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Addressing the Depth and Breadth of Quality Issues in the Indian Education System

Swaleha Sindhi Ph.D.

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Interview with- National Scholar Prof. Swapan Kumar Majumdar

Prof. Swapan Kumar Mujumdar, is India’s renowned Academician, National Scholar and Management Expert who is currently the Director of the Institute of Management at the J.K Laxmipat University in Jaipur of Rajasthan State. He is an avid reader, critical thinker and a passionate teacher with thirty four years track record of success in teaching, consulting, research and academic administration of world class organizations.

Dr Majumdar is a national scholar, who has crossed many oceans to quench his thrust for knowledge and emerged as a transformational thought leader. He has several publications in national and international journals and has a varied area of research interests from Genomics of Executive Leadership; Macro and Micro Variables of Sustainable Development; E-Business Management; Digital Economy; Market-Economy, Demography, Geography, Growth, Globalization and Governance to Make in India vs Made for India and so on.

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi author with Modern Diplomacy & Dr. Adfar Shaha Delhi based Sociologist visited J.K Laxmipat University in Jaipur of India’s Rajasthan and had an in-depth interaction on the theme of ‘Education in India’ with Prof. Mujumdar.

Modern Diplomacy (MD): At the outset tell us briefly about yourself and your achievements Sir?

Prof. Swapan Kumar Majumdar (SKM): My basic qualification is M.Sc, B.Tech with MBA. I did my M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, UK, and M.Phil. from Imperial College of Science Technology, London, UK. I have a PhD in Business Management from IIT, Delhi. Basically I am a Professor of OMISS (Operations Management, Information Systems and Strategy), and a receipient of the Award for “Best Teacher of the Year 2010 in Operations Management” by juries of the 18th Dewang Mehta Business School Award on 24.11.2010 in recognition of leadership, development, innovation and industry interface of Business school. Being a member of academic and administrative audit committee of various Universities in India, I was Ex‐Chairman of academic council of Al Akhawayn University, Morocco. Being instrumental in creating centers at different universities and having mentored various nationally and internationally funded projects, I am also member of various scientific and professional societies in India and abroad.

(MD): India seems to have a remarkable achievement in economic domain which in turn has brought lot of changes in the education sector. However, these changes have not turned to be sufficient to solve the ever existing and ever changing educational problems in India. What is your take on it Sir?

(SKM): Quality and quantity are the two major problems of Indian education systems. India is the 2nd highest populous country of the world with 1.32 billion populations of which 27.9% are illiterate. In quantity, nearly 360 million Indians are illiterate, which is largest in the world, of which bulk of them live in 638000 villages rests are in towns and cities. As far as the quality is concerned, even after 68 years of independence, only two Indian institutes could find their place in to the top 200 list of world’s best universities and altogether 17 are in the list of world’s top 800 Universities according to World University Ranking 2015. Every year millions of Indians are graduating from 740+ (Wikipedia) Indian universities and nearly half of them (47%) are not employable. Both quality and quantity are being addressed.

(MD): Do you think that issues persist due to faulty Education Policies in India?

(SKM): The problem persisted due to lack of priority and commitment. Though Indian literacy rate has improved six times from meagerly 12% in 1947 to 72.1% in 2015, but much lower the world average literacy rate of 84%. It took 62 years to pass the Right to Education bill. There is no comprehensive national education policy. Education is a state subject. Standard and responsibility remained fragmented. Up gradation and up scaling of education standard hardly figured as the priority agenda of Indian state governments. The gap between education and employment are getting wider. At the same time demands for skilled people are increasing worldwide. These are the signs and evidences of faulty education policy.

(MD): What according to you are the challenges and constraints in meeting International standards in Indian education? What is your view on external objectives versus local realities?

(SKM): The key constraints are infrastructure, outdated syllabus, obsolete pedagogy, unqualified teachers, ineffective regulatory mechanisms and absence hunger to excel in education. The major challenges are improving access and quality at all levels, continuous upgradation of syllabus and retrofitting pedagogy, increasing funding at higher education, nurturing innovation, critical thinking and inculcating practice oriented higher order thinking and writing skills. The country need quality education at primary and secondary schools, where every child gets equal opportunity to maximize his or her full potential.

