Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Let's start voting on policies

Reading policy reports is boring. I read the Yash Pal committee report on higher education and research recently. Basically because its, now. There are a bunch of earlier reports available at the NIC portal. A previous Radhakrishnan committee report outlines the historical development of our formal education system. It started with recognizing the Madrasa system in Bengal for Islamic education followed by the BHU for the Hindus. Finally they got their act right and decided to model Indian education as per the London University. Seems like, after sixty years we have figured out that we should actually be following the US system and not so much the British system anymore.

Recently, Frontline had a bunch of stories on University Inc. ; it not only allowed me to get an overall idea of the Yash Pal committee report on NCHER by breaking it down into several stories, but it also made me wonder why every person who’s opinion was quoted, were introduced by the rank they hold or have held in various Government concerns related to higher education instead of their most significant relevant achievement.

Since the theme (at least one of the themes) of the committee report, as far as I understand, is to incorporate that missing social intent into the bureaucratic framework, which would involve everyone concerned to think of the value of education before its business prospects, wouldn’t it be more acceptable to readers who are not familiar with the very big names in Indian higher education, if one or two of their most significant achievements were listed, as an introduction?

But that is not the general practice in the Indian culture. The throne is supreme and anyone who is eligible to sit in it is revered, automatically, no questions asked; if you have grey hair it helps with the image. Isn’t this the most fundamental problem of every Indian enterprise? If not, lets start informing the people about the role models of higher education in India. Let every journalist, when they quote someone, National or International, anyone, also ask them to name their most significant achievement and lets print that and push the public to learn and understand a few technical jargons.

The point is, we characterize our leaders as the Director of a certain Institute and not the inventor of a Green(er) Technology. Often we mischaracterize! Most Indians still don’t really know what our respectable previous President’s real achievements were. The funny part is, did he really spend as much time and energy about informing the people as to the misperceptions they have about him, as much as he had spent trying to convince the Nation as to why we really needed a nuclear deterrent? At least he didn’t do a great job about it; everyone around me has an opinion about our nuclear capabilities but no one can form an opinion about whether he should have been given the responsibility to make that decision in the first place. The end result is that we are begging the developed nations to let us have whatever green technology they invest and develop without having to pay too much.

Further, what is the mechanism to obtain the consensus of the students and the faculties actually involved in education and research? Should it really be NCHER who conducts this debate and discussion? We hear the term ratification in the context of UN programs. Don’t we need one, Nationwide, to implement this reform? Lets ask every government employee (no-exceptions) concerned, to read the report which is freely available now, and express their individual opinions. Let Institutions compile these comments. Anyways they produce these Annual Reports, which I haven’t found very useful yet. Otherwise, it will be left to non-believers to implement a program to ‘create knowledge’ in class rooms and laboratories. A contemporary example is perhaps the fate of the primary education reform in the Kerala State Board that I read about in Frontline sometime back. The noise inside Jadavpur University doesn’t seem to say that their Institution is a failure. Even better, lets have the Nation vote on ballots that just list policies, without any political party symbol; our lives today is the benefit of some sincere market research; how long will the people take to learn that? What percentage of our population really comprehends the regional and global implications of the 40,000MW nuclear energy capability that we are hoping to acquire by 2021? I’ll infact be curious to learn how many will actually feel comfortable reading, let alone comprehending, a report in English. If not, what did the Election Commission so effectively manage? I wouldn’t call it a democratic anything.

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