Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Indian HRD Minister of State, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Writes Newspaper Article on Indian Academic Controversy

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Indian HRD Minister of State, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Writes Newspaper Article on Indian Academic Controversy

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I was very pleasantly surprised to read an article related to an academic controversy by the Honourable Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, Dr. Shashi Tharoor. I think it is wonderful that an HRD minister has chosen to interact with interested members of the public and academics via a newspaper article. [BTW currently India has one HRD minister, Dr. M.M. Pallam Raju, and two HRD ministers of state, one of whom is Dr. Shashi Tharoor,]

First a little bit of background on Dr. Shashi Tharoor from his wikipedia page, He did his graduate studies culminating in a Ph.D. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He served in the United Nations from 1978 to 2007 with his last post being UN Under-Secretary-General. He was nominated by the Govt. of India for the post of UN Secretary General, competed with present UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, eventually withdrawing his candidacy. He also has a literary career as an author of many English books. I think India is very fortunate to have such a distinguished person holding a union minister of state position for Human Resource Development (HRD).

The article I referred earlier appeared in The Hindu today, "Drop the rhetoric, start the debate", While the article's focus is on a current academic controversy in Delhi University, the article touches upon general academic issues including HRD ministry interaction with academic administrators, which was very interesting to me.

[Please note that the Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY license does not apply to this post.]

Dr. Tharoor writes, "It may be heresy to say it, but education as a sector remains the last frontier largely untouched by reforms. The economic reforms of the last 20-odd years have unleashed our economic potential, and the governance reforms of the last 10 years have raised our civic awareness. However, we as a nation need to completely overhaul our educational systems and processes if we are to realise the full potential of the demographic dividend that awaits us in the coming decades of the 21st century."

I am delighted to see such an unequivocal statement put out by a union HRD minister on the need for academic reform in India. He goes on to say that Indian academic positions have become another government job for life positions with little incentive for performance or disincentives for non-performance! I think his view is quite right. But I have to clarify that I do not mean to imply that all Indian academics take it easy because it is a secure job. I am quite sure many will be working hard and trying to excel in teaching and research. But if the system is such that performance is not rewarded well and non-performance is not penalized then the motivation to excel in teaching and research will slowly but surely dwindle in most persons caught up, usually for an entire work-life, in such a system.

He points out that the academic community (typically) blames the overbearing interference of government (HRD ministry and higher education regulators UGC & AICTE, I guess) functionaries for academics and academic institutions not being able to excel. This is an interesting issue for me. My opinion is that as huge amount of public tax payer money is given to academic institutions by the government, the recipients of such money must be answerable to representatives of the people, which are the elected members of Parliament and HRD ministers in particular. Top academic administrators should not be allowed to escape accountability by resorting to tactics of blaming government interference for poor performance of the institutions they administer.

Students and parents of the students are key stakeholders in the academic system but are not in a strong position to raise their voice and be heard. Yes, there are student unions but I don't know how effective they are for improving the academic standards of teaching and evaluation. Once again, IMHO, it is the moral responsibility of elected members of Parliament especially the HRD ministers to hold academic administrators and academics responsible for their duties of teaching and evaluating students well. If Indian academics and Indian academic administrators are not willing to be accountable to even the HRD ministers then who will they be accountable to?

Friday, October 19, 2012

First Question in 2nd US Presidential debate: Student asks about employment after graduation!

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Yesterday I saw the 2nd US Presidential debate held on October 16th, 2012, Its transcript is available here:

The first question was by a young undergraduate student, "Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. Can — what can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?" (Source: above transcript link from

The transcript link also has the moderator saying that the questions were *not* known (prior to the debate) to the candidates and the commission (presidential debate commission, I guess) but known to the moderator and her team.

I think it is a celebration of US democracy that a young undergraduate student is able to pose such a real-life-concern question directly to the sitting President and his challenger. Hats off to US democracy!

The answers from the candidates were, well, politically correct :). But I am not sure whether they really were good answers. In my humble opinion, the challenges of today's tough economic times not only for the developed countries of the world but perhaps the whole world, must make educators/academics seriously examine whether the education they impart to students makes them job worthy. I think job-oriented education is the pressing need of the hour, worldwide.

A graduate who has been taught knowledge which cannot fetch him/her a job in today's economy undergoes huge suffering. The student's seriousness when he asks the question and how he clarifies that it is more important that his parents be reassured than him on whether he will be able to sufficiently support himself after graduation, says it all, IMHO.

Academic Reform, Higher Education Bubble, Student Loan Problem & Private Universities

My Viewpoints/Articles

Transparency is the way to differentiate between good and bad deemed universities, March 2014

Discussion/Informative Posts Involving Others' Articles/Views, Media reports and Some Comments from me

For-profit Corinthian Colleges goes for orderly dissolution of company; One of the largest USA higher education closures; Lessons for India, July 2014

Prof. Yashpal Committee: Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education Report (2009) - Extracts related to private higher ed. providers and capitation fee, July 2014

Private study (informal data): (Illegal) Donation/Capitation fees in India from KG to PG of Rs. 48,400 crores (US $ 8 Billion) per year, July 2014

Is Brazil blazing a new path for low-cost and high-capacity higher education that countries like India can follow? June 2014
Tough talking articles about USA Higher Education's 1200+ percent tuition fees increase over past 30 years and Student Debt Trap, June 2014

Two Hindu articles on Radically reforming higher education, Student loan procedures and concerns; Aspiring Minds employment linkage to edX MOOC courses, June 2014

Recent articles in The Hindu arguing for and against privatisation of (professional) higher education (in India), May 2014

Flip-Flop Trauma for 44 Deemed Universities and Lakhs of students, parents, faculty and others associated with them, March 2014

Private Deemed Universities - A model for excellence in Indian technical education? But what about its high costs to students, and so, social impact?, May 2014

USA Higher Education Bubble? What about Indian Higher Education Bubble? December 2013

2013 Milken Institute Panel Discussion - The Future of Higher Education in America, December 2013

Decline in USA Higher Education - PBS Documentary dated 2005; What about Indian Higher Education?, December 2013

Think India Education Debate on Indian National English TV Channel, January 2014
For-profit college in California, USA, faces lawsuit from Attorney General for Systematic Deception of Students, January 2014

Some Serious Dangers of For-Profit Education Schools (Colleges) For Poor and Naive Students, January 2014

How Online Education challenge is shaking up US academia, November 2012

Napster, mp3 music industry disruption and MOOC, November 2012

Tough Times for US Academia; Lessons for India?, September 2012

Nature News, April 2011, Articles on PhD System Challenges, May 2013

USA: The Student Loan Debt Disaster! Update: Income Based Repayment Plan Seems to be a Superb Solution, February 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

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