Monday, November 27, 2006

India Tanking Part 2: The Education Chronicles

Did you know that India is one of those ‘rare’ (we Indians love this word) countries where our ability to get a job diminishes by the degree we get?

A primer on the state of higher education gives us some priceless nuggets of data :

- College graduates suffer from higher unemployment rates - 17 percent in the 2001 census - than high school graduates.

- A Mckinsey report says that only 10 percent of Indian graduates with generalist degrees were considered employable by MNCs, compared with 25 percent of engineers.

- There is vast gulf between the education quality of elite colleges and all others. Parents will attest that not getting into one of India's most elite educational institutions can be a crime. While MNCs and other big firms take the crème for 6 figure salaries, rest of us have to struggle to make ends meet. It doesn’t help that major institutions like the IITs and IIMs also take heavy government funding. Critics say our government is funding the talent for MNCs.

- The Elite institutions teach leadership and communication skills, which is not done at most other places. They also give students better exposure – meeting prominent people, lectures from experts and so on. At most, the local goon/politician will speak at your regular college. Elite colleges get their students to read books, find clubs, go backpacking, stage plays, make a movie and stuff. More on books, later.


- 50% of all Indian college students are taught in non- English languages, which bars these students from the high-end labor market, unless they have paid extra for English and Soft-skills classes.

- We don’t teach our students the ability to solve complex problems, to negotiate and to look for creative solutions.

- Most of our teaching stock lack world-class pedagogical training. Our teachers want us to meek and obedient. They want us to be parrots. They don’t want us to discuss things, to debate stuff. They want us to be good at learning things by rote.

They go by Peter Drucker’s maxim: The ass is the biggest organ of learning. The more you sit, the more you learn.

- Did you know that curricula at most of our colleges haven’t changed since Nehruvian times? If someone says, ‘Nehru, who?’, I don’t blame you. We have 24 hour call centers (and those damn Call Center Cabs), Infosys and what not, but we don’t have a liberal, evolved curricula yet.

- Most of the higher education institutions have funding crunches. Nehru’s socialist legacy is hurting our education. Many colleges are also bankrupt because they can’t charge students higher tuition fees. Libraries are neglected. Compare the photographs of MIT’s library and a regular Indian College library, and see what I mean. In Delhi, students will eat at MacDonald’s and spend on parties; students are so spoilt that they won’t move without their bus passes. Well, that’s another aspect of our education – no one teaches accountability and responsibility here.

- We still believe in big government. We will only allow private education institutions if they are (1) funded by a politician, (2) Pay the babus on the side.

No wonder, Television has become a big teacher. It teaches us how to speak English; it is our only source of literature; it is our Emily Post; it is our college, our escape.

[Declaration: The writer comes from one of the ‘non-elite’ colleges.]

The India Tanking Series Part 1: What's wrong with our economy?

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