Sunday, May 11, 2014
FDI in higher education opposed! Rural areas still deprived of quality education, says IIT professor, Dr Anand Teltumbde
Rural areas still deprived of quality education, says IIT professor, Dr Anand Teltumbde
At the 14th
The Convocation Address by Dr Anand Teltumbde
Convocation of the Karnataka State Open University, Mysore
10 May 2014
His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka and the Chancellor of the Karnataka State
Open University Dr Hansraj Bharadwaj, the members of the Board of Management and
Academic Council; Prof M G Krishnan, the honourable Vice Chancellor of the University, the
distinguished academics, social dignitaries, faculty and dear graduating students,
It is a great honour that has accidently befallen me to deliver this convocation address
Convocation of the Karnataka state Open University. It might be the unique
occasion in the history where a recipient of a degree also makes a convocation speech.
Friends, my latest tag as the professor of IIT is incidental as I have passed most of my time in
the corporate world which is the main consumer of the university output. And we are living
in what is called neoliberal era, which is just a euphemism for the corporate-centric world.
Here everything happens with the logic of capital, not the capital of previous centuries but
its vicious form - the global capital. The logic of this capital vis-a-vis education is that it is the
input to people to transform themselves into ‘human resource’ to be devoured by a giant
mill of accumulation of the global capitalism. As such, I probably uniquely represent the
entire supply chain, by being today a supplier in the education industry and a customer in
my previous corporate avatar.
In the bygone era education was a sacred thing. In our Asian culture, it was akin to a
worship of god. But even in the western world, it was not any different. John Dewey, one
of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century had famously said, “education
is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” Babasaheb Ambedkar was so deeply
influenced by Dewey, who was one of his professors at Columbia University that he said in
1953, when he himself had emerged as one of the greats of the century that he owed his
entire intellectual life to John Dewey. Babasaheb Ambedkar inherited the philosophy of
instrumental education from Dewey and saw it as the key to emancipation for Dalits. He was
perhaps the only one among the notables, who particularly emphasized higher education.
Much of the educational rhetoric had otherwise stressed literacy; but as we know literacy
does not do much to a person except for getting him into the market net. With literacy, he
can read the advertisement and become a consumer of products in the market. But real
transformation is brought about by higher education, which makes you think, understand
the processes that affects your life and impels you to something about it. This paradigm is
completely changed and education has become today a commodity to be bought by the
students in the educational market so as to equip oneself to fit the requirements of the
corporate world. Alas, today this world is incapable, thanks to technological marvels of
displacing labour from production process, to consume this output and rather thrives on
adding to the proverbial ‘reserved army’ of unemployed by rudely declaring majority of our
university graduates as unemployable.
This is the inexorable logic of the global capital, which no single country perhaps is in
position to thwart. The simple strategy for the countries therefore would be to make use of
it as per its own strength and weakness. Those who have graduated in management science
would understand better what I mean. We have an Asian peer in China since ancient times.
It would be interesting in this context to see how China emerged as a global industrial
power making use of this neoliberal paradigm and how we are faltering to regain our much
flaunted growth pace. In 1989, China had lagged behind India on many a developmental
parameter. It had a huge population to feed and also to meet their aspirations for better life
heightened through the proletarian revolution in 1949. We just apologetically console
ourselves dismissing Chinese progress by saying that China is a dictatorship and we are a
democracy, actually betraying superficial understanding of either- democracy as well as
dictatorship. But one has to appreciate that China is the land which had seen three
momentous revolutions in a single century and we are the one that has refused to change
over a long past of three millenniums. Such polity as Chinese becomes potentially difficult to
manage just with a stick. What the Chinese rulers did is to strategize how Chinese people
would be gainfully employed and towards that they emphasized development of the
manufacturing industry. Today they have created an unshakable manufacturing platform,
which is known as the workshop of the world. On this platform now they are in position to
layer services. What we did is exactly opposite, placing cart before the horse, aping the
Western economies, with population less than even that of our smallest states and
emphasized Services over Agriculture on which 60 percent of our people still survive and
utterly neglected manufacturing. This is shown up in the composition of our GDP, where
Agriculture contributes just 17 % but sustains about 60 percent of our people and Services
which sustains just about 25 % people but contributes nearly 66 % to the GDP. The Industry
is sandwiched with a meagre 17 % contribution to the GDP for the balance 15 % of people.
