ByÂ Dr.Aditya Dev Sood:
For several days now, there has been a huge brouhaha in the Indian media around court orders blocking websites supposed to be defamatory towards the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) and its head, Arindam Chaudhuri. Much of the controversy fixates on freedom of expression and anti-defamation laws. The larger background to this controversy, however, is the wide consensus among opinion-shapers and decision-makers that there is something amiss with the IIPM and its approach to education. This view is at the heart of many of the longform journalistic pieces against which Mr. Chaudhuri has gone to court.
Over the weekend Mr. Chaudhuri issued a statement where he spoke not in terms of the social or public good or harm to his current, former or future students, but rather about defending the ‘business interests’ of his IIPM. Many of us who feel that education is a somewhat honourable calling, a social good, and an area of human activity, like medicine, where great care must be taken not to do harm are viscerally disaffected by Mr. Chaudhuri’s cavalier and businesslike approach to the sector. On Facebook I have been targeted by the IIPM to receive a small ad suggesting I become a franchisee, assuring me of 25% to 40% return on investment. This is cringe-worthy, and yet Mr. Chaudhuri and his IIPM is simply the most public and visible face of an otherwise dark sector that is habituated to think and speak in precisely these crass terms.
So many young people from small towns apply to the IIPM, spend a couple of years and more than 10 lacs there, and graduate with a diploma of some kind which is expected to unlock more rewarding professional career opportunities to them. This magic works for a small number of students, perhaps, who already had it in them to succeed. For the larger majority of candidates, however, nothing of the kind results. They receive Mr. Chaudhuri’s imprimatur but do not really acquire the core skills they need to succeed in India’s increasingly globalized industry.
Now why is this scandalous? Shekhar Kapur tweeted just yesterday that it is not just IIPM, but that “India is full of politically funded scams in ‘education’ which are criminally cheating an aspirational youth of their future.” Mr. Kapur is referring to the many other private colleges and even some universities in India which are charging exorbitant fees while showing limited learning outcomes and indifferent placements.
But perhaps the even greater scandal is how completely habituated our entire polity and society has become to dysfunctional educational environments. Just because the fees in government institutions are lower does not mean that their educational standards are any better. The standards imposed by UGC, by AICTE and every other accreditation and regulation body in fact straitjacket educational innovation and guarantee mediocrity. All students everywhere in India spend all their time preparing for exams to get into colleges where they spend their time in classrooms taking notes and preparing for more exams. This is not learning. This is exam-fuelled obsessive-compulsive behaviour and a sad waste of the nation’s youth.
Can the horrid state of higher education change in India? This would require many things to happen simultaneously: new players would have to enter the market, new technologies and platforms would have to disrupt the sector dramatically, new forms of quality assessment which are more subtle and dynamic than existing university affiliation or accreditation would have to emerge, and most crucially, new government regulation should not prevent all this dynamic change from occurring by privileging either state-run institutions or large existing players.
(This entry was posted in Design!publiC)[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:Dr. Aditya Dev Sood is Founder and CEO of Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) who, through his consulting work, his writings and public presentations, offers a compelling vision of the central role of design and innovation for emerging economies such as India. He is also the Chairman of the Adianta School for Leadership and Innovation.[/box]