On India’s Education Policy

http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinion/Task-Cut-Out-for-Smriti-Irani/2014/06/16/article2282316.ece
http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/289101/The-New-Indian-Express-Chennai/16-06-2014#page/8/3

Mrs Irani’s New Job
Published in New Indian Express 16 June 2014 as “Task Cut Out For Smriti Irani”

 

When there is success in Indian education it is because of the genius of our children and youth, the deep involvement of parents, our stable families and cultures, and the efforts of thousands of dedicated unsung teachers and professors. Education is the ladder of social and economic mobility, allowing within a generation the children of labourers to become teachers, electricians, nurses and pharmacists, the children of teachers and tradesmen to become engineers, doctors and industrialists.

It is a universal task of government to make sure such ladders of learning exist to be climbed everywhere and that they’re sturdy and spacious. The ladders do not have to be government-provided; there can be as many or more privately offered alternatives too, and the choice should belong to parents and children as to which ladder of which kind they invest their hard-earned money and time in, so their families are best able to climb out of poverty or misfortune.

Education can be government financed without being government provided. For example, government can provide the parent or guardian of each school-pupil a handsome voucher to be used at any school of choice, public or private, for the child. This would allow a vast resource to be tapped which is the local knowledge that parents and pupils have about specific educational problems and opportunities in their own area.

Besides public financing of at least school education, government’s role remains one of ensuring and enforcing academic and financial discipline, so that any education provided at any level by any purported provider is worth its name. At its loftiest we may want education to nurture the child’s soul and build character, and consist of science, mathematics, literature, as well as music, sports and games. At the very least in Indian circumstances, we may insist upon a minimum of the three traditional Rs of Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic reaching every child without fail. There is a vital public interest in wanting every citizen to comprehend the world around him or her and function in it productively and thoughtfully as an adult.

Such may be Mrs Smriti Irani’s goals in her new job. The reality she faces though may be abysmal at best and appalling at worst. Throughout the system, Indian education has come close to being ruined in recent decades.

Those responsible for the situation include her predecessors in recent decades, plus bureaucrats who range from indifferent at best to corrupt at worst, and self-styled educationists and bogus “educational consultants” purveying the latest expensive educational fad, besides administrators, professors and teachers who have too often lost all sense of vocation, being interested more in the business of building and equipment contracts, private consulting, private tuition, everything but their simple job of transmission of substantial standard knowledge to young people.

The government’s own India Education Report said not long ago: “It does not require clever tools of measurement to demonstrate that there are millions of children in India who are totally deprived of any education worth the name. And it is not as if they are invisible, remote, and therefore unreached. They are everywhere in the cities: on the streets, wiping cars at traffic junctions, picking rags in mounds of waste; in the roadside eateries; in small factories, as cheap labour or domestic help; at ‘home’ completing household chores. In the villages again they are everywhere, responding to the contextual demands of family work as well as bonded labour.”

Even leaving that aspect of the tragedy aside, our schoolchildren have ranked last or near last in standardised international testing in recent years, while our best higher education and technical institutions fail to reach world standards despite their pretensions and expenditure. That individual Indian students fare very well in foreign educational systems only reinforces the idea that they must escape our own system to do so, that a “brain drain” is somehow inevitable of our finest talent who have to migrate abroad to serve foreign nations after being educated at Indian public expense.

Mrs Irani can tell her bureaucrats: “Look, I do not pretend to be a highly educated person but if you think you and your ‘educational consultants’ can bamboozle me you are wrong. I am determined to improve our systems of education and let me tell you what we are going to be doing: we are going to be putting the full power of this ministry on the side of the weakest, most powerless and voiceless stakeholders in the system. Your sole criterion for policy in each educational situation you face is going to be judging what it does for the weakest voiceless stakeholder, typically primary and secondary-age children and their parents, as well as undergraduate or postgraduate students and dedicated teachers and researchers. That’s it.”

