Part I of this article dealt more with primary education whereas this part deals more with higher education

–    People familiar with Operations Management or even some of the best practices in management would be familiar with Toyota Production System that defines value and waste. In our education policies, we have 90% or more waste (and this component of waste is relatively more in higher education in India), rest may be of questionable value or incidental work.

–     Lots of discussions on education and on RTE in media deal with the concept of ‘Capacity Planning’ – demand side and supply side – as we know in India there is huge demand for free quality primary education, to even free/paid quality higher education. However, in the supply side, there are two constraints, one on quality of teachers (soft infrastructure, and needs time to develop); and second on Capital (hard infrastructure –  to set-up class-rooms, facilities, toilets, drinking water, or even supporting mid-day meals to ensure that right physical development of kids takes place). On quality of teachers, less said is better (does not mean that there are not good quality teachers. Matter of fact is, there are many good teachers and many more are interested to join this profession, but the existing better ones also get frustrated by bureaucracy/political interference in school affairs, even where facilities exist. However, those many in number of good quality teachers are dwarfed by lot many more lacking due knowledge, skill and even an elementary understanding of the meaning of the word ‘Education’ (as the key word ‘formative’ is important!). Yes, these teachers of questionable abilities, may be capable of making a student pass an exam or even score well by ‘ruttafication’; but they never inspire students to be inquisitive and ask questions!).  And unfortunately, many of such teachers have invaded, or even hijacked most of our premier educational Institutes too, including IITs/IIMs (as perceived by majority of those alums!).

–     But there is another unfortunate side of the story. What about the plight of the para-teachers, probably hundreds of thousands in number, who are probably paid less than the wages guaranteed in NREGA 100-days work scheme! Government or even The Supreme Court probably does not allow these para-teachers to be treated respectfully in terms of their hiring and firing, as they are routinely denied basic Constitutional rights of job-security or equal-work-equal-pay-parity, or that of industrial labors who are entitled to Section 25F or various other provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act. The same plight of para-teachers is repeated in higher education with part time lecturers or ad-hoc lecturers; where Government itself sets the precedence of exploitative employment practices, to be followed further by some of the private players. For an analogy, imagine our defense is managed significantly by armed forces, many of which get same rights and treatment, as those of the para-teachers.

–     Point is: Education, in all its need, is much more important than defense for any nation. Our Constitutional Founders did keep defense a Federal Subject, but education under joint responsibility. Thereby, education has become synonymous of being everybody’s baby as well as nobody’s baby – as is health (one of my faculty colleagues narrated a metaphorical joke, in its crude but simple form, and compared our education policies with that of a central-computer (akin to education) and others using any pen-drive (opinions) to insert files into/copy files from the central computer, drawing analogy with prostitution!). Unfortunately, education and most education-related policies and debates have resulted in such confusions in India.

–     Root cause of the failure lies with the Government as Government, be under lobby pressure or be under capital-constraint, have simply admitted informally that providing quality education (and even healthcare) is not its core responsibilities, and let private sector fill-up the huge gap. This is a process which should have been rolled out over years; probably fifty or even more years, but Government wants to achieve it in couple of decades. A simple-cost benefit analysis would show Government can create thousands of Kendriya Vidalayas where capital costs can be supported by Government whereas operational costs can be recovered from students’ fees, in few hundreds of rupees per month, and thereby offering students a much better quality of education at a lesser cost than what students pay (in thousands of rupees per month) in private ones, and most of the private ones are of questionable quality, where teachers also do not get the same dignity as they receive in Kendriya Vidalayas.

–     Whenever I interact with the so-called metaphorical ‘Aam Admi’, or the common man in the streets, or with the bottom of the pyramid sections of our society; I try and understand socio-economic issues from them. On a trip to New Delhi, the driver of the car was from Rajasthan, who said his wife/kids stay there as he maximizes his opportunity to earn and support the family by being in New Delhi. He also expressed his resolutions to provide best quality education to his school-going kids back in the village in Rajasthan, and he proudly told me that his kids study in English-medium schools. For a moment, I felt tempted in telling him that we all systematically betray his faith, because, I could sense what his kids have probably been receiving in the name of quality English Medium education in private schools; but then refrained. However, as an academician, I could not forgive me and my lot for betraying similar millions of faiths, entrusted to us teachers, and coming from all over India – where parents of cattle-class Indians (comprising BPL or lower-middle class people numbering 95% or more Indians) have been working hard to provide best quality education to their kids, without any quality assurance.