(MD): Some of the key systemic challenges (access, equity, quality) stem from the lack of public investment and a flawed regulatory structure resulting in the rapid and unregulated growth of private provision. Share your views on it?

(SKM): The root of all Key challenges is our national education policy. It took 62 years for GOI to enact Right to Education (RTE) Bill and incorporated education as fundamental right of every children and remained as state subject. Even after the constitutional amendment, our political leaders/representatives lacked the commitment to eradicate illiteracy and improve the facilities, accessibility and most importantly quality of education. They failed to perceive education as an important element of development process, a tool/ avenue to improve quality of life.

(MD): There has been an increasing dissonance in the government’s view of foreign institutions, do you think it is possible for India to build a world-class educational system and ensure that education remains a non-commercial activity that embodies national values and priorities?

(SKM): Yes, I do believe that it is possible for India to build unique world-class education system. When we coin the term “world-class’ we are raising to the standards and quality, such education which promotes and propagates higher order of thinking skills and has universal appeal and which is beyond the boundaries of national values and priorities, The second part of your question, especially about government’s dissonance towards the entry of foreign institutions, I feel that today’s education must have the depth and breadth. Foreign institutions will bring that diversity and as well as global competitiveness of our educational institutions and systems and which eventually will improve standard of our higher education. Finally, it is needless to say that higher education is not for the mass, but for the deserving class and all higher educational institutions compete for talents (students and teachers) and there is no way to eliminate commercial element in an endeavor wherever there is competition.

(MD): What are your recommendations to educational leaders and policy planners to arrive at plausible, meaningful solutions to help provide for quality education to the local population while at the same time meeting international standards?

(SKM): The five pillars: (1) Education is the key for ‘Human Development’, (2) Education is a ‘Fundamental Right’ of every Indian child, (3) ‘Learning Ability’ and innate talent (‘g’ factor) of individuals varies significantly widely, (4) Talent remain hidden unless uncovered and nourished and (5) Education is a ‘State Subject’. Indian education planners keep these five points in mind to frame a policy which should facilitate full exploitation of development potential of deserving individuals as well as take care of the diversity, preferences and competitiveness into account. and (A) India must provide high quality basic education for all up to 16 years (as Fundamental Right for Every Child); (B) beyond 16 years is based on competency and choice. Secondly, there is no parity between talent and pocket. Thirdly talents needs to be nurtured to bloom. As seed needs the soil, water and other supports for germination and growth. Similarly, a national education policy should provide opportunity for every citizen the basic support at the germination stage and multiple platforms for the growth phase to compete and choose a career or profession according his or ability. However, supports need resources. As the size of education problem is very large. This necessitates huge resources and funding. As a developing country, India alone cannot handle the problem. The best way forward is to go global, open up, and remove all the administrative obstacle. I am in favour of open international policy rather than being conservative and narrow nationalistic view of education. India should have a broad view of world-class education system. India needs thousands of high quality schools, hundreds of world-class higher educational institutions. Investment needs are in trillions. The solution is collaborate, coopt, coordinate and control the quality. We don’t have much time. We have to act fast. Set up as many as new institutions possible plus upgrade the existing institutions as well as open the doors for foreign institutions which will not only increase competition in higher education, but will also increase quality, diversity and employability.

(MD): Can we hope that this New Education Policy (NPE-2015) will shape the country’s education and employability ecosystem for coming several years?

(SKM): Certainly yes. Realization is the seed of change. Plan and propositions are the action plans for making things happen. When the seeds and the soils are ready, the only things that are required – execution followed by monitoring and controlling i.e. academic administration.

(MD): There is an increased emphasis on capacity building and long-term sustainability in the global economy. How can we achieve this?

