Saturday, October 16, 2010

Obama at it again.

Education arms race with India and China! That’s the latest verbal gymnastic by the President of the USA.

Ever since he settled comfortably/uncomfortably in his official chair in the Oval office, Obama has been harping on the threat posed to America’s future by ‘those’ Indians and Chinese. This othering of this particular group with its ubiquitous presence in the USA which has been reeling under recession, is a dangerous trend. Obama’s first outburst in December 2009 coincided with the beginning of assaults on Indian students in Australia. This had caused many a moment of anxiety to Indians who had someone close to them studying in the USA. Obama’s repeat performances make us suspect that he is trying to unite a racially divided country – create a dangerous nationalism - by whipping up a sort of xenophobia. The strategy of creating a Barbarians (substitute Indians and Chinese) - are -coming type of scare among American youth in order to motivate the latter to go to school could trigger off the revival of the dot buster phenomenon.

Guess the president is hardly concerned about such insignificant issues, but his indiscretion causes fear in parents for the safety of their children slogging it out in the universities of the USA, or pursuing careers there.

Yesterday’s newspaper carried reports of Australian government’s anxiety that there is likely to be a reduction of 80% students from India this year. The huge financial loss is a matter of serious concern for them.

When is India going to wake up to the reality of the shameful lacuna in the field of higher education in the country? There is no shortage of brilliance here. The basic infrastructure for education is well in place. It is in the field of research that we are shamefully behind even many Third world countries. It is the quest for excellence in this field that drains our country of aspiring students and professionals. It is not just a brain drain. It is a gigantic economic drain too.

Now that the Bill for the introduction of foreign universities has been tabled in the Indian Parliament, universities like Virginia Tech, Georgia Institute of technology, Lancaster University have already commenced talks on the setting up of campuses in India which will follow the same system as in their countries, and will award UK/US Degrees. The government should expedite matters to enable not only the setting up of these universities, but also their smooth functioning. The Education Minister should stand by his promise of creating a customised regulatory framework separate from that of the existing state aided Universities. A sort of SEZ should be created in order to keep them free from the reservation policies, unionism and the bureaucratic controls that give rise to frustrating delays, and corruption.

India should set up her own research centres of excellence too, and ensure smooth functioning without government interference, trade unions meddling, campus politics and corruption.

Centres of excellence in research are already there in plenty. Collaborative and twinning systems are already functioning smoothly. But these are a mere drop in the ocean of the burgeoning aspiration of the twenty first century India gearing itself to take on the world in this Knowledge era. The State should participate in this effort to set up these centres of excellence in research. With the foreign players on its soil, we can rise to meet the new competition as also be a competitor who gives them a real tough run for their money.

We know the government can find money to invest in tertiary education and research Centres, if it has the political will. The helium balloon of the commonwealth opening ceremony can vouch for it.

It should also give incentives to corporates to establish academic research centres.

Let us, for goodness sake do everything we can to give our aspiring youngsters the facility they so badly require. We most certainly have the resources.

What ARE we waiting for? We don’t have all the time in the world!


  1. Hi mam .i like the way you write.yes everyday is an insecure day for Indian employees too in countries like the usa.I hope one fine day we have universities from Uk and usa set up and working. views and your visions turns out true.

  2. Talking much about higher education we forget the abysmal state of the primary education in this country.

  3. We have a confusing array of problems.There are many fields where competence should be the only criteria.Education is the first of them.Ours is a funny system.One can easily buy admission to Medical and Engineering colleges.If you are SC or ST,you can apply for a job even at the age of 40 years! One needs only the minimum marks for admission to any of those reserved seats.

    Half the teachers of Medical Colleges are SC or ST. When the best of teachers wait for ten years to get promoted as Asst.Prof, the reservation category have direct recruitments!And what kind of teachers do we make in the process? What quality of education do we expect?

    My only doubt is whether Harvard or Yale universities will offer reservation seats when they come to India.

  4. @ raji
    thanks for dropping in. nice get a response straight form an nri.

    @anil kurup

    true, but if we wait to improve primary edcn before tackling higher edcn, we'll have to wait till the end of this century.

    doesn't our dismal primary edcn system throw up tens of thousands of competent professionals?
    after all we have to start somewhere. what if it is from the top of the pyramid?

    @ dr antony

    as per the bill, reservations do not apply. the foreign universities, however, have asserted their social commitment to extend the facility to the underprivilgd - but they'll do it their way.

    all sound so idyllic. how i hope the dream comes true!

  5. Mam, the competent professionals you mentioned are from the comparatively better economic back drop like you and I.
    Look around where three quarter of the children study, in government schools, pathetic and fearsome are the standards and the conditions of the schools and education!
    I'm not saying let the top end education wait. But when we ignore the basics for most of the population what is the use in churning out a few IIT class?The disparity and dichotomy will be soon glaring.
    It is like producing and sending on the road a million and more automobiles without efficient and proper roads for the automobiles to ply. Don't you think so?

  6. I can accept underprivileged,but not incompetent.Our education is being looked down up on,because of the reservation system.


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