In China this composition is reverse, with Agriculture, Industry and Services contributing to
their four-times-our GDP, approximately 10, 45, 45 % respectively as of last year. The
Services component in this has risen during the last two decades as a necessary
complement of the rise in peoples’ living standard. The key of China’s progress lay in this
basic strategy. If one cares to recall, Babasaheb Ambedkar way back in 1918 had proposed
this very strategy for India in the context of the so called problem of small holdings.
I have lived in China and have minutely observed their various things including educational
institutions. In one word, barring a few of our IIMs and IITs, we do not have anything
that can be compared with theirs. That is why they figure far ahead of us in the global
ranking of universities. The difference between us and them, in my humble opinion, is that
the ruling class in China had to be critically sensitive to their people; paradoxically, the
ruling class in India has mastered, in the name of democracy, the strategy of hoodwinking
people with populist policies. It is not that our founding fathers had not given a vision for
genuinely people-oriented policies. They are all included in the part IV of the Constitution
and are called ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’. Although they are not justiciable, i.e.,
invokable in any court of law, they are supposed to be morally binding on the rulers while
making policies. But all these years we have ignored them and as a result find ourselves in
increasingly messier condition.
Take for instance; the Constitution makers had mandated the rulers of this country to
provide universal and free education to all children up to the age of 14 within 10 years from
the adoption of the Constitution. The importance attached to this matter could be seen
from the fact that this is the only article which had its specific time limit for implementation.
But nobody paid heed to it for over four decades. It is only in 1993 that the Supreme Court
in totally unrelated cases — Mohini Jain and Unnikrishnan cases -- observed that the right to
education was integral with the right to life, that our rules were shaken out of their slumber.
But they still played a mischief and amended the Constitution itself inter alia deleting from
it the age group of 0 to 6 years and making it a fundamental duty of the parents and not
the State. The process culminated into enactment of the so called Rights to Education
Act in 2009. What this Act has effectively done is to legitimize the multilayered education
system that had evolved in the country. It provided that a child will get education as per his
parents’ caste and class, not much different from the much reviled Manu’s dictum. They
have inserted a clause of reservation of 25% for the poor to be admitted in any school of
their choice to hoodwink the people again. Anybody can see the spirit of the Constitutional
mandate, although it was not worded in so many words, that no child will be deprived
of education just because of his parentage. This system is universally known as the free,
compulsory, universal education through neighbourhood schools. What it means is that
all the children irrespective of class or caste will get same education through the publicly
run schools in their neighbourhood. I would go beyond and say that in order to observe
the spirit of this clause; it should be the duty of the State to ensure that no child carries the
imprint of their parents’ poverty and is naturally equal when it enters the world. It would
mean that when a mother conceives a child, it would be the responsibility of the State to
take entire prenatal and nutritional care of her until she bears a healthy child. If this healthy
child is provided with equal education, much of the burden of vexatious inequality on
account of caste and class would be taken care of.
It is on this solid foundation the further superstructure of education, middle and higher
education, should be erected. We have been so callous about these matters that our higher
education system while it is rapidly expanding in quantity is raising uncomfortable question
marks. In the holy educational arena we have let grow a poisonous crop of education
lords. We have expanded the numbers just to improve our statistics. There are over 500
universities today and many more are in offing. The IITs and IIMs have been multiplied,
effectively diluting their brands created over a long period. But while improving the
numbers, we have been totally unmindful of the quality.
