February 20, 2012
This is my vision for India’s education. Basically because I know what goes on here on the ground.
India has been talking World Class Universities for quite sometime now. May be 5 years. The over enthusiastic prime minister being a spearheader of economic liberalization and an educationist and international figure himself has made his mind in the open about having 14 world-class universities. This is a poorly visualized thought. Poor because there are no precedence of world-class university. India class organizations are merely compilers not super computers. One can not open world-class universities from scratch. One need not therefore talk about such. World class universities are not international airports although they demand similar infrastructure. The biggest disadvantage is ultrastructures. The flow of information and the ability to procreate world-class programs which sustain on an international level but work as astoundingly on ground and national periphery. World class universities are pioneers for centuries, 5 decades in the least. Once a country has more than one world-class university it is easier to replicate and emulate. eg University of California system. One needs to have the ability to sustain truly international and indigenous academic components which has never been the case in India despite of the fact that billions of private philanthropists and colossal Government resources have been invested. It is primarily because of a paradigm shift that India hasn’t yet fully realized. It needs to be a national effort to lead towards international standing, not a branding phenomena. The Nobel efforts such as that of Rabindra Tagore and CV Raman are respectable but they could not meet the demands of an international dream that India has discovered for itself in the last decade. Future is therefore gleam unless truly national effort of international nature is realized in the next 5 to 10 years. The IITs and BITs and IISc are reputed organizations but haven’t kept up with a national dream so they can not run into the international miles. The new names such as Nalanda and Vedanta University are either in their metamorphosis or strangulated in sightless paranoia.
What I propose therefore is a more readily and pragmatically achievable goal that in 10 years can boast of any international programs of academics and scientific exploration by their sheer national cohesion and scale. That assuming international standards and truly ethical code of conduct are not a politicized over enthusiasm.
I propose that India in each of its District Head Quarters and any village [literally any, not just any village in the vicinity of cities] with more than 40,000 population comes up with at-least one 4 year college of science and technology. These are to primarily impart undergraduate training in science, engineering, technology, business and professional programs. In short polytechnics. [Virginia Tech, a state land grant university is a polytechnic with ~25000 students, 5000 faculties, a edu-township with 60000 people and an economy that can match the total business done in perhaps the city of Bhubaneswar. It has its own airport] But I am not saying these purported 4 year colleges come up with airports. I am saying the basic standard of international degrees and programs be available across the country in an equitable way which was never visioned in our country by its much publicized sightless leadership from 1900.
These colleges should be as pre-eminent in their science programs as they would be in their educational aspects and as chosen in their engineering and professional curriculums. We should stop thinking in terms of just engineering or technology and start investing hugely in each member citizen of this country whether they chose social studies or humanities.
Medical colleges of undergraduate and postgraduate programs can come up in say 30 or 40 % of these colleges, as a separate or integrated college and uniformly across the country. Its one country not a union of kingdoms where everything either goes to New Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata. The PhD and research programs can similarly be created in each of these colleges and leadership can come from the IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, IISc and all other reputable names of the country.
In a similar interest all these organizations can choose to start actual collaboration with reputed organizations [universities, medicals, organizations, libraries and museums of eminence] up to at-least 10 in number.
Needless to say this will be more effective than 14 world-class universities and less expensive. These will be national pride and in 10 years to 20 years down the line there will be millions of interested international citizens that will be sitting in the libraries or lounges of these organizations. If we fool around we will be fools.
And one thing I want to add to this, there must be an “adarsh railway station” of superclass quality that is integrated with all major and minor stations and among each other.