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Respected Madam,

As a pro-active Education Minister, you surely wish to leave a distinguished mark on the history of educational reforms in India. Permit me to share with you some broad areas which you may find relevant.

1. Re-engineering our education system 

India no longer needs to produce only administrators, followers and executors. She also needs innovators. She needsMay 2014 033 people who can think big. Those who can think out-of-the-box and can come up with novel solutions to her unique set of problems. She deserves a system which places less emphasis on rote and more on development of creative faculties.

2. Doing away with the ‘centum’ craze

We need to offer an eco-system which does away with the mind-numbing race to score higher and higher marks. These days, if a student manages to secure 99% either in languages or in any stream of humanities, we are led to wonder if the testing system itself is credible.

3. Excelling in research, avoiding re-search

Let the institutions of higher learning focus on teaching and research. An over-emphasis on organizing seminars and other extra-curricular activities is leading to a situation where the core job of faculty – teaching and research – is getting diluted. The fact that not a single Indian institution of higher learning figures in the list of top 200 universities prepared by The Times Higher Education Supplement makes one pause and think.

4. Credits are good, monochromatic mediocrity is not

The proposed Choice Based Credit System is commendable, but makes better sense at the post-graduate level. What we do not need is a monochromatic and mediocre spectrum of higher education which spoils the beauty that India innately is – diverse and federal. Let the autonomy remain and even be encouraged. Institutions of higher learning need to excel in their respective domains; to do so, they need autonomy. Standardization across the country is an idea which could be allowed to rest in peace.

Thiruvalluvar

Thiruvalluvar

5. Values, ethics and morals

We need citizens who not only demand rights but also respect and discharge their own obligations. One of the goals we need to have is to blend the material and the spiritual. Courses which propagate higher values, ethics and morals need to be designed and offered. Scriptures from various religions are a repository of great wisdom. Great seers and thinkers like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo have left behind a rich legacy of concepts and thoughts. We need to encourage institutions which can translate and communicate these in a relevant and effective manner to the youth of today.

6. Educated in India

In an increasingly globalized world, the need is to attract Ivy League institutions and true blue academicians to India. Policies need to be announced to attract some of our best minds into teaching and research. Schemes need to be devised to ensure that our teachers are motivated better. An open-minded policy on foreign languages would help the youth connect better with the world. Much like our mission to ‘Make in India’, let us strive to create a brand ‘Educated in India’. Let India become the hub of higher learning in the Asian region yet again and regain its past glory.

7. Goals are found, means need to follow

As a percentage to GDP, India spends less than 3.5% on education. This will not do. Revamping the conceptual infrastructure of the education system is as critical to the long-term growth of India as the creation of physical infrastructure is. What we sow now, our coming generations shall reap. Objectives of our educational infrastructure cannot be fulfilled only by an increasing participation of the private sector. Funding for education deserves to be accorded a higher priority.

I submit the above with all humility at my command. I do hope these would get considered and a due diligence carried out by subject experts on your panel. Discussions with major stakeholders would ensure that a radically new education policy is announced soon. The future of India is in your capable hands.

Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to participate in a discussion of this nature.

An ordinary citizen of India

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/enriching-our-management-education-further

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/degrees-of-separation)

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The new government in India has promised to cut red tape and substitute it with a red carpet. This is a great promise, but one has to wait and see how it actually unfolds. India has a federal structure in place. So, unless states come on board, wannabe entrepreneurs might still be found running from pillar to post negotiating their way through the dense maze of policies, procedures and rules at all levels. A major MNC recently stated that as many as 167 approvals were required before its project could see the light of the day.

The Doing Business 2013 report of the World Bank ranks India at 134 out of 189 countries in ease of doing business. India has questioned the methodology of the World Bank. This could satisfy the ego of some patriots amongst us. But the stark reality is that the costs of setting up and running a business in India are unreasonably high.

One also needs to consider the fact that India’s infrastructure is anything but world-class. There is a mismatch between the skill set available in the labor market and the needs of the industry. Policy framework is inconsistent, giving rise to a sense of uncertainty in the mind of investors. Add to this India’s poor record in enforcing contracts due to legal delays and the tendency to slap taxes on a retrospective basis, and the high level of discomfort experienced by investors can be readily explained.

One of the most serious stumbling blocks to India’s growth story is the widespread corruption. Businesses which are driven by pure greed find this rather handy. But those which stand by business ethics and operate within the paradigm of a value system detest this scenario. The latter surely deserve all the encouragement they can get.

The new government in India would do a great service to the nation by seriously cracking down on corruption. Some baby steps do appear to have been taken, but these do not attack the root cause of the problem. It is good to chase black money stashed abroad. But steps need to be taken to stem the rot at the root level itself.

Here are some steps which could possibly help to curb the growth of the cancer of corruption:

  • Political funding needs to be brought on a transparent plane. This can only be done if there is a clear message that witch-hunting of businesses, especially in case of a change of regime, would not take place. Suitable changes in India’s taxation laws would also help. Till the time political expenditure remains obscure, red tape would continue to hinder the country’s growth.
  • Bureaucracy performs a critical function. Safeguards can be improved. A well thought-out stick-and-carrot policy can be introduced and then ruthlessly implemented. This would ensure that the tendency of some to seek rent for grant of mandatory approvals is curbed.
  • A strategic policy for use of natural resources needs to be announced and implemented. It is not only about mineral resources but also about India’s rivers, airwaves and other bounties of nature.
  • Real estate sector needs structural reforms. A stronger MIS system is the need of the hour. Uniform rates of stamp duties attracted by property transactions across the country would go a long way in creating a level-playing field. Administering collections and detecting frauds would also become easier.
  • Pushing through DTC and GST would result in better revenues. This would give the government better leeway to reduce taxes across the board. In turn, this would improve Indians’ collective honesty levels.

On their part, businesses also need to do some soul-searching. By raising the bar higher on the compliance front, they could improve their market valuation. Their brand image is bound to get a makeover for the good. In turn, this helps them to attract more business as also more skilled employees.

Once a demonstration effect sets in, the government machinery would also develop confidence and stop viewing them through a jaundiced lens of suspicion. Instead, this would enable the government to go ahead with self-certification in several areas, thereby utilizing its own human resources better.

All of these are bitter pills to swallow. But unless this pain and suffering of chemotherapy and surgery is undergone, the cancer of corruption would continue to thrive. A strong political will alone can achieve this cure of the Indian system.

[Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/a-16-point-agenda-for-the-16th-lok-sabha-of-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/combating-the-cancer-of-corruption%5D

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