–     At the same time, quality assurances as regulated (or facilitated, as they themselves see more as facilitator and less as regulator!) by AICTE/UGC is nothing but ludicrous. Only one example would suffice. AICTE/UGC/Ministry of HRD thinks Management Education is a Technical Education. Following Einstein’s rule to keep things as simple as possible, but not simpler, to me, a technical education is one where every question can have only one or at most one set of possible answers (stress-test for a bridge as in engineering, pharmacy subjects, etc.). However, by calling management education a ‘Technical Education’, in my humble opinion, is an insult to management education, because fundamentally, there exists no right or wrong answers to management questions. Globally, like economics or sociology, Management Education (dealing with business administrations) has more commonalities with Social Science areas (even in dictionaries, it is shown to be under social science field of study). If my understanding is even partly right, then following Einstein, policy-makers in India simply have not understood the context (or case) based pedagogy of management education. And in case many of them would laugh at my stupid interpretation of management education, let them simply try and define the strategy that Nokia, Samsung and Apple should have in terms of their individual Smartphone product segments, and let that answer be evaluated by others!

–     By focusing more on quantity (enrollment – be it in primary or in higher education – the way AICTE has been approving Institutes at a faster rate than restaurants are being approved following necessary quality control norms by respective agencies, if any!), a big sacrifice on long term quality is made. Fundamentally, I don’t deny that quantity focus is needed. Let’s produce first, and surely some of it would be good quality. Market forces eventually take control of both quantity and quality. However, applying same even to PhDs is never advisable. Today, I know that there are many excellent professionals – be it in corporate world –  or in B-Schools, who do not have a PhD; but whose depth of knowledge in business management areas are much better than most of the PhDs our B-Schools have in their faculty pools. And the quality of subsequent PhDs produced under the guidance of most of those so-called questionable PhDs in the very beginning itself creates a down-ward spiraling eco-system with dangerous negative feedback loop, that would continue to affect our higher educational institutes for significant time in future. Recently against a query of one of my bright graduating MBA student in a social media site, where he also expressed that having Phds in Indian Institutes does not necessarily mean faculty is of better quality; I opined why a PhD is needed; however, also admitting in same response that no-PhD is better than a nonsense PhD (following, ‘something is better than nothing‘ and ‘nothing is better than nonsense’ proverbs).

And, independent India would surely be proud without another existing but unnoticed writing on the wall that a few IITs/IIMs display –  as it was in old colonial days (Dogs and Indians not allowed) – as they follow ‘Indian PhDs not allowed’ as they show their preference of in-bred PhDs or foreign PhDs. I know that most of India’s PhDs, including that coming out of IITs/IIMs are not worthwhile of a PhD; however, having a stupid love for foreign PhDs is equally wrong. Don’t judge the PhD degree, judge the person. A few good PhDs are surely coming out from many of the non-Ivy league Indian Institutes/universities; similarly assuming all PhDs of Harvard or Yale or Oxbridge is of great quality would be a stupid hypothesis. The clear evidence can be seen from present policy-makers in New Delhi, as many of them come from that background! China increasingly respects its own PhDs, and domestic Institutes of higher education; and that’s why they rank much better in global surveys compared to India.

I can probably think of having few PhD students doing their PhD thesis on this topic. Time to end this long article now; however, more on education would follow, specifically in areas of quality of higher education in India.

Prof. Ranjit Goswami works as the Director of School of Management of RK University. Opinion expressed in this article is personal. He invites you to visit his blog, Wondering Man (or take a look at his book, Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d). You are also invited to join him on Twitter. 

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