Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holy cow in Indian homocommission…

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is considered to be a moderate in debate but whenever the topic of education is chosen, it is utterly the diversity which he likes in all fronts, what is in it. See the below few para from his recent column in Indian Express. 

  • in American universities you come up for tenure after six to eight years. Amartya Sen was appointed professor at a relatively young age. It couldn’t happen under these guidelines. You have to have ten publications. What information might this magical number “ten” give you? 
  • Then there is the revelation about the ambition we have about India’s academia. If you publish a book or an article in an international journal or press you get double the points than if you publish in India. Admittedly there is a problem in India. In many fields we do not have internationally recognised refereed journals or publishers. Benchmarking to global standards is not always a bad thing. But the trouble is that this is being done indiscriminately. “International” is not being defined at all: why should a fifth-rate Autstralian journal necessarily get more points than an Indian publication? Are we saying that in the long run the only authoritative forms of knowledge we will accept are ones that are validated abroad? We don’t want to be world leaders. Instead of asking the real question, how do we get professional standards up in India, we are simply telling our faculty: don’t care about the production of knowledge in India, it will be valued less. In every other field reform means building India’s strength and brand; in education it means outsourcing to the West. 
  • But the UGC would do well not to supplant itself in the place of universities. These guidelines need to be corrected by more than just tinkering. They are indicative of fundamental pathologies of Indian higher education. The most insidious one is this. Higher education is fundamentally about judgment and the cultivation of reason, not formulaic control. Even more insidious is the enervating of spirit these regulations represent. The UGC now proposes to insist not just that faculty teach, administer, do research, etc. In addition, they spend a designated number of hours on campus. Given the fact that most universities do not even have minimally dignified facilities for teachers, this requirement is a joke”. 

Earlier another economist Bibek Debroy wrote in the same news paper in the same column that  lamented the homocommissions foolproof. 

  • This is Hydra with its many heads and these should be lopped off and burnt. That’s the key, not increasing public expenditure on education. Competition is the key, with appropriate regulation. Here is the NKC on regulation: “There is a clear need to establish an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE)... Entry through legislation alone, as at present, is a formidable barrier. The consequence is a steady increase in the average size of existing universities with a steady deterioration in their quality. The absence of competition only compounds problems. Second, as we seek to expand the higher education system, entry norms will be needed for private institutions and public-private partnerships... And there are extensive rules after entry, as the UGC seeks to regulate almost every aspect of an institution from fees to curriculum. The system is also based on patently irrational principles... In higher education, regulators perform five functions: (1) entry: licence to grant degrees; (2) accreditation: quality benchmarking; (3) disbursement of public funds; (4) access, fees or affirmative action; (5) licence: to practice profession. India is perhaps the only country in the world where regulation in 4 of the 5 functions is carried out by one entity, that is, the UGC. The purpose of creating an IRAHE is to separate these functions.” 
  • Strong words and compelling arguments. The NKC submitted more than 250 recommendations. Most have gone for a six, including dilution of governance in the Central Universities Bill. The HRD ministry isn’t Hydra’s immortal head. It too needs to be sliced off and burnt”.

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