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Empowering India with imported wisdom?
By Devinder Sharma

A section of influential Indian middle class remains obsessed with anything foreign, more so American. No wonder, instead of making efforts to improve the education system of the country, the government is keen to invite the foreign universities to help educate India.


Substandard universities will exploit the Indians' craze
for foreign degrees

The Union Cabinet has cleared the Foreign Educational Institutional (regulation of entry and operation) Bill, which aims to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India. This Bill follows the two controversial Bills pending for Parliamentary approval - the Nuclear Liability Bill and the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill.

Kapil Sibal, the Minister for Human Resource Development, is visibly excited. He is quoted in the media, saying: "A larger revolution than even in the telecom sector awaits us." Well, we all know that the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

Nothing can be more dangerous than programming the mindset of the young generation of India through an education system that has nothing to do with the great culture, tradition and wisdom that our ancient civilisation endowed us with. The present crop of politicians, more worrying are the younger lot that the Indian media talks about every day, are so myopic that they can't see anything beyond Europe and America.

If this is all that these politicians are capable of thinking and doing, I sometimes wonder why shouldn't we have political representatives from Europe and America sitting in Indian Parliament? After all, they will do the job of re-colonising the country much more efficiently than their sub-standard Indian clones.

Nothing can be more dangerous than programming the mindset of the young generation of India through an education system that has nothing to do with the great culture, tradition and wisdom that our ancient civilisation endowed us with.

There are a large number of people in this country who are sold out to everything American. They live in India, but have an American dream. They will find fault with the higher education system in the country, and wouldn't mind even if the country's education system is eventually taken over by substandard colleges and universities from North America, Europe and Australia. It is in this context that I find the editorial in the Economic Times (Mar 17, 2009) under the title 'University of California, Ghazipur' interesting. This is what it says:

"But such a law is unlikely to open the floodgates for foreign providers of quality education. The reality is that 'for-profit' describes hardly any of the world's best institutions of higher learning. In any case, the Bill stipulates that all profits would have to be ploughed back into the Indian venture and not repatriated. Only second rate outfits not allergic to some accounting innovation that allows them to circumvent this ban are likely to invest in Indian campuses."

Everything ends up with the fundamental premise on how to make more profits, by commodifying culture, nature, human body and even knowledge.

I have nothing against the foreign universities. They may be good in their own environment. But I always thought India had a lot more to offer to the world. Any visionary national leader would prepare for a day when Indian universities regain their lost glory. Ironically, the first two universities the world has ever known - Taxila (Takshasila) University in 700 BC, and Nalanda University in 4th century BC, were established in India. The University at Nalanda was considered to be one of the greatest achievements in the field of education. More than 10500 students studied over 60 disciplines.

Isn't it a shame that the country that gave the world its first universities, is now feeling thrilled that some of the B-grade foreign universities are likely to open campuses in India, if the government has its ways.

Many Indians would not hesitate to spend millions to
get a foreign degree, of whatever credibility

I have been lecturing at various universities abroad, and have always come back disappointed at the level of competence. I don't mean that everyone who passes out is incompetent. The fact remains that if these foreign universities were so good, I don't see any reason why the globalisation process should reach a dead end, why the world witnessed an economic collapse, and why the world was faced with an unprecedented food crisis in 2007-08. More importantly, if these foreign universities were so good, I fail to understand how come the world has reached a tripping point.

The foreign universities have hardly any semblance to the existing ground realities. These universities are so designed that it actually aims at the building excellence in exploiting natural resources, and is aimed at programming the younger generation to the virtues of growth economics. Everything ends up with the fundamental premise on how to make more profits, by commodifying culture, nature, human body and even knowledge.

This faulty learning has been very cleverly brought out in James Cameron's film Avtar. The movie presents how faulty and miscalculated would be the futuristic thinking (obviously an outcome of the educational learning) and design of the civilised race 150 years from now. It tells you that the programming of the human race towards commodifying nature, through the educational system, will go on unchecked in the decades to come.

