Posts Tagged ‘education’

Globalisation and Indian universities (2008)

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on December 1st, 2008 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

The Tribune, Chandigarh,4 March 2008

Rajesh Kochhar

GLOBALISATION has accentuated the divide between ‘Lower India’ and ‘Upper India’, with all benefits of liberalised economy falling in the lap of the latter. Now, employment patterns have changed drastically. Almost all lucrative jobs with hefty pay packages are being offered by those companies that serve Western economies.

Today, young men and women are not opting for science-related government jobs because of low salaries. No matter what the government pays the global market will pay more. The children of ‘Upper India’ may not opt for a career in science because the material comforts they have enjoyed so far, the social aspirations they have built for themselves, the consumptive lifestyle they aspire for-all disqualify them for a nation-building career.

A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) functionary has recently said that many serving scientists are leaving the organisation to go abroad or take up jobs in the private sector. This has created a serious human resource crunch. As a result, many vital projects are suffering. The question is: who will then join the DRDO or other government organisations? Maybe only those who still think a government job will be a big step up the social ladder.

Unfortunately, globalisation has given India a pretext for abdicating its responsibility in the vital education sector. Funds-starved state universities have become coaching centres for ‘Multiplex India’. The recent example is Panjab University, Chandigarh, which announced that it would soon start an integrated BE/MBA course to meet the requirements of the global market and to rake in some desperately needed cash.

During the 1960s and 1970s, it was customary for the cinema hall management in Chandigarh to allot a number of tickets for the shows of a new release to their lower staff, so that they could sell them in black and make some money. A similar phenomenon prevailed in sate universities which sold part of their NRI quota in the domestic market. Though the practice has since been discontinued on court orders, the universities’ quest for cash continues.

Paradoxically, while the youth at large are complaining that they are not getting jobs, employers have a grouse that they are not getting suitable candidates. Obviously, our education system is at fault. The world economy today is far more dependent on science and technology than ever before. However, the cost of manpower training has gone up. As a result, technical education has largely become bookish.

Automobile and pharmaceutical are the two sectors in the country that require well-trained manpower in large numbers. Even in the software-driven services sector, there is need to train people at various levels. In the absence of proper training at the low and middle levels, many candidates, attracted by good salaries, are seeking employment beneath their intellect and training. This underemployment does not seem to have raised the concerns it should have.

There is need to bring in more intellectual people into the educational fold, for which funds should be raised and utilised keeping in mind national interests. University should create a corpus of Rs 500 crore or more and invest in government securities. Only the interest earned thereon should be expended. There would be need to work out a detailed plan in consultation with financial experts. To raise the funds, NRIs, religious institutions, industrialists and renowned artists of the region can be approached.

Universities should be sufficiently well endowed, so that these can think of the next generation rather than the next fiscal year. 

 

Panjab University at crossroads (2008)

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on December 1st, 2008 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

The Tribune Chandigarh (Education) 26 August 20

 

Panjab University at crossroads


Rajesh Kochhar 

 
THE status of Panjab University is being animatedly discussed in official correspondences and newspaper columns. The debate reminds one of the 19th-century European fetishes for classification. First rigid categories were created and then realities were twisted out of shape to somehow fit into them.
It has been Panjab University’s luck to be governed by a legislation drawn up in haste. When the university was set up in 1947, the conditions were far from normal. The regulations of Panjab University, Lahore, which were based on the Indian Universities Act 1904, were simply copied and validated. Similarly, when the Punjab was divided, there arose a host of major problems that needed to be addressed. Panjab University was not one of them. Once again the extant regulations were revalidated with minimum possible tinkering—Vice-President as Chancellor in place of the state Governor.
The most important feature of the university is that it caters to the region as a whole. When young men and women, drawn from different cultural and social backgrounds, study together in a congenial atmosphere, their mindset becomes healthy and outlook broad, which in turn fashion their decisions and conduct when they later occupy the positions of responsibility. It should, however, be borne in mind that historically the university is older than its present campus. This important fact can be easily grasped from an examination of the terminology. The university has a post of Dean of University Instruction (DUI). The term was coined with reference to the pre-existing government post of Director of Public Instruction (DPI) who was assigned the task of looking after the colleges. The university instruction was thus seen as complementary to collegiate instruction. In fact, in the early years, the Vice-Chancellor himself doubled as DUI.
While conducting a debate, vocabulary should be chosen carefully. Sometimes, the use of terms that carry fixed connotations leads to unnecessary posturing. When we discuss the status of Panjab University, we must always keep in mind that there are two distinct issues involved: the basic character of the university and its finances. The basic character of the university is that of a state university because that is what it was when it was established. The affiliated colleges located in Punjab and Chandigarh look up to the University for the conduct of examinations, oversight, guidance and academic control. This arrangement has worked well so far. There is no pressing need to change it.
Globalisation has ushered in an era of knowledge economy. The job market today is far more demanding than ever before. At the same time, the cost of imparting skills has gone up because of technological advancements the world over. If the universities run by the government are forced to generate their own resources, they can do so only by catering to children whose parents are already well off and by offering only bookish courses. The universities may be tempted to lower their standards to draw in more students. They will be forced to bow to the fashions of the day and pander to the demands of the market rather than meet the requirements of the state. On the other hand, if the state is concerned about ensuring equitable development and meeting the nation’s manpower needs in industrial and government sectors , it must endow its universities sufficiently well, so that they can take a long-term view and plan accordingly.
Today, what Panjab University needs immediately is reworking of its financial arrangements. A high-powered committee should be appointed to apportion afresh the share of the Punjab government and the Cente. If the latter offers to foot the entire bill, the offer should be examined in depth. There can be no doubt that the university needs to be financially secured, so that it can worry about the next generation rather than the next fiscal year.

Is studying science history? ( 2008)

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on November 29th, 2008 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Hindustan Times New Delhi (Off track) 15 May 2008

 

Is studying science history?

 

Rajesh Kochhar

At the Indian Science Congress in Visakhapatnam in January, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rightly proposed that 2008 be made the year of revitalisation of science education in the country. The decline of science in India is sad because at one time we were at the forefront of scientific enterprise. The quality of teachers was extremely good. After the Indian Civil Service (ICS), teaching was seen as the best option. C.V. Raman actually left the ICS to become a professor.

In the Nehruvian phase and later, there was tremendous excitement about science, technology and engineering. Science in India during this period fitted in with the nation’s desire to harness science for economic development and as an instrument of national prestige. Paradoxically, while globalisation has been made possible by major developments in science and technology elsewhere, science has lost ground in India.

There are two reasons for this: globalisation has transformed the nature of India’s economic growth and it has provided the middle-class with a pretext to decouple itself from the rest of the country. Throughout the world, science is a middle-class activity. But liberalisation has introduced the Indian middle-class to a consumerist lifestyle, which a science career here cannot support. If they want to pursue science, they go to the US. As it is, India does not offer much of an opportunity to conduct world-class science research.

A major reason for the decline in Indian science research and scholarship is that the catchment area of education has stopped expanding. That’s why the education system must bring under its fold the children of illiterate parents. India’s high-growth rate is being driven by the services sector. The West is outsourcing petty jobs to us; in return, we are outsourcing scholars to the West. If the Indian economy doesn’t need science, there can’t be much of a future for science in India.

It is not possible to sustain science as a purely cultural activity over an extended period of time. The purpose of science is to create wealth and the purpose of this wealth is to support science. Unless such a symbiotic relationship is be established, both science and society will suffer.

Rajesh Kochhar is former Director, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies.