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Education reforms in India

The Congress came to power with big promises this year (as all governments post all elections), and much to the credit of the academic party that it is, I am proud to say that I see hope for India, believing, rather optimistically, that Kapil Sibal’s proposed education reforms will be implemented.

I must confess that I am an Indian news channels’ addict, despite the trash that they feature and hype, and have followed all day, the vision of Kapil Sibal, India’s HRD minister and a Harvard alumni. My rants on education finally find some relief, at least in acceptance of the fact that our education system is a breeding ground for stress, due to its superficial emphasis on results. The man who led India’s first expedition to the Arctic and represented the country at the Davos economic forum, has now become the harbinger of relief in the Indian student life.

In an NDTV exclusive with Barkha Dutt, Kapil Sibal proposed the following:

  • Scrap the compulsory class 10 board exam, for it is merely a source of unneeded pressure for both students and parents. For a student studying within the same institution, an internal assessment is sufficient to determine the subjects he must pursue further. However, a provision will be made for an optional all-India exam for students entering pre-university / junior college after class 10.
  • Invite FDI in the education sector as India becomes an attractive economy. However, even big names like Harvard and Wharton must adhere to Indian norms, both in terms of fee, and reservations, strategically termed affirmative action by Mr Sibal. The latter is an argument I must reserve for a post which shall be featured soon.
  • Improve the quality and standard of primary education in government schools, which by the Right to Education bill is meant to be free for all.

I am already smiling. When a learned man hits the nail right on its head and promises to bring about change, we know that the future of a nation is in safe hands. I am tempted to forget all the empty assurances ever given to us by our various governments, and watch in pride as our country is steered upon this new path.

This is only the beginning.

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26 Comments Post a comment
  1. They are working on the lines of creating a single board all over …. that is an excellent idea …. because then everyone can be compared correctly ….. Right now , students in different boards tend to score different percentages coz of the marking pattern ….

    June 26, 2009
  2. manchitra #

    I also feel quite happy that the Compulsory Education Bill Will be implemented soon and making the class 10 exam optional will bring lot of relief to students.

    June 26, 2009
  3. I just hope that he gets his way. What worries me is the red tape.

    June 27, 2009
  4. @ Harsh: Yes, in the 12th. I agree it’s a very fair idea and creates an all-India standard.

    @ Manchitra: :) let’s hope the reforms come through.

    @ Amit: The story of our lives. I hope this time will be different!

    June 27, 2009
    • I feel,boards should only be aborted from from class 10th as its a junior class,and don’t need to bare the the pressure at a young age.but it should be definately be compulsary in class 12th and that too within same board.

      August 7, 2009
  5. It is damn good move , they need to make sure that reservation doesn’t come in though :)

    June 27, 2009
  6. Avinash #

    This is for all of you who seem to be overwhelmed with the recent reform frenzy. I would like to apprise you of a few things that you have very conveniently afforded to miss. The revolutionary fervor and the sense of urgency to provoke the academia out of its stupor is indeed admirable. However, instead of a Jacobin 100 day agenda, this calls for a more clear, consistent and systematic approach.

    1. The debate for pedagogy, rote learning, harassment of students and the trauma is long overdue. The trauma and pressure would continue to haunt us students (I admit it!) till the time there is competition for limited resources. The learning resources and infrastructure in this country are limited and so just changing the percentage system to a percentile system wont do much good. Even the proper distribution of quality institutions can only help to a degree. Example: The CAT continues to be the most competitive examination.

    2. The admission criteria for almost all our examinations including those for the IITs, IIMs and the NITs are objective and far from the educators’ discretion. Unlike the GRE or GMAT, judgment or overall opinion dont hold ground here. It is fair for the simple reason of our diversity in terms of demographics, location, language, culture, economic background and work ethos. I fail to understand how a single board can bring any change except by stagnating as a counterfeit centralized body. The system must be based on broad evaluation. But our pillars of trust, fairness and honesty arent so strong yet.

