India’s Colleges are Suffering

One of the persistent themes of this blog is the dismal failure of the education system. There is a direct relationship between the excellence of the educational system — human skills — and the broad performance of the economy. So even without knowing much about an economy, if you find the economy in dire straits, you can as a reasonable hypothesis maintain that the educational system may be dysfunctional.

That was my hypothesis upon recognizing that India is desperately poor even though there are no material constraints to India’s development. Over the years that I have been learning more of the educational system in India, I have seen heaps of evidence confirming that hypothesis. The conclusion is inescapable: unless the government releases its choke hold on the education sector, India will not progress.

If you were to read the archives on education on this blog, you will find a lot of proposed solutions. All of the solutions start with getting the government out of the system.

Here’s a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “India’s Colleges Battle a Thicket of Red Tape” (link thanks to A Sarda.):

Loosening the Indian government’s famously bureaucratic “License Raj” when it comes to governing businesses has helped spur an economic surge that has transformed the country and its standing in the world. In contrast, critics say India’s educational system remains mired in red tape that stifles expansion and innovation.

The system falls far short of meeting the demand among young people for places in good colleges and universities. And it deprives India of the ranks of well-educated graduates it needs to supply crucial industries such as information technology and pharmaceuticals.

Sad really. Here’s more

“Nothing has gotten in the way of educational improvement and expansion here in India more than the government’s own regulators,” says Anil Harish, chairman of the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board, a nonprofit organization in Mumbai that governs the Kundnani pharmacy college and 16 others.

Too Few Good Schools

Very few of India’s higher-education institutions were ranked in the top 500 world-wide in Shanghai University’s 2008 annual ranking.

India 2
China 30
Brazil 6
Japan 31
U.S. 159
Source: Center for World-Class Universities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

The National Knowledge Commission, an advisory committee appointed by the prime minister, is proposing to set up a new independent regulatory authority, invest more government funding in higher education and build 50 national universities.

“There is a quiet crisis in higher education in India that runs deep,” said Sam Pitroda, chairman of commission, in a report. “The system as a whole is overregulated.”

India’s national and state governments are pouring billions of dollars into expanding higher education. The Indian government, which funds about a third of India’s public higher-education costs (states pay the rest), plans a ninefold increase in spending to $17 billion over the next five years, according to a plan unveiled in 2007.

But reducing the bureaucratic burden on the sector won’t be easy. Any change in the powers of the All India Council for Technical Education requires a vote of Parliament, whose members can derive influence by pressuring educational institutions to admit children of supporters, several officials of colleges and college boards say.

“Education is a vote-getting patronage item,” says Ajit Rangnekar, deputy dean of the Indian Business School. That school, launched in 2001 with the support of India’s business elite, isn’t under the purview of the Council for Technical Education.

ISB is a shining example of how the private sector can fix the problem. But it won’t be allowed to because with a good education system, it will mean the politicians who depend on an illiterate and poor population will not be electable.

India is being raped by criminals who are dressed up as politicians. It makes a body weep bitter tears.

Related link: A series on the Indian Education System.

Author: Atanu Dey


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