(SKM): There is no other resource that ‘Human Capital’, which can provide sustainability in the global economy. Rest are all volatile. The attain sustainability, we need to build human capital develop talents and education is the root and the path of human development. Who so ever has neglected education remained as poor despite having rich natural resources.

(MD): Do you think that the education system in India is ready to set the tone of India’s competitiveness as a young demography in promoting ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ missions?

(SKM): This question has three components: (i) Readiness of Indian Education System to equip Indian youth to be competitive, (ii) Readiness of Indian Education System to comply with the ‘Make in India’ and (iii) Readiness of Indian Education System to comply with the ‘Digital India Mission’. Let me answer the last one first. Digital India Mission is transforming and integrating all disjointed component of economy in the digital format so that any-one from anywhere and any-time can access, interact and transact business. This provides transparency. It is mixed bag. Digital format increase the size of the market as well as increase competition. Size and location does not matter. What matters are competency and skills? Second part, ‘Make in India’, is an open invitation to global manufacturers to set their manufacturing facilities in India to make use of the facilities and skills and youth power of India. The underlined assumption is that there are large pool of skilled labour in India and the Global manufactures will be able make best use of these labour resources. Now the key question is: Is Indian yours are well equipped or skilled? Are Indian youths employable? Statistics and data reveals that vast majority of Indian youths are not employable. This answers the question that all is not well in Indian education system. Present Indian education system is not ready for mass skilling of the Indian youths. Indian education systems need to be revamped and retrofitted with the changing need of the globe and the mission of the country. Indian education system must be capable of producing graduates who are not only employable locally, but equally competent enough to meet the global completion and should be able to make their need felt at local as well as global arena.

(MD): What are your views on the existing system of Quality Assurance Systems in Educational Institutions?

(SKM): In my opinion, there is no set standard Quality Assurance Systems (QAS) in Educational Institutions across India. There are premier autonomous educational institutions like IIMs and IITs, NITs and renowned private universities. But as such there is no written QAS. The situation has become more complicated by mushroom growth of private players in Indian education systems. They are neither keen on quality nor standard. Many private players created huge infrastructure and buildings. But educational institutions are not built by buildings but by systems and dedicated teachers and talented students. Shortage of talented faculty and students and huge investment in infrastructure and marketing leaving very little attention for QAS. As a result large chunk of today’s graduates are not employable.

(MD): What according to you are the real reasons behind so many educational institutions seeking international accreditations?

(SKM): A Quality Assurance System is considered reliable when the measures are robust and exhaustive when it measures all the aspects/parameters of the process that determines quality of the process as well as the quality of the outcome. India has yet to come up with a QAS for educational institutions, which has wide acceptance in the international community. Conversely international accreditation systems has matured over the years and accepted by world organizations. Internationally accredited institutions have to measure their processes and systems and demonstrate the evidences of the quality of their processes and the outcomes. Evidences must demonstrate the robustness and strict compliance of the standard and provide the testimony of the goodness of the systems and procedures of the educational system. That is the reason many educational institutions, who wish to differentiate themselves from the rest to attract quality global students and faculty sought for international accreditation.

(MD): How can “Make in India Approach” incentivize the advancement of business in India?

(SKM): Technology is the driver of growth and manufacturing is the mother of product innovation and development. Until a country develop its competency in innovation and product development, it will remain at receivers end. Critical success factor of product leadership depends on the capacity building in key manufacturing. No one will give away their product know-how to a third party or country. The only way to get hold of the technology is to collaborate, coopt or facilitate manufacturer to set up their manufacturing units at your place. This will facilitate and incentivize technology diffusion and development. ‘Make in India Approach’ is a strategic approach to incentivize global manufacturer to setup their manufacturing plant in India. Statistics says that one manufacturing job create 8-10 associated jobs. Thus this will take India forward towards the goal of ‘global excellence’ in product leadership.

(MD): Thank You for giving your valuable time Sir.