    3. The real source of trauma is that the infrastructure is in shambles. The teaching quality is pathetic. Tell me a guy who would want to become a school teacher in India. The real challenge for making education enjoyable, clean and a profession commanding respect would be to improve quality of all affecting variables. The Higher Education too is in variant moods. 15 years as the Chairman of the UGC and a plea for a 5 year extension, wasnt enough for an old gentleman like Mr. Yashpal to improve its functioning. Now he recommends to scrap the commission. Sensible and efficient regulation is misunderstood with over regulation.

    4. The logic of autonomy, diversity, experimentation and freedom is working against the logic of centralization, standardization and curriculum co-ordination. A bold 100 day hue and cry is just not the answer.

    5. From my personal experience: (I am sure even you have experienced this) The plight of a National Institute of Technology, where I study is stark and shameful. The teaching quality is far below an adjective ‘average’ and probably even lower than ‘poor’. Worse is the case with general schools and private colleges. And this is when the system is regulated. Imagine the corruption, inefficiency, nepotism and opportunity hoarding which would run rampant in a so called free and unregulated system. Every school cant be a DPS; every institute cant be an IIT or IIM; every university cant be a Harvard or Oxford. FDI is welcome. But a dozen new IITs and IIMs is a joke! What is needed is a persistent and coherent vision for reassessing, redefining and reforming the basic process of teaching-learning called education.

    June 28, 2009
  7. Avinash #

    By the way Shivya, you write very well. Not just the rhetoric but I like your presentation of ideas. I must say, I am glad I could find and read you. There is a lot to learn from it.
    Cheers!

    June 28, 2009
  8. @ Avinash: Thanks for the detailed appraisal. I have alternate views on some of the points you make.

    1. Very valid point. It’s true, the trauma will haunt us until we’re competing for limited resources, but given our population, that will continue for a long, long time. What scrapping unnecessarily exams and establishing more ‘quality’ institutions will do is lower this trauma, even if by only a degree. (Of course, the ideal reform is infrastructural, but atleast this is a start).

    2. Again, broad evaluation is ideal, but the very point of a standardized, centralized board is to put all students in India on the same pedestal. It will also be a means to unite all Indian students by their educational standards, despite their diversity, in a country which is unfairly being torn by regional sentiments.

    3. I couldn’t agree more on this point.

    4. What is?

    5. It’s probably a broader education problem than India’s alone. While many private schools in India are doing a decent job, the higher education institutions have a long way to go. I guess I’m just trying to be optimistic about where things are going to go from here.

    Thanks for the encouragement btw :) I am glad you’re reading and commenting too. Hope to see you around The Shooting Star often! Do you blog btw?

    June 29, 2009
  9. Education in India (and elsewhere)

