Education: random musings
I ranted about the state of Indian education sometime back and that attracted some irate comments. Let me add some observations, not in any particular order. These are all seemingly unrelated but, they all point to a systemic malaise.
My daughter tells me that in her 7th standard class, cheating is wide-spread in all class-tests. This, in a so-called premier “public-school” of Delhi.
I interviewed a prospective applicant for a position in a company I am starting. Impressive resume’; BE in Mechanical Engineering and MBA from a leading management institute in Pune, specialised in “Operations”. When asked to name his favourite subject in school, he could not name any. I asked if it was Maths, since he had done engineering and then gone on to specialise in “Ops” for his MBA. It was not. He had a specialisation in “Ops” after a degree in Mechanical Engineering but he had never heard of the “Traveling Salesman’s Problem”. He had carefully cherry-picked only “quali” courses in his MBA final year and still managed a “Ops” specialization.
Now comes the shocking expose’ in The Australian, reported in the HT again of the more than 200 PhD degrees awarded in some Australian university to Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi students. All of the newly minted PhDs allegedly plagiarized their thesis.
Kaushik Basu, in “Graduating to a real soft power” in HT today talks about the yawning gap in our higher education in both quality and quantity:
“India’s higher education system is floundering. We are doing badly in terms of both quality and quantity. Indian universities and institutes have all but vanished from serious international rankings. The percentage of Indians aged 18 to 23 years, enrolled in colleges and universities (the ‘gross enrollment ratio’) is 11. China, which trailed India till recently, now has a gross enrollment ratio of 22 per cent. For developed nations the average figure is 66 per cent. If India is to retain global competitiveness, it needs to expand its higher education sector massively — arguably by one or two hundred per cent — and also raise the quality of education.”
I wish Mr. Sibal reads Mr. Basu’s article. This is not something that can be done in 100 days, or even 5 years. But, a start has to be made. If India has to compete with developed countries or China, our human capital has to cope. In quality and quantity.
A cousin of mine, on his first visit to Beijing, wrote today, thus: (quoted verbatim from email) “Perhaps Beijing is what Delhi might look like in about 10 years. Sign boards are all english and chinese. Communication is all english. This is in so far as we Indians think we are ahead of the chinese in terms of our hold on an international language. (emphasis mine) I think that advantage has all but disappeared with the new generation of chinese workers.”
Here’s the scary bit. On my last visit to Beijing (about three years back), I would not have definitely written such an email. My hypothetical, if then, email would have been all about how tough it was to get anything done in English in China.