Education System : Parents Need to Change Mindset

“Education is the manifestation of perfections, already in a man” Swami Vivekananda has said this more than a century earlier. As I look into scenario today, it appears that we play a disproportionate importance into rote learning. There is very little interest in original thinking. It reflects in Indian research, which is mostly generic in nature. There is lack of boldness and innovation in our approach. A lot will be written about what educators should do, let me raise a few points from the angle of parents. I had published this post earlier.

It is true Indian parents are still trapped into a mindset that takes pride if kids become a doctor or  an engineer. May be it will raise our social status. May be our kids will earn a lot of money. May be his / her degree will fetch a good life partner and hopefully a lot of dowry.

It is also possible that our own unfulfilled desires of not been able to reach the high pedestals of academic excellence, we push our kids to achieve them on our behalf.

From a parents perspective, one also has to understand the socio-economic reality of India. Unless a kid studies, and studies really hard, how would he/she get into a good college with a good course? Consider this,

  • In this day and age, students are scoring as high as 99.7% in CBSE examinations. In top colleges, even after third round, merit list does not come below 90%. Admission to engineering and medical schools is equally cut throat.
  • For appoximately 28000 seats in engineering colleges, IIT and NIT included, nearly 10 lac students write exams. Odds are 30 : 1 for a student.  IIT students have to write an additional advanced JEE.  Nearly, two lac students compete for 10,000 IIT seats, of which one lac are from general category.
  • Similarly, nearly 10 lac students write NEET exam for admission into medical colleges, which have 56000 seats.
  • There are many private engineering and medical colleges. Their fee is at least 5 to 10 times that of fee charged by a government college. Besides, quality of education in all private colleges is not as great. Many private colleges also demand a capitation fee or donation.

Keeping this in mind, it is important to understand that parents need a change of mindset. Other than breaking our heads against terrible odds, of getting admission into a medical and engineering school, we should explore other options. Believe me there are many potentially lucrative academic opportunities exist in India.

Take for example a course in Hotel Management. When I had suggested this for my daughter, there was a collective sigh of ridicule in family. Many relatives suggested that I wanted my daughter to be a waitress. Hotel Management is much more than waiting tables. One can be chef, one can be administrator, one can be house keeper, one can be at front desk, one can be a bartender, among others. A big hotel is a like big city on its own. It has so many possibilities. If this does not satisfy a person, he/she can even start his/her own joint.

Indian government has plan to create many smart cities. So hospitality industry is bound to grow. There is a shortage of good affordable hotels, there is shortage of good eateries that highlight great culinary varieties of India at an affordable price.

Most of us want a salaried job. With increasing population, with increasing job reservation for different categories, salaried jobs are going to be few and far between. In this scenario, opening one’s own operation is a good idea. Any day, own operation is much more fulfilling than working for someone else. We need a different mindset and be ready to accept new challenges.

There are many such job oriented courses being offered by different universities. Those who are not academically oriented, should opt for such courses and try to stand on their own feet. At the same time,  it is important to be aware that no carreer, be it a salaried job or self employment, can take off without dedication and discipline.  Students need not study always, but they must cultivate a discipline in life and know what they want.

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Exam Pressure : We Need a Change of Mindset

Final examinations are approaching. Homes are turning into a battleground between parents and their kids who are about to write examination. My home is no exception.  My daughter who in ninth standard, refuses to study as per her mother’s guideline. No amount of persuasion could bring daughter and mother on the same plane. Mother would not give up her right, despite entreaty to give more space to daughter. Daughter, all of fourteen, will not cede her ground. She would say, ” more mother pushes me, more I shall not study.” To add insult to injury, she adds, “I shall end my life, and blame you for my fate.” 

We did not take her up on her challenge. Question obviously arises, are we becoming a sissy parents, who cannot control their fourteen year old? Or are we becoming a monster parent, who drive their kids to suicide? The answer is not that simple.

It is true Indian parents are still trapped into a mindset that takes pride if kids become a doctor or  an engineer. May be it will raise our social status. May be our kids will earn a lot of money. May be his / her degree will fetch a good life partner and hopefully a lot of dowry.

