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


Publicly Funded Higher Education Institutions should put up Detailed Course contents on the Internet



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Publicly Funded Higher Education Institutions should put up Detailed Course contents on the Internet


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2014/04/publicly-funded-highed-education.html



Last updated on 8th April 2014

Given below is an email that I plan to send shortly to top persons associated with Indian academic/higher education funding, oversight and administration. [Update: Mail sent on 7th April 2014.]

Dear sir/madam,

In the computer science/information technology (CS/IT) academic field some US universities have done an outstanding public service by making available freely on the Internet the following for their courses:



  • Course structure

  • Course book(s) - if the course is based primarily on it/them

  • Reference books and other resources, if any

  • Teaching material (could be prepared by the faculty or be a re-use of external publicly available material with clear attribution or as an external link)

  • Assignments

Here is an example of such detailed course content: Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment - http://www.cs.stevens.edu/~jschauma/810/

As a teacher of over ten different computer programming (lab.) courses (as honorary staff/honorary faculty/visiting faculty) in a deemed university in Andhra Pradesh, India from 2003 to 2011, I found such course content to be very useful and was inspired by such examples and tried to, whenever I could, do the same for my courses on the university Intranet. [Now I am in the process of putting up the course material of most of these courses on the Internet here: http://raviiyerteaches.wordpress.com/, just in case it may be of use to others on the Internet.]

It seems to me that most CS/IT departments of Indian higher educational institutions generally do not follow such a practice. Some have course content pages (e.g. some of the IITs) but the information contained is minimal and does not come close to what I have mentioned above about some US university course pages. Yes, we have NPTEL, http://nptel.ac.in/, but that is a single national level portal which may find it difficult to accommodate various types of teaching methodologies and levels of rigour across the huge variety of educational institutions in the country.

Given this situation, I have a suggestion that publicly funded higher educational institutions in India should strongly encourage the faculty of these institutions in CS/IT departments and other departments as well to put up their course material in detail on their institution website so that it becomes available to any interested person in India (and abroad) over the Internet. I think it will be a wonderful return to the public on public money investment in publicly funded higher educational institutions of India. University assessment organizations like NAAC and NBA as well as prospective students (and their parents) can then look up these course pages to get some idea of the methodology and rigour used by the faculty to teach these courses.

As of now, it is extremely difficult for outsiders including prospective students (and parents) as well as, I presume, university assessment organizations like NAAC and NBA to get a decent feel of teaching standards in most Indian higher education institutions. This sort of transparency and accountability for teaching duties of faculty especially in publicly funded higher educational institutions of India may do wonders for improving the teaching standards of higher education in India.

Regards

Ravi S. Iyer


Software Consultant
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[Mail update (below) sent on 8th April 2014]
A couple of clarifications:

1. By publicly funded higher education institutions I mean government (tax payer) funded higher education institutions.


2. The last sentence of the main body of the previous mail would be better expressed as follows: The above mentioned suggestion (faculty putting up detailed course material on the Internet) may result in the sort of transparency and accountability for teaching duties of faculty especially in publicly funded higher educational institutions of India that may do wonders for improving the teaching standards of higher education in India.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Holistically Elite CS/IT Education vs. Technically Elite CS/IT Education


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.com/2012/01/holistically-elite-csit-education-vs.html

Last Updated On January 21st 2012

A holistic, service to society view would favour CS/IT education which combines technical know-how with application of this technical know-how to current socially relevant problems especially rural Indian society's problems as they are the most needy section of the country. Students who are taught in this fashion will have technical know-how and also experience the joy of serving the needy through CS/IT and earning their love. Such students may, later on in life, not only flourish commercially in industry or in academia but also contribute back to society, especially its needy, through software solving its problems, thereby leading to inclusive and harmonious growth of the community at large.

Some of the points touched upon in this post are general to higher education and not specific to CS/IT. But I am qualified by industry work & teaching experience and academic lab course teaching & projects' consultant experience only in CS/IT. So I make specific suggestions mainly about the CS/IT academic stream. I would also like to state that CS/IT being an applied field may have direct service to society application possibilities as well as research possibilities. Pure science fields like Physics, Chemistry, Bio-sciences or Mathematics may contribute via fundamental research. I do not have significant knowledge about these fields to comment on them. But by no means am I implying that their fundamental research contributions are "any lesser" in service to society than applied CS/IT software development contributions or CS/IT research contributions.

