Author Archives: Ravi Lochan Singh

“A SCHOOLMASTER’S MEMOIRS” exposes the malaise with India’s elite schools candidly… challenges the practise of hanging on to rotten traditions, allowing bullying and commercialised new-age schools…

My blog deals with education and this is the very first time that I am discussing a book – “With a Little Help from my Friends”. Published by Rupa Publications, this is more of a personal blog of Mr Dev Lahiri. Because of it being an insider’s account, it adds greater credence to what I have been discussing in my posts over the years.


Mr Lahiri, a Rhodes Scholar, has served at prestigious schools such as The Doon School, Lawrence School – Lovedale, Welham Boys School and The Heritage School-Kolkata. At Doon, he was a Housemaster while at the other schools he was the Head of the institution as a Headmaster or Principal.

In this book he has detailed, in well-sectioned chapters, the experiences that he had at each of the institutions and while doing that, has held out a mirror at the internal functioning of the Indian Educational Institutions. This includes the management of the schools, conduct of students, expectations of parents and also the various government departments.

I can’t go on referring to the author as “Mr Lahiri”.

To me, he is and will remain “Sir”. I have particularly enjoyed the book as have observed him fairly closely in parts of his experience and this book actually fills in the gap in my observation of him as a head of an institution. I know several individuals mentioned in the book and that has engaged me further. However, parts of the book have shocked me too.

Sir commenced his teaching career at The Doon School while I was a student there. My memories of him are that of a cross-country and long distance runner, a history master and observing his passion for dogs. Though he never taught me but since my residential house (Hyderabad) faced the main field, I would watch him exercising his dog “Bagheera” there. He would throw a “chalta” (I believe it is called elephant apple…) and the dog would run out to fetch it. Years after my schooling, I  interacted with Sir when my children were studying at The Heritage School in Kolkata and thereafter visited him when he had moved to Welhams in Dehradun, where my nephew went on to study. Thus, the chapters that describe his experiences at the three schools are very interesting insights at schools that I have known from close quarters. However, the highlight of the book is his experience with Lawrence School as that is where he seems to have made maximum impact and that is where he seems to have suffered most too.

This book is a must read for anyone associated with school education in India.

In one of my earlier blog (from 2012) on bullying, I quoted an article by Sir and this book goes further in illustrating how schools take far too long to act on instances of bullying. I find this very troublesome. Bullying, in schools, is far worse than ragging in colleges and it continues without attracting attention of external authorities. I am still waiting for a time when a parent of an affected child will take any of the residential or private schools to the authorities as I understand, the recently enacted act against ragging can be applied even to the school incidents. Sir refers to the practice of “piza” (a junior student nominated as a personal slave) of senior students at one school and this rang a bell to me as I had heard a recently graduated student of a reputed school brag about his “personal assistant” at school who would do his errands. It may not have been exactly like the “piza” described in the book but I have a feeling that far serious instances of bullying continue in some schools. I also wonder as to how parents of such so-called “pizas” don’t take action against the schools and the erring students? Come on, go to the police and file a case… That is all that is required.

There are other negative aspects pertaining to the Indian Education System that has been elaborated upon. Such as the practice of teachers ignoring regular classes in favour of tuitions offered by them outside of the classroom. This was one aspect that surprised me. I knew that the salaries paid to teachers in private schools are often not commiserate to the fees charged to students, but the fact that even such reputed schools, that are in so-called “Top 10” in India, encourage a system where the teachers have to supplement their income through tuitions, was unknown to me.

I will let you read the book, to understand the context for the following quote…

“Headmaster, tuition is quite akin to prostitution. Whosoever, feels their wares are better, will naturally charge more!”

A fairly direct description of tuitions imparted by schoolteachers. The individual who has been attributed the above is also well known and respected schoolmaster of mine and I am yet to figure out if this is an argument in favour of practice of tuitions or against it!

Shortage of quality school teachers, influence of drugs on students and involvement of external elements are detailed by Sir in his “personal blog / memoirs”.

