Education Reform in India…bold agenda, same old foot dragging

Getting their citizen ready to lead productive and prosperous lives is one of the primary obligations of a democratic government. Despite all the hype and excitement about the quality of Indian education, it is very clear that vocational and advanced education in India remain an elitist pursuit. That is unfortunate, because in the modern Indian economy the *only* way to escape from the social class of your birth is through education.

In the last few weeks, there has been renewed (and I hesitate to use this word) debate on the subject of allowing foreign universities to confer degrees in India. I hesitate to call the response a debate because, predictably, the response has come in the form of party line pandering. There has been no evidence of a thoughtful, emotion-less debate on a subject that would likely impact the future prosperity of the nation.

The minister, Kapil Sibal, makes some reasonable statements. There are 220 million kids who go to school, and only 26 million of these will be able to go to college. The remaining folks don’t have access to advanced or vocational training that they would need in order to get into higher paying jobs and businesses. This is a huge problem, in terms of the manpower requirements of a modern economy…will we, after all, import TV technicians from Japan to repair our TVs? The bigger problem is that the social divide between the ultra rich (educated IIT/IIM types) and the abject poor will continue to widen and, even worse, the people on the poor side would not have access to any means of crossing over.

Of course, the usual leftist objection to “phoren imperialists” will come up. After all, if they educate our kids today, who is to say that they won’t brain-wash our kids into capitalistic zombies tomorrow?

The real question is…who has the content, experience and credentials to provide India the education that Indians need? A case may be made that India should be taught by Indians. All well and good, but where will the content and the management capability come from “in the numbers that India will need”? Surely there is room to allow foreign universities to come in an help where they can?

About Gaurav Rastogi
Gaurav Rastogi is a writer and a business-exec living in the San Francisco bay area. His other blog is a personal philosophy blog at

2 Responses to Education Reform in India…bold agenda, same old foot dragging

  1. amtgrg says:

    Gaurav – my firm did some research on the state of education in India a year or so back. Needless to say, the state of affairs is anything but happy. Actually, it’s terrible. IMHO, anything that encourages people to invest in education is good news. Sure, there will be the good, bad and ugly players. But it’s nothing that we aren’t familiar with already. The one concern I have is with the inability of foreign players to repatriate their earnings from India. It’s a little similar to the non-profit stipulation for several “private” colleges in India today. Realistically, nobody works without profit – they just find ways to make it in different ways!

  2. Pingback: Why we need foreign (or any) universities in India « Two MBAs, One Blog

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