For CS/IT students to develop such a country-citizen/world-citizen, broad-minded outlook some time has to be devoted to teaching them application of human values/ethical values/spiritual values to CS/IT field. Some, perhaps most, educational institutions may prefer to be secular and not get involved with spirituality/religion but will certainly want to promote moral/human/ethical values. The financial system challenges that are threatening Europe, US and the world in general has its roots in grossly unethical & immoral actions of the financial system elite. The brunt of the suffering is not borne by the financial system elite who caused the problem in the first place but by the poor commoners who were taken for a royal ride by the financial system elite. So I think that all educational institutions, whether secular only or a combination of secular+spiritual, will agree that for the betterment of the world, education in moral/human/ethical values is urgently needed, especially at higher education levels, as it is the lack of these values in the "highly educated" financial system elite which has brought the global financial system and the global community in general to such a precarious state.

But some educational institutions focus on pursuing excellence in specialized fields only and achieve fame in those specialized fields. It is these "elite" institutions that are revered by society today and almost every other educational institution tries to emulate them. I learned a new term the other day, "Ivy League Envy", from this Economist, Dec. 10th 2011, article, Schumpeter - University challenge: http://www.economist.com/node/21541398. The students from these "elite" institutions typically get the highest-paid fresher jobs in their area of specialization. Money earned by students and not their contribution to society, especially its poor, is the typical measure of success for most of the freshly passed out students and their parents. In India, for the CS/IT field, it is the IITs & now, probably, the IIITs which fall in this "elite" category.

In my view, these are "elite" from a speciality-excellence point of view only. There are other educational institutions which are "holistically elite" giving the "right", in my humble opinion :), balance of speciality-knowledge & human values knowledge.

I guess there will always be hallowed portals of "elite" education both at material/secular levels [MIT, Harvard, Oxford, IITs etc.] and at spiritual levels [Elite institutions among Christian seminaries, Muslim Madrasas, Jewish seminaries, Buddhist monasteries, Hindu monasteries etc.]

A few educational institutions go for a combination of spiritual/moral/ethical, cultural, sports & 'secular' education as they want to give both an education for life (truthful, ethical, peaceful and loving way of life - moral/ethical/spiritual life) & an education for a living (material life). These holistic educational institutions cannot aim for the same level of excellence in secular education like that of the elite secular only educational institutions. But it must be noted that they achieve excellence by holistic standards and so become a hot destination for parents & students desiring holistic education. So they are "holistically elite" as against being "secular only elite".

But some parents and students may want to avoid any value based education, especially at higher education levels like CS/IT graduate/post-graduate level. There should be NO compulsion. Such parents & students can steer clear of value-based educational institutions. Anyway, as of today, value-based higher education institutions are a very small minority.

Another vital factor is the "big paycheque" motivation for students & parents. The "holistically elite" CS/IT fresher graduate would get a decent paycheque but it would typically be significantly lesser than the paycheque of the "technically elite" CS/IT fresher graduate. So students & parents interested in a "big paycheque", also can steer clear of value-based educational institutions.

Then we have an issue of best education for intellectually-elite students versus best education for intellectually-commoner students. [Note that an intellectually-elite student may be weak in social/humanistic skills, whereas an intellectually-commoner student may be very talented in social/humanistic skills i.e. he may be a social-humanistic-nature-wise-elite student.] Some intellectually-talented educators would like to focus on creating the best education system for the intellectually-elite.

In my humble opinion, we should not suffocate the elite and force them to learn in commoner student ways. Society must allow the crème de la crème to pursue excellence in its chosen fields. We must keep alive, within bounds of reason and social acceptability/relevance, the portals, physical and digital, which inspire, ignite and elevate minds to achieve excellence. Such excellence can be in secular fields like Physics, Evolution, Computing, Medicine, Sociology, Economics and also in spiritual fields. Why limit ourselves to only Darwin, Newton, Neils Bohr, Einstein ... We should also have beacons of love, joy, peace & light like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, a Mahatma Gandhi, a Mother Teresa, a Pope John Paul II, a Ramana Maharishi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramana_Maharshi) etc.

But we should not ignore the non-elite, the 99 %, as the Occupy movement refers to itself. We need solutions to cater to their educational needs as well. That is ABSOLUTELY VITAL for social peace and harmony. The intellectually-elite can have the freedom to pursue their area of excellence only if social peace and harmony is ensured.

In conclusion, I feel that "holistically elite" CS/IT education is what society needs today far more than "technically elite" CS/IT education. The amount of money that students earn after they finish their education should not be the primary measure of success of the "holistically elite" educational system. The contribution made by students using the CS/IT skills they have gained from academia, after they finish their education, or in some rare cases, even while they are undergoing their education, to society's needs, especially the needs of society's poor, and how much love, joy & peace they bring to their individual life, their family and the community in general should be the primary measure of success of the "holistically elite" CS/IT educational system.

Saturday, October 1, 2011



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