the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.
• language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.
I admire the enthusiasm of India’s Minister of HRD, Mr Kapil Sibal. Articulate, Suave and extremely qualified… Qualified more as a lawyer, spokesperson for his party and certainly as the type of politician that we need for “Urban” India. He did initiate a whiff of fresh air to the MHRD taking over from Mr Arjun Singh, who was neither Suave nor Articulate though still extremely qualified as a seasoned politician for the non-Urban populace.
I also tend to relate to Sibal’s urbanism having lived only in cities, and having been educated at institutions no less. One with congress leaning (yes, not-hiding-this even on my facebook profile), I do instinctively become an advocate for Nehruvian and Rajivic directions that India has taken. “Desh ka neta kaisa ho, Rahul Gandhi jaisa ho” is my slogan too. Rahul is my candidate for the next Prime Minister not just of India but also Bharat and hence tend to expect all Ministers also to act as representatives of all sections of Indians, Urban and non-Urban. It was with this “bias” that delayed my criticism of the Women Bill and also completely silenced the amplification of the natural grumbling on the proposed abolition of the CBSE’s 10th level boards.
However, as the policies being hurriedly pushed under a 100 days agenda relates more and more to my expertise, I wish I had a role to play in the designs of India’s education policies.
A case to point is the FOREIGN EDUCATION INSTITUTION (REGULATION OF ENTRY AND OPERATIONS) BILL 2010.
I know that the bill is not through yet and may not find it easy to get the nod even of the Rajya Sabha considering that unlike the Women Bill, this doesnot have the support of the BJP and certainly not of the Left. Hence, its sailing through both the houses in a jiffy may only remain a Sibal-dream. Even if it is passed, it will require some further compromises diluting its attractiveness to even the non-Ivy League institutions.
Since, the final form of the regulation will only be known in the months ahead, I am refraining from the specifics. Hence am analysing the usefulness of the bill only from the objective that it hopes to achieve. Objectives, unlike the implementation, are already known. If the expectations are hyped, then disappointment will follow at some time. Achievement is not in getting a legislation in place for the sake of change. Kapil Sibal’s ability as a lawyer and a spokesperson of a political party is sufficient background to camouflage the shortcomings by exaggerating whatever positives that the proposed legislations may have. The Sibal charm clearly won Thapar over in a recent TV interview and the Devil’s advocate was all but clapping to the rhetoric being dished out by the minister.
The goals are 1) increasing capacity, 2) offering greater options, 3) challenging the current standards and hence improving the quality…
Also are 4) saving Indian forex outflow as students will not need to go overseas as they will now be able to get the foreign degrees in India and 5) India becoming an education hub attracting students from around the world.
Are these goals realistic and achievable? Let me go over them one by one:.
In a realistic scenario we are only looking at a handful of institutions offering handful of programs either on their own or in partnership with local institutions. Indian capacity building requirements are far higher and these few hundred places created in some of the large urban locations will only aid the students who already have options and can afford to “buy” places at alternative locations in India or overseas. What India needs is capacity building at smaller towns and there are many possibilities in doing that including capacity increases at existing institutions and also push in the polytechnic sector. The PPP (Pubic Private Partnerships) are already initiating activities in this area. Kapil Sibal, himself, a few months ago in a program WALK THE TALK had stated that institutions of repute in India are in a position to increase the student intakes. The larger institutions in India have space and infrastructure to do so quite easily. Increasing Capacity can hence not be the excuse for this bill.
Historically, branch campuses do not absorb many students. India will have to provide access that Indian needs. It cannot rely on foreign universities to do that.
Philip Altbach, Director, Center for Intl Higher Education, Boston College.
(Quoted in TOI)
OFFERING GREATER OPTIONS:
Students will have more options but not significantly more options. India holds attention for foreign institutions either when they have philanthropic interest or commercial interest. If it is the former then the studies / research will focus on specific areas of academic interest to the institutions and their researchers. For example an institution that wants to study tropical medicine or third world economies may collaborate with Indian institutions. If the institutions have commercial interests then there will be the regular offerings that will attract those who can afford more expensive education (compared to the Indian colleges) and my guess will be that a course like BBA will be the first to be offered as more kids of wealthier families opt for this stream. Is this giving greater course options. If we are talking of options in terms of institutions, these new-campuses will never be preferred over the tried and tested Indian institutions. Hence it is giving options only to those who already have the options. Also the quality conscious institutions are reluctant to open offshore campuses as they feel that it will lower their quality.
We are loathe to consider creating a satellite campus that would offer a degree programme that did not live up to the quality that we can offer on our home campus. So we are not considering a satellite campus location that would grant degrees in India or anywhere else.
Lisa Lapin, Asst VP, University Communications, Stanford University.
(Quoted in Education Times.)
CHALLENGING THE CURRENT STANDARDS AND IMPROVING QUALITY:
This is possible. However, I don’t think that the new campuses can ever have better teaching staff. The Government sector in India provides security and very generous work culture for academics, which is the single biggest incentive. The mentality of professors in India (I know because my mother was the Head of Department in Economics) revolves around the prestige and security that comes with the jobs. And colleges and institutions draw their prestige from these professors… There is almost a cult following for some of the professors. This is not going to go away. Irrespective of the salaries that are offered, it will be difficult for the “private sector” (Yes, the foreign campuses will be considered private colleges) to be able to compete. A parallel is that despite better salaries offered by Private airlines, Air India remains a preferred employer for cabin crews / ground staff. Some Universities that have opened campuses in the Gulf are finding it difficult to find teaching staff and consequently run some programmes using distance learning and video based classes. TOI reports that “just last month, academic audits conducted by the University Quality Assurance International Board, found serious gaps in various campuses and has threatened to shut some of them down”. Hence what quality improvements are we aiming?