    There has been a lot of discussion lately about the quality of some higher education institutions in India such as the IITs and the IIMs, some of it from the US media. While it is true that some of these graduates have done well in the information technology sector and, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the corporate world, as well as in entrepreneurial activities, the key questions are whether they truly represent value in India’s growth equation, and whether they are truly the product of meritocracy. I would make the following observations:
    1. The biggest public gains from a public welfare standpoint to any society is in primary and secondary, rather than in higher education. Since there are more private gains for every additional year of higher education, this is best left to private capital to manage at market prices. Affordability and access to such higher education institutions should not be an issue as long as tax policy and access to private funding is encouraged (bank loans, etc.) since the key underwriting question will be the net present value of future earnings from such education; the “sheepskin effect”. I would venture to suggest that institutions such as the IITs should be sold to private entreprenuers (and even such institutions such as JNU whose current contribution to public welfare relative to tax spending is questionable) in order to release substantial efficiencies. The AICTE and other regulatory bodies, on the other hand, should be considerably strengthened in order to provide quality-control and oversight over privately funded institutions. Government expenditures in higher education should focus on niche areas relevant to economic growth such as biotechnology or alternative fuels research that may not attract short-term focused private funding, but even here, TATA (as in BP solar) or Suzlon and Biocon should be encouraged to fund their own future requirements in manpower and R&D (tax breaks). Also, fees in IITs should be increased substantially to reflect the true cost of education, mitigated appropriately by scholarships and loans to provide access to less-privileged students.
    2. Although there is a strong myth about the competitive nature of IIT and IIM entrance examinations, and the focus on meritocracy, there is a considerable skew towards prospects from urban, english-language schools. Go to any IIT campus, and you will see that the proportion of students from such schools is much higher than the underlying proportion of such schools in the overall geography of India. My point is not to argue that those schools have an unfair advantage since they offer better educational facilities and preparation for IIT entrance examinations, but to suggest that kids from rural schools or government schools in general have a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the real relevance of IITs and other elite institutions in their future lifetime earnings. When one looks at other publicly funded “institutions of national importance” such as the ISIs (Indian Statistical Institutes) the skew is even more pathological; why is there an overwhelming overrepresentation of Bengalis in the ISIs, is it because they are genetically predisposed to be statistical in their thinking, or is it because the ISI entrance examination notices appear next to tender notices in many national newspapers, and is more heavily advertised in Bengal newspapers? The answer is that fees (and scholarships) need to be raised in these insitutions and specific funds need to be applied to advertising and coaching for students in rural and vernacular schools. Then you will see a real meritocracy, not just meritocracy among the children of the Indian professional elite. Think of the quality of IIT graduates then!
    3. Despite the appearance of academic quality, there is a dearth of good faculty at these institutions and this is primarily due to the lack of pay but also due to the lack of quality control in faculty hiring and promotions. A lot of these issues are due to lack of autonomy and interference from government agencies, and the fact that the existing faculty and administrative bureaucracies at these institutions haave taken shelter under the pretense of lack of autonomy to subsidise large-scale inefficiencies. The lack of merit in teaching and research related income streams clearly will have downstream effects on the quality of graduates coming out of these institutions. These facts are often hidden from the taxpayers who fund these institutions, creating a classic “moral hazard” from a public welfare standpoint. The central universities, in particular, where an increasing share of taxpayer funding is diverted, are places where this kind of pathology is rampant — JNU, Jamia, AMU, Pondicherry are all excellent (!) examples.
    4. When it comes to primary and secondary education, there needs to be a sea-change in taxpayer funding, focussing large funds on rural schools, in teaching as well as in infrastructure, but also in the local control of these fund expenditures. Give local taxpayers control over schools and their governing bodies and you will see better visibility in their functioning.
    One little known fact is the skew in public tax-based funding of Kendriya Vidyalayas, which subsidise inefficiencies and restrict access to these “better” schools through the tariff barriers of admission criteria. Let me explain this tax scandal which has been going on in India for the past half-century, which neither our media, nor tax-paying citizens have chose to make visible. Kendriya Vidyalayas are, like many other publicly funded institutions, primarily paid for by corporations and private-sector employees. However, the children of private-sector employees in effect have almost no access to these schools, who have a stated policy of discriminating in favor of government and public-sector employees as well as defence personnel. Why hasn’t someone moved the courts against such an obvious flouting of equal treatment constitutional principles? Again, taxpayers in private-sector jobs probably have written this off as yet another cess and in any case have access to other private-sector primary/secondary education options, but what about access and scholarships for children of day laborers in the unorganized sector???
    Perhaps the left leaning ideologues at JNU would wish to comment on this dictatorship of the proletariat! Why are there so many of these Vidyalayas in urban areas or in public industrial towns or in district headquarters towns rather than in far-flung rural areas?
    Enough said.
    By the way, educational access and skewness against the underprivileged is not just an Indian problem. Just see how asymmetries and inequalities are reinforced in other educational models; in the UK, how many Oxford and Cambridge graduates come from working Cockney families in relation to their proportion in the population? In the US, how are Harvard and Stanford admissions criteria different for children of alumni and donors, as opposed to the general population?
    India has a tremendous focus on education (I have benefitted) but I would argue much of it is familial and societal culture; the specific question to honestly answer is how much the government has done to unleash productive human potential through illiteracy eradication. How much of India’s education policies are simply a function of the need to provide quality education enclaves for the children of bureaucrats, the successors of the British collectors? Are we democratic in our education policies? Think about this the next time you vote.