It is also possible that our own unfulfilled desires of not been able to reach the high pedestals of academic excellence, we push our kids to achieve them on our behalf.  

From a parents perspective, one also has to understand the socio-economic reality of India. Unless a kid studies, and studies really hard, how would he/she get into a good college with a good course? Consider this,

  • In this day and age, students are scoring as high as 99.7% in CBSE examinations. In top colleges, even after third round, merit list does not come below 90%. Admission to engineering and medical schools is equally cut throat.
  • For appoximately 28000 seats in engineering colleges, IIT and NIT included, nearly 10 lac students write exams. Odds are 30 : 1 for a student.  IIT students have to write an additional advanced JEE.  Nearly, two lac students compete for 10,000 IIT seats, of which one lac are from general category.
  • Similarly, nearly 10 lac students write NEET exam for admission into medical colleges, which have 56000 seats.
  • There are many private engineering and medical colleges. Their fee is at least 5 to 10 times that of fee charged by a government college. Besides, quality of education in all private colleges is not as great. Many private colleges also demand a capitation fee or donation.

Keeping this in mind, it is important to understand that parents need a change of mindset. Other than breaking our heads against terrible odds, of getting admission into a medical and engineering school, we should explore other options. Believe me there are many potentially lucrative academic opportunities exist in India.

Take for example a course in Hotel Management. When I had suggested this for my daughter, there was a collective sigh of ridicule in family. Many relatives suggested that I wanted my daughter to be a waitress. Hotel Management is much more than waiting tables. One can be chef, one can be administrator, one can be house keeper, one can be at front desk, one can be a bartender, among others. A big hotel is a like big city on its own. It has so many possibilities. If this does not satisfy a person, he/she can even start his/her own joint.

Indian government has plan to create many smart cities. So hospitality industry is bound to grow. There is a shortage of good affordable hotels, there is shortage of good eateries that highlight great culinary varieties of India at an affordable price.

Most of us want a salaried job. With increasing population, with increasing job reservation for different categories, salaried jobs are going to be few and far between. In this scenario, opening one’s own operation is a good idea. Any day, own operation is much more fulfilling than working for someone else. We need a different mindset and be ready to accept new challenges.

There are many such job oriented courses being offered by different universities. Those who are not academically oriented, should opt for such courses and try to stand on their own feet. At the same time,  it is important to be aware that no carreer, be it a salaried job or self employment, can take off without dedication and discipline.  Students need not study always, but they must cultivate a discipline in life and know what they want. 

Memory vs Application, Examination System Needs Revamp

Results of CBSE class XII is out. Scores have shot through the roof. Topper in science stream had scored 99.7% in aggregate of five subjects. That makes nearly 100% in science subjects of physics, chemistry, mathematics and English. Such a high score has created several problems for average students. 
i. Too many students are competing for too few potential opportunities. Be it professional courses or general science streams, number of seats are limited given the sheer number of students that pass out of board exams. 
ii. Cut off for choice subjects in Delhi University has become unattainably very high. 
iii. A lot of private universities have come up. Many are willing to give admission, many a time just looking at high school marks. But expense of studying in a private university of any repute is nearly 3 – 4 times that of a government run universities. 

Another debate that has emerged is that are high marks in board exams do justice to ability of students? Many a students that score very high marks in board exams, are unable to apply themselves.  It has been a common complaint that despite so many students coming out of academic institutes, there is shocking lack of innovators and original thinkers. Does this mean, our education has become mostly a memorising exercise? Is there no scope for application? 

I was watching a program on TV about high grades in our board examinations. 

i. Most panelists agreed that our education system is rote learning.
ii. It is also agreed that beyond a certain point more than the grades it is the application of knowledge that becomes important. Even students agree, grades open doors but beyond entry point one has to survive on their ability. 
iii. In a country like India where seat to applicant ration can be as high as 1 to 100, some degree of objectivity in marking is must to avoid arbitrary decision making. 
iv. Many students from under privileged background have found access to higher education through current education system. 

Society has a way of looking at students and their parents through a prism of grades, schools, colleges and jobs. Many people who have stood up to societal pressure and found their own drummers,  have become successful.  But most of us do not find our inner calling. We do not know what we like? We enter courses which we do not like, our parents may like them based on their assessment of success in life, yet continue with them. 

