Three thanks

EducationWorld May 04 | EducationWorld

This is to thank you for many things. Firstly, for publishing my viewpoint in your cover story ‘Joshi’s IIM grab angers middle class India’ (EW March). Secondly, for giving attention to education through your excellent magazine. Education is the most backward sector among the organised sectors. It has refused to change, still sticking to the organisation model and culture created 100 years ago. Thirdly, for your entrepreneurial venture. Very few journalists have done well as entrepreneurs.

After your cover story was written, Dr. Joshi asserted on television that he knew more about education than Narayana Murthy. Nobody doubts it. But knowing about education is quite distinct from knowing about the ‘management of education’. None of his colleagues know much about the ministries they are in charge of — finance, commerce, industry, IT, telephony, transport, disinvestment, etc. Yet all of them are doing extremely well in managing their ministries.

In my opinion, the HRD ministry should not subsidise IIM students who can afford to pay high fees, but should give scholarships to all poor students, including those in the other 800 management institutes across the country. Seven hundred of them provide low quality inputs, with low quality faculty, and yet are charging fees of Rs.1-2 lakh per year. The ministry should help these institutes to upgrade their faculties through the IIMs, whose main function ought to be development of faculty of other institutions.

The IIMs are now producing graduates who enter already well-managed corporations, where their marginal productivity is low. Meanwhile, other than business, all sectors of the economy are in bad shape due to poor management inputs. The IIMs ought to help them to upgrade their management staff and managerial competence.

N.S. Ramaswamy

Thoroughly exposed

I have been following the IIM fee cut controversy provoked by Union HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi in the media including EducationWorld with close interest. You deserve the congratulations of the generally confused public for clarifying the issues at stake in your cover story ‘Joshi’s IIM grab angers middle class India’ (EW March) and your subsequent follow up reports and editorials on this issue.

In your latest (April) issue, Rajiv Desai has thoroughly exposed Dr. Joshi’s “moffusil mindset” which has prompted him to foolishly subsidise IIM students whose financial riches are assured. Similarly in your editorial in the April issue you have also exposed the hypocrisy of Chief Justice Khare of the Supreme Court who is very concerned about the access of poor students to the IIMs but is supremely unconcerned about the access of the poor to the country’s utterly inaccessible courts of justice.

Asha Seth

Curious paradox

Appropos the fierce
 battle between the IIMs and the Union HRD ministry on the fee reduction issue, it is relevant to look at what is happening in other countries on the issue of funding higher education. The recent parliamentary debates in the UK signpost the way in which govern-ments are combating increasing pressure to fund higher education given the macro economic thrust to cut taxes and reduce public expenditure to control fiscal deficits. This in an environment where school education is substantially if not fully funded by government, and there is near 100 percent school enrollment.

On the other hand in India where about 60 million children are out of school and another 60 million do not know how to read and write, the government does not spend anywhere near the 6 percent of GDP on education recommended by various commissions. Yet this government wants to spend huge amounts to subsidise IIMs who have been running successfully and producing high class graduates, thankfully without government interference. If government is seriously wanting to open spaces for poorer eligible students, let it expand the scholarships at the IIMs for such students… but then that is not the issue, is it?

I say more power to N.R. Narayana Murthy who has challenged the real intentions of this policy. Not only does he run his business successfully, he would do so with education too.

Sathi Alur on e-mail

Misfired effort

I had occasion to read â€” online — a few issues of Education World. I want to share a few of my observations. First, I am not sure why you should have such a pretentious tag line ‘The Human Development Magazine’ while the magazine seems essentially targeted at schools and colleges. Second, the style of writing is rather dull and pedantic.

Third, some of the section headings — for instance, Special Report, Cover Story, Spotlight — seem to be a throwback to the times when you were editing Business-World. Even some of your writers, if memory serves me right, were once part of that magazine.

Finally, one is not sure whether some of the content will really appeal to the targeted audience. For example, what’s the feature entitled ‘Long and arduous road to gender parity’ doing in magazine like EW? You think any school/ college student or even teacher will read it? Fat chance! Likewise, the article ‘Bollywood needs contemporary directors’ is entirely misplaced in EW.

Before I end, let me offer a few suggestions: Keep your articles short and telling: few people today have time to read 2,000-word articles, however well-written (and some of yours are decidedly not!).

N Raghu on e-mail

Film direction isn’t a career option? Gender parity is unconnected with education? Enroll for a deductive logic course, quick! — Editor

Welcome development

I read your cover story â€˜The rising sun of swamiji schools’ (EW April) with riveting interest. In particular I was pleased to note that you have resisted the temptation to take the populist liberal line and condemn these new genre schools as BJP and/or RSS mouthpieces. On the contrary they are the antidote to the communal poison that the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal etc spew out as you have rightly stressed.

There are several positive, tolerant and inclusive values in Hinduism which have enabled this religion to survive for over 5,000 years despite repeated invasions and the subjugation of large territories in India. After reading your story I am convinced that these positive values of liberal Hinduism are being propagated by the great majority of ‘swamiji’ schools. This is a welcome social development and will not only make the new generation of Indians culturally confident but also more tolerant nation builders.

