Should we emulate the US in education?

I read this article, which quotes a speech given by NR Narayanamurthy, where he talks about what to do about India’s education infrastructure.

I could’nt help but notice, how his view is clouded by the apparent panacea of Indian IT industry. I believe what he says is wrong.

Narayanamurthy talks about the need to liberalise (a weakly clouded reference to privatise education) Indian education infrastructure. Well, if that is implemented exactly as the US does, we would be heading towards a disaster which would be borne by individual families. I belive that everyone should be entitled to college education - even though she may turn out to be a future beauty queen, rather than a Ph.D. in nuclear physics (although she may play one in the movies!!). College education is not just about getting the skills required to create nanotech microchips, but also about personal empowerment. It is the way that people, and especially women, enter a crucible to hone their opinions, ideas and goals. I believe it to be the very basis of a growing democracy - free of dogmatic opinions shaped by mob behavior and more of individualistic perceptions. Harvard University has a corpus in excess of 26 billion dollars - while the average student debt has increased from 160 dollars per month to 210 dollars per month. Something wrong with this picture? The US Govt is cutting its aid budget which would have otherwise benefited students. But what is the root cause for the govt. having to aid students - profit making colleges.

Let me not be misunderstood - I’m completely in favor of paying professors very,very high salaries to retain them. Hell, I come from a place where I was fortunate to study under some of the best professors in the world. I’m in favor of students shouldering atleast some of the cost of running labs, etc. But lets be honest with each other - Universities and Research bodies make more money off patents and intellectual properties and less off the steady stream of student fees.

But I do not understand the behavior of making more and more money off universities. I understand Harvard, Stanford, etc. use their funds to finance startups, but 25 billion?? Please, let us not fall into the trap that will end up denying a large population of college education, just because Mr. CEO is facing a shortage of code monkeys.

And what about the justification that subsidies must only exist in basic education ? I would rather pay an education cess that goes on to empower a large section of the populace in, say Bihar, to strengthen our society and democracy as a whole. People like me will be found and nurtured, with a countrywide talent search drives and by interacting with quality professors/educators, and less by liberalising our education.

We may have lesser funkier labs than MIT, but I had in my classroom poor students who would shine in their academics and help us fellow students along. That should always be the spirit of education - the Gurukul way … an inherently Indian way.

How then shall we get the labs that are a must for technological leaps? The same way that the US does them - encourage intellectual property discoveries and patents and let the University share in the profits. But a very important difference is - plough back the profits into education, not an investment bankers portfolio.

Mr. Narayana Murthy … you are wrong. Tags: personal India


Should we emulate the US in education?


December 23, 2005

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