Ideally, we should follow what we like to do in life. Many of us do not develop many hobbies, many do not read books beyond course work, most of us are really horrible in our soft skills. No wonder, we do not produce likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others. I guess, there should be emphasis on application rather than rote learning. There is should be some emphasis of awareness of outside world, of literature, philosophy and softer aspect of life. What good is a professional with 100% marks in hard science but totally corrupt because of lack of value system?

Ms. Sheela Sharma, Salute the Dedicated Teacher

Very often we hear from the educated middle class of India, mostly people like us, how bad systems in this country are. Nothing can happen here. Many of us move to greener pastures of US, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. We hardly try to do something to make the difference on our own, let alone be the change. We lack initiative and give up too early. May be we are not motivated enough, may be we lack imagination. Our education has taught us mostly to become an employee and not an innovator. So instead of thinking out of the box and taking a risk, we prefer to take up a regular job.

As part of teachers day initiative, I was reading in Hindustan Times (Saturday, 05 Sep, 2015) about Ms. Sheela Sharma. Ms. Sharma joined a primary school in Udaipur district of Rajasthan in 1992 as a teacher. As part of infrastructure, school had a dilapidated building, a few broken tables and chairs as furniture. The school was in a tribal dominated area. We know how city folks act in such a situation. Many government employees just show up on the pay day to collect their salary and do not come for rest of the month. Not Sheila Sharma. Ms. Sharma took initiative to not only teach but to instil a sense of hygiene and cleanliness among children. She forced students to take a bath before starting teaching. She would buy soap, shampoo and otherr items from her own salary, which was a princely sum of Rs. 2100. A school that started with broken tables and chairs, today runs on a 5 bigha land. Ms. Sharma is the principal of the school. 

What Ms. Sharma did, she did not have to do. She worked without arc light of TV camera or a photographers camera flashing on her.  Ms. Sharma did what she did because she loved her work and felt it was her duty. She did not expect any credit, at least not when she started her work. Otherwise, she would have given up long time before. It is because of people like Ms. Sharma, India is still a functional country. We mostly hear of crime, we hear of corruption. We hear common people asking “what is in it for me?” People like Ms. Sharma, and many others like her, never ask “What India could do for them?” Instead,  Ms. Sharma, and her ilk, showed what they could do for the nation. My salute to Ms. Sharma and many teachers like her who are serving our country quietly, in a dedicated manner with dignity.

Prof. Amartya Sen and Nalanda University

Prof. Amartya Sen is an illustrious son of India. He is a nobel prize winning economist, that India can claim to be her own because he is an Indian citizen. Prof. Sen was conferred with Bharat Ratna, highest civilian award of India. Prof. Sen was appointed chairman of Nalanda Mentor Group in 2007 and in 2012 he became first Chancellor of the University. Nalanda university project was a dream project of UPA government at the centre and Janata Dal – BJP government in the state of Bihar. Objective was to revive an ancient centre of higher learning that existed as Nalanda University from the 5th century to 1197 in and around present day Rajgeer in Bihar state. In Feb of 2015, Prof. Singh announced his decision to discontinue as chairman of Nalanda University citing government interference. Prof. Sen went on TV and gave news paper interview insinuating Prime Minister Modi personally interfered in not putting forward his name for the second term as chancellor.
  • barkha dutt ‪@BDUTT‬“If ‪@RashtrapatiBhvn showed support for me as Chancellor& then didn’t sign clear govt asked him not to: Amartya intvw”


  • Sagarika Ghose retweeted“Academic freedom is under threat in India: Amartya Sen” ‪http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Academic-freedom-is-under-threat-in-India-Amartya-Sen/articleshow/46318446.cms?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=TOIIndiaNews …

Prof. Sen has strong political views. He never shied away from his dislike of Narendra Modi for his inability to manage Gujarat riot of 2002. Prof. Sen, also went public with his opinion that Mr. Modi cannot be his prime minister. Under this circumstance, it may not be surprising, if present government lead by Mr. Modi does not want Prof. Sen to continue as chancellor of Nalanda university. Government, however, has made statement that there was no plan to displace Prof. Sen. 
If we look at state of Nalanda university under leadership of Prof. Sen, it does not appear to be a pretty picture. 