Go ahead and take a good read of this page-turner especially if you are associated with any aspect of Indian Education. It can help you reflect on certain practices taking place in the name of tradition and may work at an overall improvement for the future generation. This is one book that has not hesitated in taking names to detail the experience and thus, this makes the book an even more, powerful read.

Footnote (Message for Mr Lahiri):

Sir, even I have had a pet in college days and had named her Bo. My room-mate (Gaurav Saklani) had suggested the name (Bo as in Bo Derek) and for the same reason as you have stated. I get a feeling that he possibly took the idea from you.

And Sir, your ability to rise against all odds especially the ones that have related to your health is an inspiration… Didn’t focus on that aspect in my post above since my blogs primarily deals with education…


Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Uncategorized



Overseas Education is one of the best investments in terms of time and money for any student. It is not just the academic qualification but also the exposure that aides the future career of an individual. However, Indian Government’s Ministry of HRD and its nominated body, AIU (Association of Indian Universities) have detailed guidelines on what it regards as valid in India for further education or employment purposes.

AIU has issued its AIU updated norms 2015 on equivalence of Foreign qualifications for the purposes of further education and certain employment and this means that the students do need to be aware of the risks of undertaking certain degrees even if the studies are at reputed institutions and fully accredited in the country where it is being delivered.

The 2015 updated regulations is an improvement on the earlier guidelines but continues to fall short on several areas. One improvement is the acceptance of credit transfers and the fact that a degree can be attained through carrying credits from one University to another.

In a nutshell…

  • if the “University” is recognized in the country where it is located, then it is deemed acceptable and recognized in India.
  • if the “degree” from such an “University” and taking up the duration of UGC regulated Indian degrees, this appears fine.
  • if the “degree” from such an “University” is attained by carrying credits from studies undertaken another “University” and taking up a duration of similar UGC regulated degree, this too appears fine as per the AIU and stands recognized as equal to similar degree in India.

then what bothers me still…

  • if the “degree” is attained at an ”University” but has been fast-tracked to complete in significantly lesser duration or through studies undertaken over holidays, this may not be considered as a valid degree and will thus not be given equivalence. India will look at the duration of the studies to grant the equivalence.
    • This affects a number of quality institutions that operate in trimester format allowing a three year degree to be attained by studying for two calendar year. Similarly a four year degree can be completed in three year. A two year Masters can thus be completed in in about 1.5 years.
    • Such institutions are in Australia, UK, USA and possibly in several other countries.
  • if the “degree” is attained in a country (such as UK) where Masters are for one year duration, they may not be considered as equal or valid in India.
    • I have been lobbying for acceptance of the UK One Year Masters in India since 2012.
    • It is not just UK but several Masters in other destinations too that are for duration less than 2 years. Such as France, New Zealand and even a few in US and Australia. Possibly even Canada.
  • If the “degree” is attained at an “University” but is attained through a package comprising of a diploma at a pathway provider followed by shortened study at the University, AIU in its updated 2015 guidelines has indicated specifically that it will not be considered as recognized degree.

Pertaining to this last point (recognition of degrees undertaken through a pathway or packaged with a diploma), Universities Australia and Australian Minister for Education engaged with the Indian counterpart in recent months and Universities Australia in its media release indicated last month that…

Speaking at the third meeting of the Australia-India Ministerial Dialogue on Education Cooperation in India, Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said: “It is clear that both countries see education and research as a core component of the strategic partnership and are committed to making progress on a number of key initiatives.

“Particularly, the announcement by the Indian Minister of Human Resource Development, the Hon Smriti Zubin Irani, that the Government will give recognition to pathway/foundation courses is great news for both countries.

“Once Minister Irani’s announcement is implemented, Indian students studying in Australia in pathway programs will have access to the Indian public service and further study at an Indian institution.”

  • However, I am of an opinion that there is a mis-understanding somewhere. As per the available information, it seems that while India has been keenly developing an understanding on allowing credit-transfers between recognized Universities, there is very little understanding on giving credits for studies undertaken at vocational diplomas and pathways. I also feel that it is possible that the Indian minister may have only given assurances pertaining to accepting qualifications where studies have been undertaken through a package where all the institutions in the package are “recognized degree granting Universities”.

