Friday, April 24, 2009

It is very easy to come out with an idea but to validate that idea…..

Image: (Left to right) Sudha Murthy, N R Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and Rohini Nilekani, a journalist at Bombay magazine before their wedding, at a picnic near Bangalore in the early 1980s. | Photograph, courtesy: Infosys technologies and Rediff.

In the second part of his interview with Rediff Mr N R Narayana Murthy, chief mentor of Infosys Technologies says interesting and disappointing.

What do you think could be done to make higher education in India better?

To enhance the quality of our higher education, we can do five things:

One, enhance the autonomy of our higher education system;

Second, encourage them to collaborate with world-class institutions outside India, within India too, but most of them are outside India... ;

Third, bring in a sense of meritocracy in the selection of students and the appointment and promotion of faculty;

Fourth, create incentives for our faculty members to do more world-class research; and

Fifth, remove any licensing in the education system. We gave up most of industrial licensing in 1991. It is silly that we continue licensing of our educational institutions.

Talking about higher education... even the recommendations made to the Knowledge Commission have not been implemented? Why does this happen?

The Indian society is a society of ideas. It is a society that has revered talk. In this society, articulation is mistaken for accomplishment. We are quite satisfied with our voice, with our writings. This is not a society that is focussed on execution.

Frankly, the problem is due to our caste system and the dominance of Brahmins in our society for long period. The Brahminical system said my job is to think of the higher worlds. My job is to think of connecting you people with God. I don't want to do anything that has a relationship with the real world.

Now that is a problem that has played havoc with the Indian culture. So, here in this culture, if you do anything with your hands, it is considered less honourable that anything to do with your brain.

Here everybody wants to be an engineer, nobody wants to be a technician. So when a society does not value implementation, execution, what happens is you create more and more reports and nothing gets done.

For example, (Reliance Industries Chairman) Mr Mukesh Ambani and I gave two reports on how to improve the higher education system: one to (then prime minister) Mr Vajpayee and one to Dr Manmohan Singh.

Second, there has been the Knowledge Commission. Nothing has happened. Third, in 1998 I was a member of the IT Task Force -- which was headed by Mr Jaswant Singh -- and that task force submitted its report somewhere in 1999 0r 2000.

Nine years and I don't think even one suggestion has been implemented. And we made 108 suggestions! So that is why I am not a big fan of ideas in India.

My brother-in-law is a famous professor of physics at Caltech and he tells me it is very easy to come out with an idea. But to validate that idea he and his doctoral students will have to work hard for six months, one year... sometimes two years. That takes 20 hours of work each day for two years. So it is important to come out with new ideas, but it is even more important to execute them.

We are not a nation of doers; we are a nation which believes that our articulation is our accomplishment.

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