  • Prof. Sen was a politically connected man. He was made chancellor  because of his proximity to congress party, over and above his qualification. In India, chancellor and vice chancellor positions are usually political. Why Prof. Sen is complaining if a different political dispensation does not want to continue with him? However, Mr. Modi’s government has denied any plan to displace Prof. Sen. 
  • Prof. Sen was a non resident chancellor of the university. He would stay most of the time in the US. He is also close to eighty years old. Should a young university not need a younger person who can devote his complete energy to the organisation?
  • Prof. Sen is left of centre in his ideology. He advised UPA government to initiate food security program to alleviate hunger in India. Obviously, he cared for poor. Yet in a desperately poor state of India, a left leaning economist had no qualm drawing salary in US dollars amounting to 80000 dollars a year, tax free! Is this not contradictory to his philosophy?
  • Parliamentary committee had found evidence of nepotism in appointment of senior positions in the university. A vice chancellor was appointed, who was not even qualified for the position as per UGC regulation, yet she was drawing a salary of 5 lac per month. Vice chancellor was expected to reside in  the campus, but she operated from Nalanda university office in Delhi.
  • Vice chancellor, in turn, appointed a few senior level staff who happened to be her friends and not necessarily qualified for the positions.
  • It is understandable that Prof. Sen, coming from Harvard, would want autonomy in financial matters of the University. However, unlike Harvard, Nalanda university was running on government fund. To get financial autonomy, the university should have attracted external funds. The university mangement, even with illustrious Prof Sen, have not been able to attract any fund from abroad. 
  • An amount of Rs. 1000 crore was approved over a period of 12 years for the university. This made, annual budget of the university close to 80 – 90 crore per year. I came across the following twitter messages:
    •  “@visaraj: Number of students in Nalanda University is 15. Number of Faculty is -11. Amount spent – 2700+ Cr.”
    • @kanchanGupta:all for rupees 2700 cr! Sen’s Nalanda has 23 classes, 1200 sq ft, 15 Acs, 2 lecture halls!”
It is understandable that the University did not receive all of 2700 crores. Still 80 crore a year is a lot of money. But the University operates from a government convention centre and students and faculty stay in a government hotel.

Yet favourite journalists give him prime time coverage to tell his sad story, try to set him up to say PM Modi was directly responsible for his tenure not getting renewed. A person who got his position due to political connection, complains when government of the day does not want him in the post! How much more pathetic can it be?

1. http://www.dnaindia.com/delhi/report-dna-special-parliamentary-committee-finds-irregularities-in-nalanda-university-project-officials-pulled-up-for-arbitrary-acts-and-nepotism-1901872

2. www.newindianexpress.com/nation/article550328.ece

3. www.livemint.com/../Amartya-Sen-resigns-as-Nalanda-Varsity-Chancellor

Tags: Amartya Sen, Chancellor, Economics, Nalanda University, Narendra Modi, NDA Government, Noble Prize, UPA Government, Vice Chancellor

Good Business Bad Science

India has many unique diseases both infectious as well as lifestyle related. It is important that Indian pharmaceutical industry invests in understanding basic biology behind such diseases and makes effort to discover drugs to treat these ailments. 

India has a big pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical market in India is estimated to be upwards of 10 billion dollars. Many companies export medicines to the West. Indian pharmaceutical companies have a market share of 14 billion dollars in the US. Indian drug makers do not engage in research involving discovering new drug. Indian companies make a copy of drugs discovered in the West by different chemical reaction. This process is called generic drug research. A generic drug has to simply show that it achieves similar blood level as the original molecule.
Drug discovery involves finding a new chemical and understanding what kind of biological reaction it produces in the body. A new chemical entity is tested in different experimental animal models for biological response and adverse effects. Major challenges of drug discovery research are high cost, long gestation and poor predictability. It is estimated that it may cost upward to 500 million dollars to bring a molecule from discovery stage to market place. It may take close to 10 years to bring a new drug to market. If 10 new chemical entities enter human trial, one may have statistical probability to become a drug.
Indian pharmaceutical companies have adapted as a business strategy generic drug research. This research though less profitable compared to innovative drug, generic research is much more predictable in terms of return on investment. This approach is a good business strategy. But such an approach stifles creativity of Indian scientists as well as deprives Indian patients of drugs for diseases endemic to India. To treat Indian diseases we have relied on medicines discovered in the west. Pharmaceutical research in the west concentrates on problems that are endemic to their population.

