’s Empires into Dust

The Buddha’s enlightenment was centered around the realization that the universe is characterized by impermanence (called annicha in Pali) and change, that nothing abides eternally. That event occurred when he was intensely meditating under a tree 2,500 years ago in a grove. That place is known today as Bodh Gaya, a small town in the state of Bihar. There is a certain aptness to the Buddha’s realization about impermanence when one considers Bihar.
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Back in Pune

Being lost is worth the coming home, as Neil Diamond observed in his song “Stones” many many years ago. Traveling to Delhi and Patna was worth the leaving behind of those places, I feel. Now I am back in Pune, the weather is awesome, and I am fully charged up with all sorts of interesting tales to tell. Well, if not to tell, at least to contemplate at leisure since for the past ten days I have been extremely busy. For every hour of observing I do, it takes me many hours of reflection to fully understand what I need to learn. This is not just a thinly-veiled attempt at justifying why I have not been blogging, mind you. I am sure that if you are a regular, you too are grateful for the break.

View from my room in Magarpatta So now the weather. Pune must be centrally airconditioned. At 5 pm, it is about 25 degrees Celcius — there is a gentle breeze blowing under an overcast sky. Here’s the view from out the window (11th floor).

Will be back with a real post real soon.

Mumbai, Delhi, Patna

If you have been wondering whatever happened to yours truly, wonder no more. The last few days I have been in Mumbai, attending the Sun Technovate ’07 — “INDIA — the Next Big Idea.” Got a chance to see Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Scott and three others students at Stanford University, including our very own Vinod Khosla, started Sun. (SUN — Stanford University Network!)
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Open Source and Education

From the article How the Open Source Movement Has Changed Education: 10 Success Stories: “MIT provides just one of the 10 open source educational success stories detailed below. Open source and open access resources have changed how colleges, organizations, instructors, and prospective students use software, operating systems and online documents for educational purposes. And, in most cases, each success story also has served as a springboard to create more open source projects.”

The information exists out there. The challenge is to make it accessible — both physically and mentally. Physical accessibility is a technical problem and therefore requires a bit of hardware and software. It is only a matter of time before technology will be cheap enough that it would not matter whether you are rich or poor — you will have all the information accessible. Mental accessibility is a different matter. Those who don’t have the basic pre-requisite to make sense of the information will be at a disadvantage relative to those who have the skills to use the information. The challenge for India is to provide basic education — reading, writing, arithmetic and reasoning.

Reduce your attention deficit

Everything has a cost and this arises from the basic fact that we are mortals. We are given a finite amount of time. Time is the limiting constraint, not money or stuff. The more stuff out there that clamors for our attention, the more acutely we wish “had we but world enough, and time.”[1] Aside from material stuff, we are also drowning in information. They call it the “attention economy.”[2] The result of a surfeit of things to attend to is the premium on attention.
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The Indian Education System — Part 10

[Previous post: Part 9.]

The liberalization of the education sector in India, that is, allowing free entry – especially for-profit firms – will result in increased supply of educational services. Here I will explore the predictable consequences of this. We begin by recognizing that education is not an undifferentiated homogeneous good; there are distinct levels within it, from basic primary education to post-secondary and tertiary levels. Each level has different pay-back periods for the “return on investment.” Furthermore, different people have different abilities to pay for the various levels of education.
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Lee Kuan Yew

I came across this site lee-kuan-yew.com which appears to be a portal with information on Lee Kuan Yew, his speeches and his writings. I am pretty pleased that right up there is a link to one of my favorite series of posts on this blog: Lee Kuan Yew on India. Read it but be warned that it is a bit long and it is not a pretty picture. But then, when it comes to what I write about, it ain’t pretty anyway.

The Indian Education System — Part 9

Freedom

By liberalizing the education sector I mean that it has to be made totally free of government control and involvement. Whoever wants to provide educational services must be free to do so, be it domestic or international, for profit or not for profit, at the primary, secondary, or tertiary level. What would be the expected benefits of doing so?

The supply of educational services will increase, the quality will improve, and prices will come down. These are all everyday first-order efficiency effects of letting markets work. The second-order effects will be increased productivity, increased production, and better allocative efficiency within the sector. The third-order effects will arise from the increasing returns to scale associated with the production of education. Finally, there are very important forward and backward linkages that bind the sector with the overall economy. One of them is the use of information and communications technology (ICT) tools. It will give a boost to the IT sector in a way that is unthinkable in any other endeavor.
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Weep for Taslima, and then for India

I was born in India. Most of the time I am quite content that the land of my birth is not a hell-hole. But every now and then I am rudely awakened to the fact that to a very large extent, it is ruled by a bunch of slaves, criminals and myopic morons. I read Taslima Nasreen’s heartfelt question “What is my crime?” with rising disgust and distaste for what India appears to be at times — a pathetic Third-world country with the morals of a bottom-dwelling creature and the ethics of pond-scum. Read the whole thing by Taslima and weep — a bit for Taslima but a lot for Mother India. Here’s just the last bit.
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