<b>Fifth Columnist:</b> Paradigm Shift
The Indian education system is run by crooked politicians and fly-by-night operators
When physicist philosopher Albert Einstein wrote loftily, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” he obviously had not come to India. If he had, he could probably have seen reality in a new light.
A topper in the 2016 Bihar board examination, Ruby Rai, who apparently stood at the threshold of a brilliant career, scoring 444 marks out of 500 in Political Science, was at pains to describe her subject of specialisation. As part of a larger ongoing probe, Rai told investigators that her “teacher” had taught her that political science and home science was the same subject!
Now comes the news of a certain Ganesh Kumar, who topped Class XII in Bihar Board’s humanities stream this year. Kumar, who scored a magnificent 65 out of 70 in his music practicals, had little or no idea of “sur’, ‘taal’ and ‘matra’, considered the very basics of Hindustani music. When queried further about what he did in his music lessons, Kumar burst out in a couple of bawdy Bollywood numbers – completely toneless of course.
Welcome to this world of Alice in Wonderland, the ecosystem and the backbone of Indian education. While the stirring tales of students from India’s IIT, IIM and elite colleges in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai justifiably adorn the global centrestage, it remains, at best, the cream at the top, the super structure, as it were. The base remains rotten to the core. Just how rotten and stinking it is, came to light last year during an evaluation of answer sheets of BA English, History and Economics at UP’s Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, after the centre’s evaluation coordinator grilled two distinguished teachers of this august institution.
Both teachers with valid degrees from recognised UP universities, holders of PhD degrees and after years of evaluating answer sheets and work experience, did not know who India’s famous prime minister was, much less the name of the UP chief minister.
As for the replies they gave to their interrogators, it would be suffice to say that stand-up comedians need to watch their jobs. Sample some gems, as reported in the media: The associate professor of English spelled evaluation as “evalulation” while the economics lecturer had no clue to what “audit” stood for. Under the circumstances, it became positively difficult for him to state the full form of IMF. The worthy described it as “International Money Found.”
While India’s global competitors have moved to greater autonomy and institutional freedom, that being considered a prerequisite for improving educational standards, the country’s education system remains hostage to political and bureaucratic meddling. But this is just part of the story. The larger picture is scary. While it is easy to suggest that no public interest would be served with an overbearing government and that social audit of higher education is the need of the hour, the options on the private side are not exactly endearing.

Both in Bihar and UP, to name just two large overpopulated states with the highest number of high school and graduate students being churned out every year, private education is virtually in the hands of a mafia, many of whom have never formally been to a school or college themselves.
To take just one example of this deep-rooted malaise is self-styled management guru Arindam Chaudhuri, who ran his Indian Institute of Planning and Management fraud successfully for years until the bubble burst. Unsuspecting students, with their parents’ hard earned money were duped into getting a “management” degree, only to realise at the end of their tenure that when they went out into a turbulent job market, the best they could manage was the job of a shop floor assistant. And that too, if they turned lucky.
Chaudhuri is currently on the run, with the country’s airports on alert, just in case he tries to make a getaway, with investigators closing the noose on his illegal ‘educational’ activities.
One needs to look closely at the media to see the daily dosage of educational frauds, which have come to dominate headlines. Reports of professionals with dubious qualifications performing intricate medical surgeries, for example, are staple diet. While the government has sometimes intervened intrusively, especially when it comes to admissions, it has by and large left ungoverned the functioning of even state-aided colleges.
The best-known cases include those where public-aided colleges are known to auction their faculty positions, quite explicitly. State governments have chosen to look the other way for the mortal fear of hurting commercial interests and vote banks. Votaries of those who favour government intervention in higher education have a point when they say that the private sector is yet to create knowledge on a sufficient scale. Private educational institutions - like Arindam Chaudhuri’s - are little better than sweat shops and a vast majority of them remain fly-by-night operators.
In India’s overpopulated towns and cities, “international universities” and “global institutes” are mushrooming by the day. In running these so-called educational institutions, often from one or two-roomed tenements, racketeers fulfill a demand that ideally the state should have accounted for.
Under the circumstances, former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s incisive observation about India’s economy being over-regulated but under-governed, fits the country’s educational sector like a glove.
ranjitbhushan@mydigitalfc.com
Columnist: 
Ranjit Bhushan
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