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

Think India Education Debate on Indian National English TV Channel

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Think India Education Debate on Indian National English TV Channel

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I saw a debate on education on CNN-IBN, a National English language News TV channel of India, around 10 days ago. It was hosted by Think India, a think tank. An earlier blog post, Suggestions to Improve CS & IT Education in India sent to Think India - A Public Policy Advocacy Think-Tank, has more info. about Think India and my mails to them.

The topics covered in the discussion were on the lines of the action points listed on its web page for education, Interestingly the debate is available on Think India's youtube channel. Here's the debate link,, 39 min. 09 sec., published on Jan. 11, 2014.

I felt it worthwhile to make an edited transcript of parts of the debate that interested me and post it as a comment on the above youtube page (under my name - Ravi S. Iyer). Some readers may find it convenient to quickly browse through this part-transcript.

The initial part of my comment is, "I am very happy to see Network 18 host such a debate on the vital topic of education on national TV. Hopefully such shows will lead to more Indians getting involved with understanding the rather opaque education administration and policy making systems in India, and ensuring that adequate and suitable education reform happens."

The background of the speakers/panelists are as follows:

The moderator of this show, "Raghav Bahl is an Indian businessman best known for his ownership of several television channels, including TV18 India. He is founding/Controlling Shareholder & Managing Director of Network18 group.",

"Dr. Madhav Chavan is a co-founder and CEO-President of Pratham, an organization that reaches 3 million primary school age children in India every year.",

Manish Sabharwal is an entrepreneur and co-founder of TeamLease, India's largest temporary employment company. Here's a Forbes India August 2013 article by Manish Sabharwal, Why the God of Jobs Doesn't Smile on India.

"Ashish Dhawan is the Founder and CEO of Central Square Foundation (CSF)." "Ashish is an MBA with distinction from Harvard University and a dual bachelor's (BS/BA) holder with Magna Cum Laude honours from Yale University. He is on the India Advisory Board of Harvard and a member of Yale's Development Council.", Vision of CSF: "All children in India, regardless of their social and economic status, will get a high quality school education that prepares them to be responsible and productive citizens.",

Harish Srivastava was with the Prime Minister's Office and the Planning Commission and now is COO of Center for Civil Society, a prominent think tank,

The CEO of Think India, "Dhiraj Nayyar trained as an economist at the Universities of Delhi, Oxford and Cambridge.",

I also thought I should summarize the edited part-transcript in this blog post and have given it below.

For-profit institutions at all levels of education
The view of most speakers was that many educational institutions are already for-profit but done in a back-door way as for-profit education is not legal (in India). This back-door situation makes it difficult for genuine education entrepreneurs including teachers to start their own educational institutions. Getting capital for this capital intensive area is also another challenge for entrepreneurs due to the current laws. Making for-profit legal would open up the field for education entrepreneurs and investors. Consumer protection laws should apply for these for-profit institutions. Also, taxes should be paid by them.

India has seen liberalization in the past 22 years in many fields (leading to those fields reforming). But the education sector has not had any reform yet. Education still lives in the license-raj era.

Need for standardized assessments (measuring learning outcomes)
A speaker said that 60 countries in the world including almost every OECD country uses standardized assessments. Why not India? The emphasis in education in India has been on inputs like buildings and hiring teachers but very little emphasis is on learning outcomes. Learning outcome should become front and centre in the education system.

Higher education - single higher education regulator
We should have a single consistent higher education regulator like we have one single regulator for stocks across the country - SEBI ( Currently different states of India have different regulations for education. Futher there are various professions like medicine and law with their councils which are under separate acts of parliament. The next prime minister should get together all these (stakeholders) and create a single consistent higher education regulator. Different fields like technical and medicine can be managed by different sections of this single body.

UGC (the key higher education regulator) both funds and regulates universities. This mixing of funding and regulation should be avoided.

Higher education - complete deregulation of distance and online education
Current laws in India make it very difficult for online education providers operating across various states of the country. To meet the goal of college enrollment going up to 30%, online education and distance education are vital. So these fields should be completely deregulated. Having such open education systems will help the deprived more than the others.

Higher education - allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India
We should incentivize Indian companies to invest in universities. And we should also allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India. That will help in Indian students paying (investing) the money in the Indian campuses of foreign universities instead of paying that money abroad. Foreign university campuses will be few as compared to the total university campuses in India and these foreign university campuses will act as lighthouses for quality/be a benchmark for others.

Higher education - raise fees of government-funded universities
Many universities in India get only 3% of their budget from student fees. This (causes) a drain on govt. coffers and there is an issue of student accountability. If the student pays larger fees he/she will demand better service. Need-based scholarship and student loans should be provided.

Vocational Training
Young people are very concerned about employability of the education they undergo. There is a large gap globally, but especially so in India, between what students study and what employers want. There are strong differences between higher education system and skills (education/training) system. National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF) is caught up between two ministries - labour and HRD (which handles education). NVQF should be passed. Associate degrees - 2 year programs - should be introduced "which are not normal degrees on a diet but vocational training on streroids".

India has only 3 lakh (3 hundred thousand) apprentices, whereas Germany has 3 million, Japan 10 million and China 20 million. The 1961 Apprenticeship act should be rebooted. It will be easy to do. We could have 10 million apprentices in 18 months time and thereby have a lot of young people in productive jobs.

--- end summary ---

Some days ago I had added the following comment to the Think India web page on education,, (under my name):

My specific interest area in this context is Indian Computer Science and Information Technology Higher Education. Perhaps some of my suggestions may hold good for other technical education areas as well. The crux of the problem, as I see it, is that, usually, the teachers are not practitioners. In other words a CS or IT academic, usually, does not design or develop software, and unfortunately UGC rules do not provide specific incentives for the academics to be good practitioners. Instead the incentives are heavily tilted towards research publications.

If the medical profession expects its teachers to be medical practitioners, why can't the software development teachers be software development practitioners? Why doesn't UGC and AICTE create career growth incentives for Indian CS & IT academics to be software development practitioners as well as teachers. Sure, they can be researchers as well but not at the cost of lack of knowledge about the practice of software development.

--- end comment ----

There is another web page on discussion,, which (currently) deals with the question, "Should foreign universities be allowed to set up campuses in India?" A few days ago I had added the following comment there:

I think they should allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India. Nothing like competition from foreign organizations to stir up Indian organizations to excellence. Just look at how competitive and efficient Indian banks became once they had to compete with foreign banks. But some foreign higher education institutions are good and some bad. The attorney general of California, USA, has filed a lawsuit in October 2013 against a for-profit higher education US company with over 100 campuses in North America alleging misrepresentation of job placement rates, false advertising etc.! So Indian HRD ministry and higher education regulators like UGC and AICTE should permit only good foreign higher ed. institutions to enter the country and further keep them under observation to ensure that they do not indulge in any unhealthy practices.

--- end comment ----

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, January 27, 2014 at 6:45 PM

To know about the downside of for-profit schools, please see the post Some Serious Dangers of For-Profit Education Schools (Colleges) For Poor and Naive Students.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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