I look forward to more insightful stories on the neglected education sector from EducationWorld.

Sri Avdesh Acharya

Glaring omissions

The cover story â€˜The rising sun of swamiji schools’ (EW April) is a very ill-researched story. It covers only few major Hindu swamijis and their schools which makes me wonder whether you are trying to act as their PR manager and telling the world that they are doing such good work. Even in that the coverage is not comprehensive enough and seems to be more Bangalore centred. You have not even gone 60 km out of Bangalore to Tumkur where the Siddaganga math is doing yeoman service to the cause of education. The math is giving free education/ food/ accommo-dation to more than 7,000 students studying between kindergarten to university level. This is a glaring omission according to me.

Moreover what about the several Muslim trusts which are doing a lot of service to education — the Al-Ameen Trust for example? You have made just a passing mention. I wish you’d do some more research before writing such stories so that you don’t leave any stones unturned.

Altaf Hussain on e-mail

Our cover story was meant to be illustrative not exhaustive — Editor

Importance of Kashmir

I am highly disappointed by the editorial ‘Robust example of cricket greens’ (EW April). The editorial speaks of the Indo-Pak peace process and says that India being the larger country should be more accommodating. Why? History is witness to the treachery and malice of Pakistan. They have declared war on us thrice and are waging proxy war in Kashmir even today.

You were the former editor of the country’s premier business magazines and you don’t see the commercial sense in fighting to keep Kashmir? Kashmir can earn massive amounts of foreign exchange through tourism. Pakistan is fighting only for this.

I was travelling in Himachal Pradesh in July last year and noticed that large numbers of Kashmiri Muslims have migrated to Himachal. If this trend goes unchecked and as you suggest India becomes super-accommodative and gives away Kashmir to Pak then we can have no doubts that Himachal Pradesh will be the next hot bed of terrorism.

Rahul Vashist on e-mail

For your information all Indian citizens have a right to travel to and reside in any part of India (except Kashmir which has a special status) — Editor

Cause and effect

Puja Rawat’s special report â€˜Long and arduous road to gender parity’ (EW April) threw a welcome light on a depressing subject. It’s shocking that half a century after independence that the great majority of 350 million illiterate adults in India are women. It’s not that girl students are not interested in education. However widespread illiteracy of parents and lack of awareness in rural India about working women as also poor school infrastructure — toilets, transport etc — discourages girl students in village India.

I was specially shocked to learn that the average years of schooling for the girl child in India is a mere 1.2 years. Therefore given the importance of women in influencing family behaviour, it’s not surprising that on all socio-economic indices shining India is a pathetically backward nation.

Shalini Mathur

Discourage dependency culture

I read your special report â€˜Neglect of rural schools’ (EW October 2003) with enough interest to prompt a reaction. In my opinion, to help rural schools is to teach them not to look to the government or anybody for help. Children must be taught to help themselves with whatever resources they have.

By resources, I mean creativity. Children need to be taught to be creative. You can ask them to build a toilet from wood and a shelter from leaves. Teachers should arrange trips to companies so that they can look at production processes and offices and see how things are done. Teachers should persuade corporate managers and ask them to accept childrens’ visits. Children should be taught to come up with solutions and ideas and take care of themselves rather than waiting for somebody to help them.

The purpose of education should be to teach children to become independent and take responsibility for their own lives. This needs a culture change which is not easy. Yet, it is the best solution for future generations in this competitive world.

Joseph on e-mail

Poor academic system

I read your special report feature ‘Danger: Date-expired syllabuses’ (EW February) with special interest. I would like to share some of my own observations and experiences in India as a physics student.

I studied B.Tech (electronics) in the Madras Institute of Technology (Anna University, Tamil Nadu) from 1992-1995 and prior to that I read B.Sc physics in D.G. Vaishnav College (Madras University). Most of my classmates were admitted based on their marks in the Plus Two exams. We were never interviewed or asked to take any tests.

Our syllabus did not seem outdated to me, but I would never have obtained a job anywhere using my physics degree. You cannot take Newton’s laws of motion and try to figure out how an automobile component works. None of the students exhibited any interest in research. Even if we did, the laboratory was not available to us except during practical class hours. The lab equipment was outdated; we were experimenting with valves in 1991 when the the world was using transistor chips!

What I am worried about is the fact that our teachers seem to have lost interest in the whole process of education. Some of our professors were very good, but even they seemed disillusioned. I am worried that now this could very well become a vicious circle. Some of the most uninterested students become teachers. They raise more of the same crop.

The quality of service provided by our academic system is very poor. It needs to be ranked as high in the national priority list as water services and roads. But most of the concerned people do not even seem to understand that there is a huge problem here.

The university system has got away with this. Best wishes on your efforts to bring this burning issue to the forefront. 

Ramiah Ariya on e-mail

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