AIU in its just released 2015 document and on AIU updated norms 2015 state unambiguously that…

As of now, the AIU does NOT accord Equivalence to such degrees offered by the foreign universities where students are admitted through pathway/diploma level institutions

  • This affects almost half of the Indian students studying in Australia and if they choose to return to India after their studies, they will not be able to even undertake a Master degree. Forget employment in public/government sector or avenues in academia.
  • This also affects a small number of Indian students in UK, USA and Canada. A number of Universities in these countries accept students from the community colleges and other such diploma pathways.

India’s Ministry of HRD and AIU is within its role to grant equivalence to Foreign qualifications and while we can have qualms with some of the decisions, as an adviser to students seeking foreign travel and studies, I would like to issue the following precautionary warning:

  • Always consider the validity of the qualification in the Indian context prior to undertaking the qualification.
    • A student in Year 12 enrolled in a packaged diploma-degree overseas may not be planning to undertake the Masters in India but they never know the situation in future. Post Study Work and settlement regulations are always changing and it is possible that they have to return to India after the Bachelors and it is also possible that they may decide to undertake the Masters in India. Thus the ability to be able to undertake further studies and employment in India is important.
    • Similarly in the AIU guidelines, there is a reference to the requirement of the qualification earned overseas to be of the duration of such a qualification in India. Thus a Bachelor degree should be for minimum of 3 years, Engineering degree must be for 4 years (unlike what is offered in England) and Masters should be for 2 years.
    • If a degree is being attained by carrying credits for studies undertaken at another institutions, all the involved institutions should be recognized “Universities”.

While I am issuing this precautionary warning, I am listing a few more cautionary points regarding certain specific occupations:

  • Medical Degrees: My advise to all students desiring to become a doctor and practise in India is that they should preferably study the MBBS in India itself. It is a professional requirement to be able to practise as a Doctor in India. The degree has to be recognised by MCI. If the degree is attained overseas (such as in China) be fully aware that the returning degree holder will have to clear a screening test in India which is very difficult to clear and thus the student does not become a doctor at all. There are reports of such “China returned and Russia returned” doctors protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. I strongly advise against wasting your time and resources on such qualifications.
  • Law Degrees: My advise to all students desiring to become lawyers and practise in India is that they should ensure that the college of their preference overseas is listed amongst the acceptable law degrees by Bar Council of India. This information is on their website.
  • Architecture Degrees: Similar to the advise given to the Law students, the Architecture degree holders should preferably undertake the qualification only from one of the institutions listed as acceptable by the professional body in India.

Following the AIU Updated guidelines, there is a need for Educational Institutions to pre-warn the students and not hide facts solely due to commercial considerations. Most Universities have active marketing and recruitment operations in India and they do undertake advertising and participation in events to educate the students on the offerings at their institutions.

  • The Australian (and others too) institutions offering pathway programs, vocational diploma programs and packaged with Universities degrees SHOULD CONSIDER advising the students prior to their commencement of the program that while the final degree may be recognized in the country where it is awarded, it will not be recognized in India. If the student chooses to study with them despite this disclaimer(and they may actually), this is fine.
  • The British Council and UK providers actively recruiting students across India for the UK Masters and often referring to the qualification as globally recognized SHOULD CONSIDER pre-warning the students that while the degree saves them money and time, they continue to be un-equal in India. The bridge program that was proposed earlier too has not taken off in reality.

Without the above disclaimers, I do fear that commercial considerations is clouding the ethical judgment and honesty. The student will be within their right to question the role of the institutions in setting up offices in India and undertaking active recruitment for qualifications that are not valid in India at all.



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Australia to dump SVP in favour of SSVF (Simplified Student Visa Framework): Old wine in New bottle with Higher Price-tag…

I have been critical of the SVP process for years and have been blogging on the areas of concern.