    July 6, 2009
  10. Shyamal Ganguly #

    The idea of one single curriculum for India is disgusting. why not try to make all indians robots, cramming the books, passing exams to get a job for the purpose of making a subsistence living in the service of the Government (1.5%) of the population and the tycoons.
    I believe that in the interest of the free market economy – government should stay out of dictating education standards across India. The states and local government and the municipal government and ultimately the parents will chose without being dictated from the top. There are lots of Educated Derelicts who have no common sense when compared to street people of Kolkata and Mumbai. Colleges are the hotbed of Student Politics spawning Educated Unemployable people.

    Here is a quote:
    Shut down HRD ministry! SAUVIK CHAKRAVERTI is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and former senior assistant editor of The Economic Times. Currently Chakraverti is the convenor of the Liberal Study Group, Mangalore. · Shut down the union HRD (human resource destruction) ministry. The ministry is manned by propagandists of a failed experiment in state socialism. It has ensured there are no genuine knowledge workers in the entire education system, except bureaucrats. Its supervision of schools, colleges and universities should be revoked. · Dismantle all licensing requirements for education institutions. The education sector urgently needs to be set free. This will facilitate entry of competing private firms offering short courses that equip young people for vocations or professions, be it plumbing or baking into the education sector. The three R’s can also be easily taught, especially using computers. · Free the student community. In schools, colleges, universities and B-schools across the country students receive state-sponsored ‘education’. Such education churns out limited types of economic actors: bureaucrats, managers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers. In the emerging free market economy, young people will find profitable niches as DJs, VJs, even tattoo artists. The burden of formal education — especially state-sponsored education — is inimical to creativity and intellectual freedom. · Revoke higher education subsidies. Higher education is a privilege, not a right. Those who actually produce knowledge should be free to work, teach and sustain their respective schools of thought. Every such school should sustain itself on its own resources as it would be fatal to academic freedom to expect or receive subsidies from the state.

    I wholeheartedly support Sauvik. Get the Government Bureaucrats out of education and let the free market decide.
    Shyamal Ganguly

    July 14, 2009
  11. ! Nice site
    Keep posting, and mate thanks.
    there is nothing in the world I enjoy more than learning. In fact, i’d rather be learning now!

    July 17, 2009
  12. Dhawan #

    I would not like to comment on what has been said above but would like you to look into the existing scenario in Primary classes in the country. Would like you to see the following statistics in one of the progressive state.Total enrollment in primary(govt schools) in 2004 is 567734 which has come down to 492402 in 2007 while in other management schools it came down from670807 to 659579. Number of teachers in pre and u primary is 44272(2004) and 49364(2007) PTR comes to 17. No. of primary Schools 10414(2004) 10682(2007). Now have look at the infra structure Schools with one room only 616; with 2 rooms 3744;3 rooms 3603 and above three 2719
    Above it has been said that 10th class examination causes trauma. The real cause of this trauma is the infrastructure and available number of teachers at base level. It is primary class which will set the pace for learning. PTR may be1:17 in statistical terms but the ground realty is that there is one teacher to teach all the classes at least in616 schools. In3744 schools there are two teachers for all the four classes. What do expect the teachers to do in such a chaotic situation and what will be the performance of the students when the go to high school. You remove the examination in toto or partially or what so ever the HRD deems fit the students will feel the trauma in not at 10th at 12th class examination. This might seem a laudable to those who have studied in city schools and are not acquainted with the reality but having seen the whole education scenario from very close quarters I can visualize the damage this proposal can bring about.
    I agree with one comment about Prof. Yash Pal . He wants other people to clean the mess which he as well as his successors/ predecessors created in UGC. Some of the suggestions given in his report are straight from the earlier reports on education. And there is nothing new in it . It seems that as he could not find place in Knowledge commission he was asked to suggest some thing on higher education to keep him busy.
    If our HRD minister is really concerned with bringing some meaningful changes he should go through all the earlier reports and START IMPLEMENTING the recommendations one by one with all honesty.