She can tell IIT and IIM directors and university VCs and registrars: “Why are you so interested in so many buildings and computer contracts? I’m going to have specially audited all such big purchase items in the last decade and more. And top foreign varsities are putting all their courses online. Can you at least put your faculty members’ names and credentials and courses online too, as well as your syllabi, schedules and accounts? Everyone in higher education will be asked to do the same. All this may enable better informed choice by parents and students while encouraging productive faculty members and discouraging the corrupt”.

She can tell state education ministers: “I fully know your problems of schools with one teacher for 100 children, schools without water or toilets or blackboards or roofs or books, leave aside midday meals. I know your problems with teacher-training and rote learning. Please prepare a practical school-by-school wish list of all the resources you need, and I assure you whatever funding the state government gives towards achieving such a goal, the Union government will double or triple that. We have a lot of public money being wasted on foreign weapons’ systems and all sorts of subsidies leave aside corruption, and I assure you I will find whatever money you need to establish proper schooling throughout India for the first time ever, for all our children.”

If Mrs Irani seeks to even try to do something like this seriously, hope for Indian education will be revived and she’ll have earned the applause of the country.

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On the rot of institutions (and what an Academy might be like in the Facebook/Internet Age): Listening to the ladies….

From Facebook Aug 31 2011:

Subroto Roy has really done what he can, just about, for his country, & has been rewarded by his country’s government and its “institution of national importance” with the most despicable evil. It is a toss-up between whether my personal experience of Indian corruption and vicious state-tyranny is worse than my personal experience of bribery and perjury in the federal court system in America.

Andrea Kent Your bitterness is understandable. Patriotism is rising above appropriate anger toward individuals and continuing to love and serve the nation, even if it is infected by wicked individuals.

Subroto Roy Yes it is indeed, you are right…

Andrea Kent The history of most great nations contains examples of individuals who, though later acknowledged as heroes, were treated shabbily by their respective homelands. It is sad that you are being treated badly, but surely it is just by one institution and its envious employees, rather than by the entire country? At least, I hope this is caused by a small number of wickedly envious people rather than by an established policy of the government.;

Subroto Roy Corruption is endemic in India… the matters I exposed some years ago had to do with (a) apparent siphoning off money in building (and purchase) contracts; and (b) apparently abusing the fiduciary interest of students by stealing from their fees to pay for round the world business-class travel, etc.. No, I am not bitter, either about India or about America but yes, as I have said it is a toss-up between whether my personal experience of Indian corruption and vicious state-tyranny is worse than my personal experience of bribery and perjury in the federal court system in America.

Aletha Kuschan Andrea is right, though, that you were affected by individual actions more, I think, than by the nation as a whole in both instances. I wish that your fine work was getting the lion’s share of attention and not causing you troubles at all. But ideas have their natural audiences and all too often that audience is located in the future — as Andrea noted. Keep the faith, Suby. Truth does win out in time. And that really does matter too. Listen to the ladies, Suby …

Subroto Roy Thanks Aletha, Andrea. Aletha, re “Andrea is right, though, that you were affected by individual actions”, Individualism is of course something I know much about since my Hayek days (Frank Hahn called me 26 years ago “probably the outstanding young Hayekian”) but my experience has been mixed.

I have had quite long associations with three academic institutions, two in America, one in India. At the first, my academic work was attacked by a gang of what I have called “inert game theorists”, game theory being the prevalent fashion at the time, there was an academic freedom issue and I let it be; but on top of that arose the open and blatant sexual harassment of a woman graduate student by the department head, and my helping her, in a very minimal but essential way, contributed to the conflict. I did not fight it more than a bit and left (for BYU, where the Mormons gave me refuge and allowed me to complete my book, almost).

The second case, also in America, was one of outrageous collective targeting of my work as an academic and an economist by my national origin, even my purported race and religion, and when I did battle that, having immense faith in the American system, my adversary responded by demonstrated perjury, buying out my attorney (and getting caught doing it), and compromising the federal judge. Not good. Certainly my faith in the American system was shaken but *not* in America herself — why? because two of the greatest 20th C American economists, Milton Friedman and TW Schultz — gladly stood for me, and their testimony (ignored by the compromised judge) was far more important than anything else to me. I.e., it was these two American *individuals* (as well as several others less eminent but equally heroic) who allowed my faith in America to continue unshaken even though the personal experience of the institutions had been ghastly.