India has a huge population that is very diverse. Unique as we may be in our biological constitution, we also suffer from many ailments that are unique to our culture and environment. There is a desperate need to initiate drug discovery research in India to address issues faced by Indians. Research in tropical diseases  endemic to India, are not even being done by the big pharmaceutical companies. Besides there may be many lifestyle related as well genetic diseases that are unique to Indian population. It is the responsibility of Indian pharmaceutical companies to invest in discovering cure to ailments afflicting Indians. Indian government must play a role by making risk intensive drug discovery research more attractive for drug houses to invest in this direction.

Tags: Innovative Drug Discovery, Generic Drug Research, High Cost, High Risk, 
Long Gestation, Poor Predictability, Indian Disease,

More Universities Need of the Hour


According to estimates, India must have 200 million graduates and 500 million skilled people by 2022 to ensure double digit economic growth. India is woefully short of good institutes of higher learning. Number of seats in existing institutes has been further reduced due to affirmative action. As a result students with grades as high as 98 percentile in high school exams fail to get accepted in a course or university of their choice. A way out of this impasse is to create more universities.  


Education market in India is likely to be in the tune of US Dollar 110 billion by 2015. Many private universities have come up in India. Number of seats have increased and variety of curriculum has improved. 



Cost of education has also gone up. Most private universities are being run like a business house. There is fear that creating more universities will dilute standard. May be fear is justified. Initially, we may not have sufficient faculties as well as adequate infrastructure. It is important to note that lowering basic criteria of admission and reservation of seats to elite universities also contribute towards lowering of academic standard. At the same time it cannot be denied that private universities in India are more concerned about profit margin than education. Many desist from hiring senior faculty and do not encourage research. It is would be important for private academic institutes to set new and higher benchmark in education and research. Universities should be encouraged to think out of the box and hire experienced professors and professionals, if necessary by looking outside the country as well as by looking outside academic circle.


Many foreign universities have also expressed desire to setup base in India. If permitted to setup a base in India, students can get a degree from  Harvard while being in India. India may save foreign expense and the cost of education may be less for students. At the same time, Indian scholars will be exposed to state of the art research while being in India. Universities in the United States, namely Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Berkley, Cornell and many others, only improved standard of education and research. American  universities  have faculty / researcher that are nobel laureates as well as academician that serve as think tanks that advice governments on key policy matters. Indian government expects universities willing to come to India should be within top 400 in their world ranking. Government is apprehensive that foreign universities may not necessarily be controlled by Indian government. They may bring their own program and systems. Indian government also does not allow repatriation of profit generated by foreign universities to their home campus.

Recently, through presidential address to parliament, government has expressed its intent to set up more institutes like IITs and IIMs in every state. At the same time India should open her doors to foreign universities of repute as well. I think government must fund creation of good universities public funded as well as private, should monitor universities with respect to infrastructure and faculty vis a vis fee charged, create policy that facilitate meritocracy,  support education of students with education loan, scholarship, on campus employment, ensure all university graduates get employment. 

1. http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/indian-education-sector-market-size-to-be-110-bn-by-fy15-113012100537_1.html


Tags: University Education, Private University, Government University, Foreign University, Business of Education, Cost of University Education, Profit Motive and University Education, Affirmative Action, Meritocracy, Student Loan, Employment