    July 20, 2009
  13. Dhawan #

    I would not like to comment on what has been said above but would like you to look into the existing scenario in Primary classes in the country. Would like you to see the following statistics in one of the progressive states.Total enrollment in primary(govt schools) in 2004 is 567734 which has come down to 492402 in 2007 while in other management schools it came down from670807 to 659579. Number of teachers in pre and u primary is 44272(2004) and 49364(2007) PTR comes to 17. No. of primary Schools 10414(2004) 10682(2007). Now have look at the infra structure Schools with one room only 616; with 2 rooms 3744;3 rooms 3603 and above three 2719
    Above it has been said that 10th class examination causes trauma. The real cause of this trauma is the infrastructure and available number of teachers at base level. It is primary class which will set the pace for learning. PTR may be1:17 in statistical terms but the ground realty is that there is one teacher to teach all the classes at least in616 schools. In3744 schools there are two teachers for all the four classes. What do expect the teachers to do in such a chaotic situation and what will be the performance of the students when they go to high school. You remove the examination in toto or partially or what so ever the HRD deems fit the students will feel the trauma if not at 10th at 12th class examination. This might seem a laudable to those who have studied in city schools and are not acquainted with the reality but having seen the whole education scenario from very close quarters I can visualize the damage this proposal can bring about.
    I agree with one comment about Prof. Yash Pal . He wants other people to clean the mess which he as well as his successors/ predecessors created in UGC. Some of the suggestions given in his report are straight from the earlier reports on education. And there is nothing new in it . It seems that as he could not find place in Knowledge commission he was asked to suggest some thing on higher education to keep him busy.
    If our HRD minister is really concerned with bringing some meaningful changes he should go through all the earlier reports and START IMPLEMENTING the recommendations one by one with all honesty.

    July 20, 2009
  14. rajneesh #

    very very good
    all frnds have specially avinash has shown truth

    May 1, 2010
  15. sudheesh cahndran #

    the comments should end up with the special considerations to rural as well as the peoples below poverty line and not focussing their caste or religions

    October 25, 2010
  16. sudheesh chandran #

    the indian educational system must focuss on to the needy and pupils of lower economic status,with good kind of knowledge

    October 25, 2010
  17. Abhay #

    Hi there!
    Well I have been reading all the above statements, it left me in complete shock. Well
    first I would say that Sibal sahab is going pretty well. At least he have shown courage to get right of free education pass from the parliament which was lying form past 15 years un heard that is his first achievement to train and educate those 800 million people which is still not in middle class status not only in Kolkata or Mumbai but in India.
    Second: India have 35 states with 43 boards, which further have 43 regulatory body in other way we can say that on broth is cooked by 43 chefs ( sounds good in a). Eradicating all and have one is indeed a good idea. It is easy to handle one girl then 43 simultaneously.
    Third: In reference to the recent article published in the telegraph dated 20th October which made Sibal sahab a legend when he stated that “no text book learning and reproducing it in the answer sheet that should be stoped. What is important is that we should develop personality, creativity and critical thinking, but how to do that I am still waiting for it because i know about the importance of it.

    October 26, 2010
  18. prahlad #

    hello rajnandani

    MTECH COMPUTER

    August 11, 2011
  19. Yes Indian Education needs a reform.

    March 3, 2012
  20. Education reforms should be the top priority!!.

    December 19, 2012

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