The Indian case is wholly different as it is a wholly different political culture for the most part. The issues are cheap and pathetic — fraudulent academic credentials, stealing money from the government, stealing money from students, stealing others’ property wherever possible in the knowledge you can get away with it, etc.

There is hardly anything of deep significance involved except it gives the lie to all the government and elite propaganda about how well India is doing — and in that context becomes relevant too what I did in America which came to Rajiv Gandhi through my advice to him in his last months:

Aletha Kuschan meanwhile, it was Abigail Adams’s sage advice to “remember the ladies”

Subroto Roy Indeed I do, and follow it; my best buddy, an old lady almost 86, is usually full of sage wisdom these days.

Subroto Roy What is the solution? It is, in my case. what I have said here: “A friend has been kind enough to call me an Academician, which I probably am, though one who really needs his own Academy because the incompetence, greed and mendacity encountered too often in the modern professoriat is dispiriting.”

Subroto Roy And what does such an Academy consist of in the Internet/Facebook Age? Big buildings? Naaaa…

Aletha Kuschan What would Socrates do???? WWSD — for short

Subroto Roy Quite so, what would Socrates do? His Academy today would be his Facebook profile and his blog. 🙂

Aletha Kuschan I get to be Plato — called it first!!

Subroto Roy LOL… Platoletha has a nice ancient ring about it…

Andrea Kent I think Aletha would be Πλάτωνίσ, and I would then be Ἀριστοτέλά, your devoted acolytes.

Subroto Roy LOL… 🙂 I actually was given the Roman name Subius Maximus myself by my buddy Bobbus Fluhartius, aka Bob Fluharty in Charleston WVa..

“Climate Change” Alarmism (2008/9): The real battle is against corruption, pollution, deforestation, energy waste etc

Last year I wrote but happened not to publish this brief article which may be relevant today.

Climate Change Alarmism: The real battle is against corruption, pollution, deforestation, energy waste etc

Subroto Roy
May 28 2008

Like the AIDS epidemic that never was, “climate change” is on its way to becoming the new myth sold by paternalist governments and their bureaucrat/scientist busybodies to ordinary people coping with their normal lives. E.g., someone says, without any trace of irony: “Everyone in the world should have the same emissions quota. Since Trotsky’s permanent revolution is unfortunately on hold at the moment, and the world still happens to be partitioned into nations, once the per capita quotas are determined they would have to be grouped on a nationwide basis”.

Trotskyism will have to be made of sterner stuff. Canada’s Lorne Gunter (*National Post* 20 May 2008) reports that Noel Keenlyside, the principal scientist who suggested that man-made global warming exists, has now led a team from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science and Max Planck Institute of Meteorology which “for the first time entered verifiable data on ocean circulation cycles into one of the UN’s climate supercomputers, and the machine spit out a projection that there will be no more warming for the foreseeable future.…” Oops! So much for impending catastrophe. Rajendra Pachauri himself has in January “reluctantly admitted to Reuters… that there has been no warming so far in the 21st Century”.

Mr Pachauri had earlier gone on Indian television comparing himself to CV Raman and Mother Theresa as an Indian Nobel Prize winner — in fact, Al Gore and the 2500 member “UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” chaired by Mr Pachauri shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Now the prediction from that UN “Panel” of “a 0.3 deg C rise in temperature in the coming decade” has been contradicted by Noel Keenlyside’s own scientific results. Gunter reports further that 2007 “saw a drop in the global average temperature of nearly 0.7 deg C (the largest single-year movement up or down since global temperature averages have been calculated). Despite advanced predictions that 2007 would be the warmest year on record, made by such UN associates as Britain’s Hadley Centre, a government climate research agency, 2007 was the coolest year since at least 1993. According to the U. S. National Climatic Data Centre, the average temperature of the global land surface in January 2008 was below the 20th-Century mean for the first time since 1982. Also in January, Southern Hemisphere sea ice coverage was at its greatest summer level (January is summer in the Southern Hemisphere) in the past 30 years. Neither the 3,000 temperature buoys that float throughout the world’s oceans nor the eight NASA satellites that float above our atmosphere have recorded appreciable warming in the past six to eight years. Climate alarmists the world over were quick to add that they had known all along there would be periods when the Earth’s climate would cool even as the overall trend was toward dangerous climate change.”