The futuristic insight that Avtar provides looks like to be a scene from the tribal regions of Orissa and Chhatisgarh. It seems the world is not going to change. Our education system will continue to prepare us for the doomsday.

Well, we will continue to debate on this in the days to come, but we must pay your attention to the damage done by the imported agricultural education and research system. Nothing better illustrates the change in mindset than what has been achieved through agricultural research and education. All that was taught as part of the land grant model of education that the USAID brought into India actually resulted in an unprecedented blood-bath on the farm.

The agricultural research and education system was basically tailored to what America does, not what we do in India. We are told that our agriculture is sub-standard, backward, and inefficient. This is what we are taught in our agricultural universities, all programmed after the US farm curriculum. If you really want to improve Indian agriculture you have to follow the American model of agriculture - that is what is taught to us. We have learnt it the hard way and no wonder today we are faced with one of the biggest and worst crisis in agriculture.

Why is it that in a country, which has the second largest public sector infrastructure in agriculture research in the world, farmers should be dying or wanting to quit agriculture? If the American model of agriculture research and education is so good than why should farmers be in distress and agriculture virtually ruined? The question is applicable on other fields. As a nation, we need to introspect and look back. There is something fundamentally wrong.

The views expressed above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of d-sector editorial team.

Devinder Sharma  |  hunger55@gmail.com

Devinder Sharma is an award-winning journalist, writer, and researcher globally recognised for his analysis on food, agriculture and trade policy. 

Write to the Author  |  Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note

Feedback /Comments on this article
Test intelligence, not memory

Anything foreign is always exotic. Its human nature, can't do much about it. Indians going abroad to get an MBA degree or something (which can be obtained from an Indian university) is just absurd. If someone is going abroad for a course which is not taught in India, then it is quite acceptable. A new question that arises here is- Is American or some other country's education system better than that of India? Indian education system produces good engineers but we have failed miserably to nurture pure science talents(apart from a few institutions like ISRO, IISc etc). That is why we have software geeks but most of the pure science talents are in NASA or somewhere else. The first thing that should be done is to rip off the system of Rote Learning which kills the talents of so many youngsters. Exams should be designed in such a way that INTELLIGENCE is tested, not the MEMORY.

Posted By: Aravind Holla
Dated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Skills more important than institution of learning

The industry in India is truly world class and all are multinational and are quite knowledgeable about different institutes in India and abroad. What matters to most is the skills. Both hard skills and soft skills are very necessary. The later becomes more and more necessary as we reach higher up in the ladder. As we grow global, understanding of cultural nuances, value systems of different countries is very necessary. I have seen petty things make situations boil over due to cultural differences. Variety always brings different perspectives, different methods, which is good. Foreign universities are not necessarily better. Though due to "new / glamor" factors it has some attention value. Sometimes, it is a necessity. In medical profession, any higher degree is mired with quota system with different rules operating in different states. Foreign universities gives a alternative way to gain the required knowledge.

Posted By: Suvro Upadhyaya
Dated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Instead of importing, improve our Education System

The Govt should actually be focusing on freely available and accessible good quality primary education. The current emphasis on higher education is very lopsided and as usual caters to the middle and upper classes. Walk into any Govt School, especially State Govt run and we'll know the difference. The village school where I'd studied 45 years ago, still has classes under the trees, not all classes have benches or desks, toilet facilities are abysmal...

Posted By: Chandrashekaran K N
Dated: Monday, March 22, 2010

Importing wisdom...you have said it right!!!

People will use money power to get the branded degrees at home. We will read and learn the western culture, cases and will struggle to implement them in home conditions. We have a good education system which can be strengthened without inviting foreign universities. Even if these universities come to India, they will prepare potential candidates for their own countries and nothing will actually come to our nation........ We already have enough of brain drain, some more will happen.

Posted By: Sumit Bhatnagar
Dated: Monday, March 22, 2010

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