Dr.Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. Dr. Sindhi is a frequent columnist on related topics, too. She is the Vice President of Indian Ocean Comparative Education Society (IOCES). Contact: swaleha sindhi[at]gmail.com

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South Asia

The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region

Kagusthan Ariaratnam

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Addressing an event last week at London’s Oxford University, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka. Whereas the Hambantota Port (in southern Sri Lanka) is a commercial joint venture between our Ports Authority and China Merchants – a company listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has denied US’ claims that China might build a “forward military base” at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which has been leased out to Beijing by Colombo. Sri Lanka failed to pay a Chinese loan of $1.4 billion and had to lease the China-developed port to Beijing for 99 years. Both New Delhi and Washington had in the past expressed concerns that Beijing could use the harbor for military purposes.

Image courtesy of Google

The USA, China, and India are the major powers playing their key role in the “Neo-Cold War” in Central Asian landmass and the strategic sea lanes of the world in the Indian Ocean where 90% of the world trade is being transported everyday including oil. It is this extension of the shadowy Cold War race that can be viewed as the reason for the recent comment made by the US Vice President Mike Pence that China is using “debt diplomacy” to expand its global footprint and Hambantota “may soon become a forward military base for China’s expanding navy”.

According to some analysts, the deep-water port, which is near a main shipping route between Asia and Europe, is likely to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In his book “Monsoon” Robert D. Kaplan (2010), a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes the following:

[…] the Indian Ocean will turn into the heart of a new geopolitical map, shifting from a unilateral world power to multilateral power cooperation. This transition is caused by the changing economic and military conditions of the USA, China and India. The Indian Ocean will play a big role in the 21st century’s confrontation for geopolitical power. The greater Indian Ocean region covers an arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Its western reaches include Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking […]

Two third of the global maritime trade passes through a handful of relatively narrow shipping lanes, among which five geographic “chokepoints” or narrow channels that are gateway to and from Indian ocean: (1) Strait of Hormuz (2) Bab el-Mandab Passage (3) Palk Strait (4) Malacca and Singapore Straits and (5) Sunda Strait.

While Lutz Kleveman (2003), argues that the Central Asia is increasingly becoming the most important geostrategic region for the future commodities, Michael Richardson (2004) on the other hand explains that the global economy depends on the free flow of shipping through the strategic international straits, waterways, and canals in the Indian Ocean.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  report published in 2017, “world chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About 63% of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. The Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are the world’s most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit” (p.1). These channels are critically important to the world trade because so much of it passes through them. For instance, half of the world’s oil production is moved by tankers through these maritime routes. The blockage of a chokepoint, even for a day, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and thus these chokepoints are critical part of global energy security.  Hence, whoever control these chockpoints, waterways, and sea routes in the Indian Ocean maritime domain will reshape the region as an emerging global power.

In a recent analysis of globalization and its impact on Central Asia and Indian Ocean region, researcher Daniel Alphonsus (2015), notes that the twists and turns of political, economic and military turbulence were significant to all great players’ grand strategies:

(1) the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s anticipated strategy to increase connectivity and trade between Eurasian nations, a part of which is the future Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at furthering collaboration between south east Asia, Oceania and East Africa; (2) Project Mausam, India’s struggle to reconnect with its ancient trading partners along the Indian Ocean, broadly viewed as its answer to the MSR; and (3) the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, the USA’s effort to better connect south and south east Asian nations. (p.3)

India the superpower of the subcontinent, has long feared China’s role in building outposts around its periphery. In a recent essay, an Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote that the fusion of China’s economic and military interests “risk turning Sri Lanka into India’s Cuba” – a reference to how the Soviet Union courted Fidel Castro’s Cuba right on the United States’ doorstep. Located at the Indian Ocean’s crossroads gives Sri Lanka the strategic and economic weight in both MSR and Project Mausam plans. MSR highlights Sri Lanka’s position on the east-west sea route, while Project Mausam’s aim to create an “Indian Ocean World” places Sri Lanka at the center of the twenty-first century’s defining economic, strategic and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, alongside the MSR, China is building an energy pipeline through Pakistan to secure Arabian petroleum, which is a measure intended to bypass the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca altogether.

