Volume 2 Issue 10
Clean up the mess in colleges
Last month two distressing news came in. In a really bizarre incident, the topper of Bihar Intermediate Arts topper was arrested when she could not pass the retest she had to appear in wake of the news which showed her lacking in the subject in which she had topped. Second, even more bizarre news was that an economics teacher in a UP college had no clue about what “audit” meant and what IMF stood for. The two incidents showed systemic malaise that Indian college education is suffering from. On the one hand, we have students entering tertiary education system without basic knowledge, but armed with marks, and on the other hand, we have people manning that system which are ill equipped to impart knowledge, to put it in best terms.
There is another aspect of the system too. The PMO has pitched for maximum freedom for those institutions which are capable of emerging as world class centers of learning and research. All regulatory supports will be provided to them as help. Government has been working on bills that would allow research institutions to tie with foreign universities without any hassles. And in the recent Times Higher Education list, Indian institutions have made progress with IISc Bangalore jumping 10 spots in the Asian top 200 list.
So, how do we make sense of these two strikingly opposite set of facts? Unfortunately, the bad part is what defines the broad tertiary educational system today. There are islands of excellent institutions which are too few in number; rest of the system marks time in hopelessly substandard quality. Naturally, something is seriously amiss in how we have gone about developing our colleges, technical institutions and the like. We have too few colleges in all streams of knowledge. The competition for IITs and IIMs is tougher than those for Harvard and MIT. Even general college seats are too few as indicated by the cut off marks in Delhi University. Also our quality is poor and we are not investing enough in creating knowledge. We are not filing enough patents and our universities are not churning out enough research papers. But are our professors good enough to direct research or churn out papers? Point to ponder!
In another development, Raghuram Rajan, the globally celebrated financial economist, the RBI governor who did not shy away from making comments uncomfortable to the government, has decided to hang his boots and return to academia where he feels more at ease. The man who predicted the collapse of 2008 becomes only the first RBI governor in 23 years to not have an extension. His hawk like focus on prices made inflation management the centerpoint of monetary policy during his tenure. For this stance, he often found himself at odds with the government but he stood his ground nevertheless. He also went against the normal accommodative stance as far as tolerating banks’ poor balance sheets is concerned. He goaded them to reveal bad loans, forced them to clean up balance sheets, and empowered them to go after willful defaulters. Inflation targeting and cleaning up banking system will be Rajan’s legacy as RBI governor. We hope to see him again in another important chair in policy making apparatus of the country.