The education system suffers from multiple ills today. The biggest and the most sinful one
is that entire rural area is cut off from quality education. The villages in early decades of
our independence contributed brilliant people to this nation. Most statesmen and high
ranking people had come from villages only because of quality education and hard work
characteristic of rural life. Many of us here on dais including my humble self also are
products of this rural education. But today, it is theoretically impossible for a boy or girl
from villages, where still nearly 70 percent of people live, to cross the village boundary
and reach a reputed institution of higher education. All talk of reservation etc has become
meaningless, as they have become a monopoly of the urban beneficiary class, leaving
nothing for the real needy from the rural area.
There is much that needs to be done to improve this situation. One hopes it dawns on our
rulers and they mend the situation before it reaches a point of no return. During the last
two decades, there has been distinct tendency towards privatization and commercialization
of higher education. It has been drummed into people that private institutes are better run,
they provide quality education. It is a pure lie. The private institutes have been around for
years but none could produce an IIM, Ahmedabad or an IIT or a JNU. The neoliberal ethos
has entered the education system in a big way to the detriment of poor people of lower
social strata. The education is said to be a 50 billion dollars industry and it has naturally
been a focus of global capital. The government has freed FDI into education sector with a
universal alibi of lack of resources. Many bills are pending in the parliament to facilitate it
that will further create a mess in our higher education. It portends worsening of things. One
only keeps hope that at some point people at responsible position would realize their moral
responsibility towards the masses and take corrective steps.
I could not help but put before you these stark facts. They might sound negative but
they are warning bells. It is through larger public awareness only that we can hope for
As for KSOU, I find very good work being done. A beautiful campus is coming up here.
This university caters to particularly poorer sections of society who cannot afford regular
university education. There are many technological means to create virtual class rooms to
impart distant education. Perhaps I can contribute some technological ideas in this regard
if the university wants them. In course of time I hope this university will adopt creative
methods of imparting as good an education to students as is available in other universities.
There is a scope moreover to creatively carve out syllabus to be in tune with the market.
After all, we have to be strategic. These students need jobs. The university education is the
only thing that they can invest their meagre resources in the hope for a better life. If KSOU
in course of time comes with a plan in this direction, it would have created a model for
many such open universities in the country.
Lastly, I must congratulate all those who are receiving their well deserved degrees and wish
they take further strides in life. Thanks you.
Mysore, May 10, 2014, DHNS:
Neoliberal ethos in education is detrimental to poor people, Teltumbde
The governments decision to free Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into education sector, pending some bills, portends worsening of affairs in higher education of the country, said Anand Teltumbde, professor at Indian Institute of Technology, here on Saturday.
He was delivering the convocation address during the 14th annual convocation of Karnataka State Open University.
“During last two decades, there has been distinct tendency towards privatisation and commercialisation of higher education. It has been drummed into people that private institutes are better run and they provide quality education. It is a pure lie,” he said. The neoliberal ethos has entered the education system in a big way, which is detrimental to poor people of lower social strata, he said.
He said that India has only expanded the number of varsities, only to “improve statistics”. “But while improving the numbers, we have been unmindful of the quality. The education system suffers from multiple ills. The entire rural area is cut off from quality education,” he said.
Today, it is theoretically impossible for a boy or girl from villages, where still nearly 70 per cent of the people live, to come out of the village and reach a reputed institution of higher education. “All talk of reservation etc., has become meaningless, as they have become a monopoly of the urban beneficiary class, leaving nothing for the real beneficiaries from rural areas,” he said.
Right to Education
Criticising the Right to Education Act, he said that Act has effectively legitimised the multi-layered education system that had emerged in the country in the past few decades. “It provided that the child will get education as per his parents’ caste and class, not much different from Manu’s dictum,” he said.
It should be the duty of the State to ensure that no child carries the imprint of their parents’ poverty and is naturally equal when it enters the world. If a child is provided with quality education, much of the burden of vexatious inequality on account of caste and class would be taken care of, he added.
Making a comparison between India and China, he said that the ruling class in China was “critically sensitive” to its people, resulting in the country’s development. “Paradoxically, the ruling class in India has mastered, in the name of democracy, the strategy of hoodwinking people with populist policies,” he said.
Posted by Palash Biswas at 8:51 AM