Education Must Stimulate Original Thinking

Education system in India has become a epicentre of rote learning. Everything that can go wrong with our education system has gone wrong. Students do not ask critical questions. Teachers do not teach how to think. Cutoff limits in centres of higher learning starts and ends at 100%. Students score hundred percent even in literature.
In this context Angad Nadkarni hits the nail on the head when he said education system must stimulate students to think. Angad is a hacker. He has created an APP called Examify. The whole effort represents an enterpreneural spirit an ability to solve complex problems, along with a “Can do” attitude.
Stature of a nation depends on quality of thinkers it produces. India has many problems. Employing her predominantly young population is a daunting task for countries policy makers. Unemployment problem of India cannot be solved by public sector. Even private sector cannot absorb all the aspiring candidates. Self employment and enterpreneural skills are very important to inculcate in our education system. Individual or groups of individuals, that are free thinkers, should take up problems related to multitude of problems facing India, and move on to solve them. Then, and only then, India can be called a superpower.
Another important aspect of Angad’s presentation is ability to see pattern in regular events. Such skills can be used to tap environmental pattern, rain fall, climate change etc. Right prediction may help our farmers in sowing seeds at right time when it may likely to rain.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Empowerment is Key to Upliftment

I am writing about the You Tube video presentation of Ms. Mittal Patel as part of Idea Caravan Endevor sponsored by  Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.
Ms. Patel was talking on topic “Plight of Nomadic and Denotified Tribes”. It is unfortunate that even after 65 years of independence, these people do not have property identity in government records, these people are registered as criminals, traditional vocations of these tribal people are being lost and tribal women engage in prostitution.
The fact that tribals are in such a miserable state in a so called prosperous state like Gujarat, says a lot about their plight in states that are economically less progressive. In last sixty five year, government of India might have created a lot of schemes for the upliftment of people that are socially and economically backward. Apparently, such benefits have not percolated down.
What Ms. Patel is doing is empowerment of tribal people. She is getting them voter identity card. This will give them voting right. By forming a block tribals can demand their rights. An identity card is also giving our tribal population a  sense of dignity. Now their identity in government records will never be confused or misrepresented. They can always show their identity cards and knock the door of law and justice.
Education is being spread among tribals.  Education also gives tribal people that are losing their traditional vocations an oppurtunity for alternative vocation.Light of education awakens aspiration among kids. They now dream of joining maninstream by becoming a policeman, a doctor among other professions.
Marriage of tribal girls within community, will protect them from being engaged in prostitution. This will keep the community free from sexually transmitted disease. Community will be spared of illegitimate children. By becoming a housewife, tribal girls will be able to take care of family and community better.
Important point to remember, Ms Patel did not talk of inducement but empowerment. She had worked towards transformation of community of Nomads, so that these people became aware of their rights and wanted to adopt to change by their own volition. No amount of force, or inducement can achieve this type of result. Otherwise, after sixty five years of independence India will not have communities that are not aware what their government was doing.
Nomadic people have many innate skills, which should be tapped and preserved. May be depending on their skills, they should be adopted by specialised organisations that rely on such skills. These organisations should work towards education and upliftment of tribal children while nurturing their special talent.
Government may have good intention. However, to propagate such intention India needs people like Ms. Mittal Patel. People that work with empathy, that work with dedication for a cause can transform the world, let alone India. She has achieved what our trained and paid bureaucrats could not. Society must work towards empowerment of people like Ms. Mittal Patel, for them to work freely and help neglected segments of Indian people achieve their rightful place in the society. Ultimately, a nation is judged based on quality of her people.

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.


Mahatma Gandhi, Charkha and Empowerment

 

Mahatma Gandhi, the chief architect of Indian independence, had used spinning wheel or charkha as one of the symbols of his movement. For Gandhiji charkha symbolised empowerment of Indians and independence from British, not physically but also mentally and spiritually. Gandhiji visualised India as sum of self sufficient villages where each caste does its job without feeling inferior to other. Subsequent national leaders understood Gandhiji based on their intellect and inclination. Nehruji embraced socialism with the noble goal of improving lot of Indian poor. He created massive state sponsored industries, that merely employed people but produced nothing or substandard something. Instead of empowering India’s poor, our rulers have made them poorer and slavinsh. Poor has been made to depend on dole from government for survival, instead of unleashing creativity that is nascent in every human being. The air of this dole degenerated into a vote catching machine. I give you food you give me vote. The result of this has been most people consider government to be something different from the society, like a foreign rulers. As we try to cheat a ruler, most people have learnt to cheat government in all spheres of life. We are forgetting that unless rich and poor are empowered by removing government from its role of giver to facilitator, all the wealth of this world may not be  enough to fulfill need of one person, if the person does not learn to earn it himself.