Thus, when the process of review of the SVP was being conducted, I was exactly apprehensive of what has been announced now… One may go through the various documents and press releases that are now available and the FAQs (Link 1) (Link 2) and then form their own opinion… My short and summary thoughts of this day are…

The following seems to be the way the new system (from mid 2016) will function once the SVP has been dumped:


Thus can I summarise that the processing is indeed going to be going back to the pre-SVP era atleast for the Indian Sub-continent. India, Nepal, Bangladesh… are likely to remain under “Higher Evidentiary Requirement” irrespective of the risk rating of the education providers. (Like AL3 currently). Thus for these students financial and english requirement will be required by DIBP (Like AL3 currently). However the one interesting added element is that the Universities will need to still consider the ambiguous GTE criteria (unlike the current non-SVP system). Therefore in a one line, there will be no SVP but the stricter requirements including GTE will apply to all (more than current non-SVP). The Student Visa Framework has been simplified without streamlining and with added GTE. Expect the visa process to slow down once it is implemented and expect a review once again in two years.

This is why one of my friends(working in International Recruitment) at an alert University describes it as

Old Wine in New Bottle but with a higher price tag.


Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


Yr 12 results are out in India today… Recommending this short video not just for those who missed out on the grades but also for those who topped… Mark-sheet does not matter in life… Indeed.

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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


Shocker: Better-prepared pathway-led diploma-to-degree returning graduates are deemed unfit for Masters study in India. India (AIU) needs to fix itself and Institutions need to pre-warn the students.

Shocker: Better-prepared pathway-led diploma-to-degree returning graduates are deemed unfit for Masters study in India. India (AIU) needs to fix itself and Institutions need to pre-warn the students..

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Posted by on April 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


REDUCING COST OF EDUCATION… 10 QUESTIONS FOR THE NaMo GOVERNMENT… (Reproducing Maheshwer Peri’s recent article).

OK, so:

  • When we move a mouse, the world moves;
  • We want to be the worlds supplier for skilled workforce;
  • India can be the skill capital of the world.

Haven’t we heard this before? Many times? Any report on actions to achieve them?

IIMs, IITs, AIIMS, IIS are legacy of the past, handed over by Nehru and TATA. Do you remember any institution created in the last 50 years?

When a country measures its growth rates in roads, bridges, industry, NREGA, infrastructure, defence etc. and treats investments in education and skill building as ‘welfare’, what are the chances of achieving our potential ?

Do you know that the total investment in your child’s education, if s he is getting into schooling now would be Rs.42 million by the time s he finishes PG?

Is it fair? Is it the best that the country can do to educate its youth?

Here are 10 questions that I am asking the government:

  1. If Right to Education is a fundamental right, How come, we are made to pay taxes on our savings made to pay the fees on higher education? The government is not providing for our right but instead burdening us with taxes. To pay a fees of Rs 1 million, our parents have to earn Rs.1.5 million and the government keeps 0.5 million? Fundamental right? Shouldn’t such savings be tax deductible as an expense?
  2. When the real estate industry does not do too well, the entire government gets in to action. Tax breaks, concessions, banking institutions, securities, bonds, everything is put in play. Did you ever see such action when students are unemployed— or unemployable?
  3. You get tax concessions on principal and interest repayments to buy a home. Why not a similar treatment on education fees? Is it because the real estate lobby funds politicians while students are mere voters?
  4. The principle of any good taxation policy is that all expenses spent to earn that income are tax deductible. It is done for calculating income of any business and trade. Why can’t education expenses, which lead to us getting employed and capable of earning that income for life, get deducted from our taxable income? Is it because trade and corporates fund politicians and students are mere voters?
  5. The country has created specialised lending institutions for industry, housing, infrastructure etc. Why not for education to set the rules of the game, give additional thrust and provide direction?
  6. The country has created tax free bonds/securities that bring down the cost of funds for industry/infrastructure etc. Why not for education? Can’t we think of tax- free systematic investment plans (SIPs) that allow parents to save for children’s education?
  7. Why should any one make money on lending for education? Can’t they charge us just the Inter-Bank rate? Can’t government give interest concessions by subsidising some part of the interest? Can’t the interest get indexed to inflation so that there is no real interest but only inflation indexed repayment?
  8. Corporates get a Corporate Debt Restructuring package after they turn sick. Interest- waivers, interest reductions, moratoriums etc. are showered on them. On the other hand, Students are forced at times to get their parents’ homes auctioned when they can’t pay for lack of employment. No interest- waivers, no concessions, not even a discussion. Why the discrimination? The education that promised an occupation failed them, because the economy failed them (just as in the case of corporates), isn’t it? Is it because corporates fund politicians while students are mere voters?
  9. Why can’t we fix the maximum EMI that a student can pay out of his total income? Inability to pay because of low or no income is a good reason. At least s he is not a wilful defaulter. In all other countries, an employee is prohibited from paying beyond a certain percentage of his income against education loan. It protects the student against no/Low income and high EMIs. Don’t students who take loans have the ‘Right to life’?
  10. Right to occupation and Right to Livelihood are in the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’. Isn’t it better that government empowers its citizens with requisite skills than subsidising them with schemes like NREGA and freebies? Isn’t it better that we provide them a capacity to earn than giving monthly alms?