Honest government doctors know that the myth that HIV/AIDS can spread at Western rates in a society as conservative and sexless as India’s has diverted vast public resources away from India’s numerous real killer diseases: filariasis, dysentery, leprosy, influenza, malaria, gastroenteritis, TB, whooping cough, enteric fever, infectious hepatitis, gonococcal infection, syphilis, measles, tetanus, chicken-pox, cholera, rabies, diptheria, meningococcal infection, poliomelitis, dengue and haemmorrhagic fever and encephalitis. Candid environmentalists similarly know that obsessing about climate change distracts from what is significant and within our power to do, namely, the prevention or at least regulation of the pollution of our air and water and prevention of the waste of energy using policies appropriate for a myriad of local communities and neighbourhoods.

The pollution of India’s atmosphere, rivers, lakes, roads and public property is an unending disgrace. Pollution and corruption are mirror images of each other: corruption is to steal something valuable that belongs to the public; pollution is to dispose private waste into the public domain. Both occur conspicuously where property rights between public and private domains are vague or fuzzy, where pricing of public and private goods and services is distorted, and where judicial and legal processes enforcing contracts are for whatever reason weak or inoperable.

Walk into any government office in India and lights, fans, ACs may be found working at top speed whether or not any living being can be seen. A few rare individual bureaucrats may be concerned but India’s Government as a whole cares not a hoot if public electricity or for that matter any public funds and resources are being wasted, stolen or abused.
At the same time, private motorists face little disincentive from pouring untaxed “black money” into imported gas-guzzling heavy automobiles regardless of India’s narrow roads and congestion. There are no incentives whatsoever for anyone who does not have to do so to want to bicycle or walk to work. The “nuclear deal” involves importing “six to eight lightwater reactors” on a turnkey basis; like the Enron-Dabhol deal a decade ago, it makes no financial sense at all and will make even less if the rupee depreciates anytime in future. Our government policy is in general invented and carried out regardless of technical or financial feasibility; the waste of energy and pollution of the environment are merely examples of the waste of resources and abuse of public property in general.

Someone says “The North”, mainly the USA, “is primarily responsible for climate change”. He may mean Western countries have contributed relatively more pollutants and effluents into the world’s waters and air which is probably a good guess since the West has also contributed more to the world’s scientific, industrial and agricultural progress in general over the centuries.

But to think human beings today understand the complexities of climate and its changes adequately enough to be able to control it is a fatal conceit. Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the University of London, is among many scientists who have challenged “the key contradiction at the heart of the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate agreement – that climate is one of the most complex systems known, yet that we can manage it by trying to control a small set of factors, namely greenhouse gas emissions. Scientifically, this is not mere uncertainty: it is a lie…The problem with a chaotic coupled non-linear system as complex as climate is that you can no more predict successfully the outcome of doing something as of not doing something. Kyoto will not halt climate change. Full stop.” (BBC 25 February 2002). For Indian foreign or economic policy to waffle on about climate change is as ineffectual and irrelevant as for the Indian Finance Minister to waffle on about AIDS.

“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last.

From Facebook:

Subroto Roy  is hurt that Christopher Booker says “Not for nothing was Copenhagen the city in which Hans Andersen wrote his story about the Emperor whose people were brainwashed into believing that he was wearing a beautiful suit of clothes” because he always thought Hans Andersen meant it for modern New Delhi.

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