A recent study done by a panel of experts and reported by the New York Times reveal that how the power has increasingly shifted towards China from the traditional US led world order in the past five years among small nation states in the region. The critical role played by the strategic sea ports China has been building in the rims of Indian Ocean including Port of Gwadar in Pakistan, Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh clearly validates the argument that how these small states are being used as proxies in this power projection.

This ongoing political, economic and military rivalry between these global powers who are seeking sphere of influence in one of the world’s most important geostrategic regions is the beginning of a “Neo-Cold War” that Joseph Troupe refers as the post-Soviet era geopolitical conflict resulting from the multipolar New world order.

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South Asia

IMF bail-out Package and Pakistan

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Pakistan may approach IMF to bail-out the current economic crisis. It is not the first time that Pakistan will knock the doors of IMF. Since 1965, Pakistan has been to IMF 17 times. Almost all of the governments has availed IMF packages. Usually, IMF is a temporary relief and provide oxygen for short time so that the patient may recover and try to be self-sustained. The major role of IMF is to improve the governance or reforms, how the ill-economy of a country may recover quickly and become self-sustained. After having oxygen cylinder for 17 times within 5 decades, Pakistan’s economy could not recover to a stage, where we can be self-sustained and no more looking for IMF again and again. This is a question asked by the common man in Pakistan to their leadership.  People are worried that for how long do we have to run after IMF package? The nation has enjoyed 70 decades of independence and expects to be mature enough to survive under all circumstances without depending on a ventilator.

The immediate impact of decision to approach IMF, is the devaluation of Pakistani Rupees. By depreciating only one rupee to US dollar, our foreign debt increases 95 billion rupees.  Today we witness a depreciation of rupee by 15 approximately (fluctuating), means the increase in foreign debt by 1425 billion rupees. Yet, we have not negotiated with IMF regarding depreciation of Rupees. Usually IMF demand major depreciation but all government understands the implications of sharp devaluation, always try to bargain with IMF to the best of their capacity. I am sure, Government of Pakistan will also negotiate and get the best bargain.

IMF always imposes conditions to generate more revenue and the easiest way to create more income is imposing tax on major commodities including Gas, Electricity and Fuel. Pakistan has already increased the prices of Gas, Electricity and Fuel. It has had direct impact on basic necessities and commodities of life. We can witness a price hike of basic food, consumer items and so on. Except salaries, everything has gone up. While negotiating with IMF formally, we do not know how much tax will be increased and how much burden will be put on the common man.

We believe, our rulers know our capacity and will keep in mind the life of a common man and may not exceed the limit of burden to common man beyond its capacity. We are optimistic that all decisions will be taken in the best interest of the nation.

It is true, that Pakistan has been to IMF so many times, so this might be a justification for the PTI Government to avail IMF package. But, there are people with different approach. They have voted for change and for “Naya” (new) Pakistan. They do not expect from PTI to behave like previous several governments. If PTI uses the logic of previous governments, may not satisfy many people in Pakistan.

Especially, when Pakistan was in a position to take-off economically, we surrendered half way, may not be accepted by many people in Pakistan.

The government has explained that other options like economic assistance from friendly countries was also very expensive, so that they have preferred IMF as more competitive package. I wish, Government may educate public on the comparison of available options, their terms and conditions, their interest rate, their political conditions, etc. There might be something confidential, Government may avoid or hide, one may not mind and understand the sensitivity of some of the issues. But all permissible information on the terms and conditions of all options in comparison, may be placed on Ministry of Finance’s website or any other mode of dissemination of knowledge to its public.

Against the tradition, people of Pakistan have voted Imran Khan, who so ever was given ticket of PTI, public has voted him or her blindly in trust to Imran Khan. A few of his candidates might not be having very high capabilities or very good reputation, but, public has trusted Imran Khan blindly. Imran Khan is the third most popular leader in Pakistan, after Jinnah the father of nation, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s.

