Higher Learning – A Taste of Uncontrolled Thought (India centric)

     Administrators,  academicians, and policymakers  in recent times  lament the fact that the  ‘Quality’  of students  coming out of the portals of our institutions ( Brand grabbing  IITs and IIMs included )  are  anything but a prospect of fortune or profit by a will.  Serious thoughts are also given to whether it is better to have a finite number of Excellent  Institutions  than an arbitrarily high number of inferior and pretentious ones seeking to pass for better than they actually are.  Much in the same manner when IITs were seeded.  A frequently expressed opinion ( though can be strongly contended)  is that  students of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s  fared better. 

     I, for one, feel that such comparisons are odious if at least for the following reasons :  Learning environment of specially the late nineties and the new millennium witnessed enormous changes – technological and social ;   Economy of the same period is different –  Globalization and Changing  Dynamics of trade is just an example ;  Web revolution engulfed almost all the sectors of economy;  Parents of students are more progressive;  Opportunities for growth, aspirations and values have also become different.

     During the 60s and 70s  students leaving our shores for higher learning and jobs were negligible compared to the present times.  We were also importing many essential manufactured items, medicine, high tech, and yes, KNOWLEDGE too.  Brand recognition of IITs  covered the glory.

     Today we see less well known institutions in the limelight doing comparably well if not more than IITs and IIMs.  We also witness the stupendous success of industrial belts in 2 Tier/3 Tier  cities of  Tamilnadu (Coimbatore, Sivakasi, Tiruppur etc);  Gujarat;  Andhra Pradesh  and  Karnataka  not so much to do with IITs but due to Enterpreneurial ventures of the local community.  A glaring feature is that the  Student  Community in these  regions have outgrown,  outpaced, and outsmarted  their peers in IITs/IIMs.

     Statements  of hues depending on context and the part of the world they are in emanate  from politicians and even corporate chieftain(s) about the glory or otherwise of students of institutions :   I recall Dr  Sam  Pitroda, while being given the go ahead for establishing  C-DoT , a milestone event in the Telecom History of India,  by the late Prime Minister,  Sri  Rajiv  Gandhi ,  he laid out certain conditions as requirements :  (a)  All staff engineers  will be young graduates and he will have the leeway and autonomy to choose them;  (b)  No  C-DoT  employee, under any circumstance, will deal with the Govt  Bureaucracy;   and  (c)  All matters of initiatives and progress (procedures)  will have to go through  Sam Pitroda  and  he  will be the one  accountable for the functioning.   Well,  the game changer that  C-DoT turned out to be in our Telecom revolution needs no elaboration.  But, the point to note and the instructive experience afforded  can not be missed  :  Sam Pitroda recruited Young Graduates and he knew well that they needed to be shielded from the ramblings and caprices of  Indian Politics.   Rajiv Gandhi stood by Sam Pitroda  as much as Sam Pitroda  stood by  Rajiv Gandhi.   Exemplary leadership by the Polity and execution by  the Chieftainry in our  GROWTH  FIRMAMENT.  This was also the harbinger to the spirit of competition among the institutions today to  excel in qualities displayed by the presumed titans of those days. A new order had been set.

     The institutions of  higher learning in India  (specially the less well known but talented) have become the ‘gateway’ to the ambitious masses to rise in economic and social status.  The onus is also on them to fulfill the ambitions of these people.  Before the arrival of the  INTERNET, owing to inadequate opportunities  to travel abroad, the faculty ( for that matter, the Indian scientists also)  and research students  were terribly out of sync with the rest of the world in terms of access to latest information and availability of quality infrastructure.  Research offers  Global presence and acclaim.  International collaborations also play a key role in development today.  It is only a question of time before it becomes an intrinsic part of academics in all institutions.  It can only be better now.  The institutions,  however,   have quite a distance  to travel in terms of research. It may be of interest to note here the partnership framed by three Universities – New York Univ, The Univ of Washington and the univ of California, Berkeley – with a new five year project on BIG DATA SCIENCE supported by funding from the Moore Foundation & Sloan Foundation ($37.8 million) being announced TODAY in Washington at an event organized by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy highlighting initiatives taken by Govt,industry and academia to advance “data-driven” scientific discovery & Tech progress.

     To succeed,  these  institutions have to  REPOSITION  themselves as a Research-University in which Post-graduate  Education  &  Research  will become as momentous  and pompous  as Undergraduate  Education.  The quality of students will eventually  surpass the ordinary and attain pre-eminence. This is my only edifying prescription to raise the quality and value of Students in Institutions.


     ” Dieu avec nous “

     Wednesday,   November  13,  2013   –    11. 05  p.m.  (IST)

     Tidbit  :       ” The  more  you  read,  the  more  you  know;

                            The more  you  know,  the  more  you  forget;

                             The  more  you  forget,  the  less you  know;

                             The  less   you  know,   the  less  you  forget;

                              The  less  you  forget,  the   more  you  know.”

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