The Ivy League may not come. But we will see a range of second-tier universities flying in.
Narayan Ramaswamy, Executive Director, KPMG.
(Quoted in TOI)
INDIA SAVES FOREX AS INDIANS WILL OPT TO GET THEIR FOREIGN DEGREES IN INDIA AND NOT OVERSEAS.
This is so misplaced and displays that the planners have no clue as to why Indians go overseas to study. There is ample evidence that the two of the most important reasons for those from the middle-class for choosing to study overseas are 1) International exposure and 2) Pathway to work/settlement overseas. Both of these are not fulfilled through studies at the Indian campuses/study centres of the foreign Universities. Indian students donot necessarily go overseas because of the label of the degree alone. A few years ago I was hired by an institute in Kolkata to market the London School of Economics degrees that they conducted in the External mode. This meant that the students graduating from the Kolkata study centre would finally graduate with a degree that indicates the LSE branding. I assumed that this will find enough takers to fill up the classes. I was wrong and the institute failed. I currently market the Carnegie Mellon’s full-fledged and high profile campus in Australia. Once again, thought that the brand of this University should be more attractive than the other Universities in Australia. I was wrong again. The local Aussie providers continued to be preferred. People want to study at Carnegie Mellon in USA but not in Australia. This might change with time as the campus establishes itself but there is no love at first sight even though the Carnegie brand is one of the topmost brands in the world and the institute is in a heritage building with full infrastructure.
The premise also is that students going overseas to study leads to drain of forex. In short term indeed but in long term, the flow is actually the other way around. There are reports that the inward remittances in some cases begin even when the students start working part time along with studies in some countries. One of the reasons for the huge increase in student numbers to some of the low cost diplomas in Australia, NZ and UK in recent years was this alone.
Students want to experience cross-culture exposure of International campuses; experience of studying and living in a foreign land and certainly the freedom that young experience. All this does not come from studying at the offshore centres.
“New Zealand’s spectacular environment and enjoyable lifestyle are a major appeal for international students and these cannot be replicated offshore”
Michelle Waitzman, Communications Specialist, Education NZ.
(Quoted in TOI)
BECOME A HUB FOR EDUCATION AND ATTRACT STUDENTS TO INDIA
Can it? It’s far fetched. Even if it does, it can only be if Indian institutions are able to accept and host foreign students and not otherwise. The UAE and Singapore examples are before us. Students from India would prefer the NUS or NTU to any other foreign operators in Singapore. The local government’s two-tier approach is also a hurdle and we can foresee that same situation in India. Academics, Alumni, Research and also the local patronage establish an institution and it takes decades. International students at the foreign campuses in Singapore donot have the same rights as those at local University campuses in Singapore. One University is not allowed to call itself University in their name too even when they have a valid presence as a University. UNSW, which was invited by the Singapore Government and was recruiting students, realised the faulty financials and decided to call it quits very early and UK’s Warwick University too backed out. In UAE, the relationship of the local government with the foreign providers is primarily of a landlord and tenant. There are reports that NYU campus alone costs $300 million in running costs. All the campuses are basically different identical buildings in the knowledge village and the campuses are having difficulty in attracting student from other parts of the world. They are surviving on the local expat population and because there is really no local University of repute. Then comes the tag that we attach to each country. An US University’s campus in Thailand suffers due to the repute of Thailand with a certain type of tourism. Monash has an excellent campus in Malaysia but is yet to become attractive to Indian students since the students associate Monash to Australia. INSEAD, which operates in Singapore and in Abu Dhabi in addition to France, runs each like a home campus and not offshore campus, study centre or subsidiary because they believe that “Offshore campuses can dilute quality and damage the brand name of an institution” (Frank Brown, Dean, quoted in TOI)
Harvard Business School has no plans for a campus outside Boston, as we strongly believe that our campus in Boston is an essential part of the Harvard MBA experience.
Anjali Raina, Exec Director, HBS India Research Centre, Mumbai
Quoted in TOI.
The aspirations from the FOREIGN EDUCATION INSTITUTION (REGULATION OF ENTRY AND OPERATIONS) BILL 2010 are like “shooting in the dark” and there is a need to stock-take the experiences other nations.
What can be a better way to end this blog than quoting Minister Sibal himself.
“I Witness”, subtitled “Partial Observations”, published by Roli Books, is the outpouring of a public man who felt driven to communicate his private thoughts in poetic form in the midst of incessant soundbites and perfunctory speeches he had to give in his official role as minister and a spokesperson for the Congress party.
“In a sense, that’s the argumentative Indian who is finding his voice in poetry. These verses are written from many viewpoints – from those of a bureaucrat and a lawyer to a politician and a modern-day commentator of daily life,” Sibal told IANS
Turning poetical on his blackberry, he writes about T-20 cricket. (See link)
Cricket lovers’ nightmare
Connoisseurs often complain.
Instant stroke play
Without any foreplay:
This is not cricket, they claim!
These lines also apply to a number of initiatives that the Minister has put forward, which to me appear, too hurried and similar to T-20 cricket.
Hope they are not fixed.