People of Pakistan have blindly trusted in Imran Khan and possess very high expectations from him. I know, Imran Khan understands it very well. He is honest, brave and visionary leader and I believe he will not disappoint his voters.

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South Asia

Now India denies a friendly hand: Imran Khan debuts against arrogant neighbors

Sisir Devkota

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Imran Khan is facing the brunt for overly appeasing its arch rival-India. On September 22, Khan tweeted that he was disappointed over India’s arrogant reply to resume bilateral talks in the UNGA and that he had encountered many “small men” in big offices unable to perceive the larger picture.I am observing a south Asian order changing with Khan’s rise in Pakistani politics. We in Nepal need to grasp the possible reality before circumstances shall engulf our interests.

Observation 1

Narendra Modi was undoubtedly “The Prince”of South Asia from Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century classic political narrative. I sense the old prince acting in distress over the rise of a new one. Imran Khan’s invitation for a ministerial level meeting in New York; amidst the eyes of foreign diplomats could not have been a better approach by Pakistan in a long time. Instead, Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj dismissed the offer, blaming Pakistan’s double standard in killing Indian forces and releasing Burhan Wani’s (India’s terrorist and Pakistan’s martyr) postal stamps. Khan did not sanction the postal release, but as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he must be held accountable for failing to stop the killings,just when talks were supposed to happen. He should have addressed the highly sensitive Indian government. But, I do empathize with Khan’s statement, “small men in big offices”; as he clearly outlined the exact problem. He directly called upon the Indian government to think bigger and escape circumstances to solve historical problems. Narendra Modi has developed a new rhetoric these days; that India is not going to keep quiet over Pakistan’s actions. It fits the nature of Machiavelli’s Prince as an authority which can maintain national virtue. Unfortunately, I do not buy Modi’s rhetoric. The Prince has come a bit late in his tenure to act for Indian virtues. I am sure many at the UNGA would have noticed India’s apprehension in the same manner. I suspect that the ex-prince is facing insecurities over the fear of losing his charisma. Nepal, in particular was charmed by his personality when he first visited our capital, with promises that flooded our heart. And then, we faced his double standard; right after the massive earthquake in 2015. Nobody in Nepal will sympathize with Swaraj’s justification of cancelling the meeting.

Observation 2

Let me explain the source of insecurity. Modi has thrived by endorsing his personality. A tea man who worked for the railways under great financial hardships, became the poster man of India. He generated hope and trust that his counterparts had lost over the years. His eloquent stage performance can fool the harshest of critics into sympathizing his cause. People have only realized later; many macro economists in India now argue that demonetization was, perhaps, one of the worst decisions for India’s sake. Narendra Modi is India sounds truer than Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India.

Imran Khan, a former cricketer does not spring the same impression as Modi. Khan, a world champion in 1992, is known for his vision and leadership in Cricket. Comparatively, Khan does not need to sell his poster in South Asia. He does not cry over his speeches to garner mass euphoria. Ask anybody who’s into the sport and they will explain you the legend behind his name. I suspect that Modi has realized that he is going to lose the stardom in the face of Pakistan’s newly elected democratic leader. After all, the Indian PM cannot match Imran’s many achievements in both politics and cricket. I suspect that Modi has realized the fundamental difference in how his subjects inside India and beyond are going to perceive Imran’s personality. I expect more artificial discourses from India to tarnish Imran’s capabilities.

Nepal & Pakistan

You will not find Pakistan associated with Nepal so often than with India. Frankly, Nepal has never sympathized with Indian cause against Pakistan. We have developed a healthy and constructive foreign relations with the Islamic republic. However, there has always been a problem of one neighbor keeping eyes on our dealings with another. Indian interests have hindered proximity with past governments. Now, Imran Khan has facilitated the platform for deeper relations. He does not carry the baggage of his predecessors. He is a global icon, a cricket legend and a studious politician. He is not the result of mass hysteria. Imran Khan has pledged to improve Pakistan’s economy, reinstate foreign ties and boost regional trade. For me, he is South Asia’s new Machiavellian prince; one that can be at least trusted when he speaks.

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