Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Foreign Education bill, Demand in India, & random thoughts

I am not sure if it's the recent trip to US & Canada. It gave me several opportunities to debate--with senior professionals of global firms- the benefits of population vs employment opportunities vs quality of education. Are they inter-related? Is it because a job is very influential in seeking one's own identity?

There is a common thread as we lamented on the lack of 'quality talent' -period. Be it white collar or blue. The work ethic seems to be increasingly disturbing....

I have a nagging feeling it has something to do with our education system in India. Maybe there aren't enough opportunities for all the deserving...

It is perhaps interesting to reflect on the recent developments in India:

- the approval of Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010. This seeks to regulate the entry and functioning of foreign education providers in India. (India has a severe shortage of higher education institutions for its booming population where more than 30% of its 1.1 billion people are under 14 years of age.)

-Georgia Tech choosing Hyderabad as its location for the only campus outside of its 400-acre campus in Atlanta, Georgia, because more than 40 per cent of the students who go to study at the Atlanta campus are from this city.

Even if the above will impact a small percentage of our population, I am positive that with the influx of such global investments, the education sector will open up the job market for sure. It will definitely provide a stimulus as liberalisation in the early nineties spawned improved professionalism. I have blogged about some of my impressions earlier, and here.

However, I am not exactly sure if such attempts suffice in improving the quality of education per se . Or is the malaise in the lack of a robust education system at the elementary levels? There are a lot of thoughts about the role that Government schools can play, as well as those in the private sector.

As a recruiter associated with some exciting work in the Education sector, I can see Private Equity being funnelled into the K-12 sector, ( eg 'Bottom of Pyramid' approach into 'low cost/ affordable 'schools), as well as initiatives being taken in improving Teacher Training. Personally, my mother has been running a primary school for over 33 yrs-and my wife is an educationist working with children of impressionable ages, as well as those with different abilities. So here are some of my observations...

a) there is a huge emphasis on 'rote' or memory-as most education has become 'exam centric' -far away from imparting 'learning'.

b) the increased pressure on remedial teaching and quick fix solutions has resulted in people clamouring for degrees from and association with premier institutes?

c)have placements become the means..or is it the ends?

d)the role of emotional intelligence & quality of work life balance has become minimised?

I feel we aren't yet addressing the right symptoms. Please correct me.

I personally feel -its perhaps time for getting back to first principles? A quick reference to Wikipedia gives me the following hints

-Education in the broadest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on themind, character or physical ability of an individual.

-In its technical sense education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another.

Etymologically the word education contains educare (Latin) "bring up" which is related to educere "bring out", "bring forth what is within", "bring out potential" and decere "to lead".

Is the present education system in India, doing enough to 'bring out & lead"?


arun said...

Quite Educative :-)!

arun said...

On second thoughts …here are some more thoughts!

“Is it because a job is very influential in seeking one's own identity?” Methinks the other way round…that we get identity based on our job!

“population vs employment opportunities vs quality of education. Are they inter-related” … YES…definitely they are interrelated…and Education…the formal kind is country/ culture specific. Taking India as a case study.. the very large population resulted in actually lopsided educational facilities skewed in favor of urban and semi urban areas whereas 75% of population still lives in villages. The under privileged doesn’t have access to good free education…whether memory based or learning based. Come to think of it all these 60 years of post independence we had only memory based learning and India is supposed to be brain bowl of the world (exaggerating a bit!)! It produced lot of scholars of course most of them have gone abroad to contribute to the world at large which is a different issue altogether. Our IITs and IIMs et al are well known all over the world. Given the political will ( or precisely the lack of it all these years) it is no surprise that education is limited to the urban pockets.

Education…the memory kind of formal one…is here to stay for some more decades. The real “learning” is a life long process and may be termed as “continuing adult education”!

Everyone either in India or in other countries graduate only to get a decent job. They don’t go to colleges to get “educated”! And for this kind of masses the memory kind of formal education will suffice…all they need is a Degree certificate which is a passport to get jobs!

And the entry of foreign universities will only worsen the situation and am sure the village folk will never get to see the even the inside of such universities! These universities will also increase the life style of the teaching community as good lecturers will be lured with huge salaries by the foreign universities and might also force the domestic private educational institutions to hike their salaries to protect their teaching community from being poached.

And education as we all know will never follow the dictionary definition in the real world!

Lastly would like to quote Mark Twain…”When I was young I attended college…but it never interfered with my education”!