Would the government listen? Or is it all bluster and speeches of intent with no action on the ground?

Former Outlook publisher Maheshwer Peri now runs the education magazine Careers 360. The above is reproduced from his article found on this link.


Posted by on October 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


Delhi High Court issues its landmark judgement on IIPM… Time for the (pony)tail between the legs for the one who has been “counting his chicken before they hatched”…

For years IIPM offered its fraud degrees across India and used its various “unrecognised” institutions in India and overseas to duck the legal system. Thousands of students have been marketed into buying the so-called degrees that was supposed to be even better than the IIM delivered programs. IIPM used a maze of institutions and challenged every word questioning its legitimacy.

Finally and after tireless pursuit over years, Delhi High Court has handed down the judgement and declared that the degrees offered by IIPM are fraudulent and further, they have been asked to put the judgement on their website and issue an apology. Further, the maze of institutions and their modus operandi too has been commented upon.

The summary of the judgement an be found in the press reports. Quoting from one such below:

A division bench comprising chief justice G. Rohini and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw restrained IIPM and its management with immediate effect from using the words “MBA, BBA, management course, management school, business school or b-school” in relation to the courses offered by it as well as in representations made to the public. The institute was also “directed to prominently display on the website of IIPM that they are not recognized by any statutory body/authority” and clarify the status of the foreign institutions from which students enrolling in IIPM would be getting a degree or certification. IIPM was given a week’s time to upload and display the court’s judgement prominently on its website to ensure that the attention of anyone visiting the website is drawn to it. The court also imposed costs of Rs.25,000 on IIPM, which has to be paid to Delhi Legal Services Authority. The court noted that IIPM was promoting an impression that it had recognition from a foreign management institute–International Management Institute (IMI), Belgium. The court found that in fact IMI had been set up by Arindam Chaudhuri and his father Malay Chaudhuri and was not even recognized by the laws of Belgium. Calling this arrangement a “maze…to entrap students” the court said that such “advertisements have the potential of misguiding young minds who have a craze for foreign education in the hope it will open doors for international placements/employments and cleverly concealing from them that IMI, Belgium is nothing but an alter ego or another face of IIPM.” The court said that it was a settled position that “no institution should run MBA/Management course, without the approval of the AICTE,” or All India Council for Technical Education. IIPM, lacking such recognition, was not entitled to run or advertise such management courses. (Source: Live Mint )

This is a huge judgement and certainly not the end of the story on IIPM as I am sure that several students who have thus been cheated with may rise to take the “man” to task. If I was one such student, I would now use this judgement and its detailed outlining of the “maze” to claim damages for the fraud committed using marketing hype. Time also for all those who sided with the ponytail to “wake up”. This includes the like of Mr Arnabh Goswami of Times Now who invited him on several of his News Hour debates as a hallowed guest and also to the SRK who lent his credibility to the IIPM. Full Judgement can be studied from this link.


Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Uncategorized


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