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A Mirror of Tomorrow’s Society

We celebrated Teachers’ Day this week. We suddenly wake up to the importance of education and teachers. The ritual is repeated every year. After a few perfunctory ceremonies and many meaningless shibboleths, it’s business as usual.

The Art of Conversation

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A friend once advised my wife: ‘never choose an end seat at a party. If the lady next to you doesn’t talk, you are finished. At least if you are between two people, your chances for a successful conversation are improved’. She wasn’t assuring an interesting conversation, just some conversation.

Global Change and Deep Slumber

Recently, I had an opportunity to spend some time in Kenya as a member of the commonwealth group of election observers deputed to oversee the national general elections. Even though I had taken on this assignment rather reluctantly, I am really glad that I did, as it has opened an entirely new world and shattered the many unflattering myths we harbor about Africa. Nothing that we learnt as kids about Africa prepared me for the breathtaking beauty of Kenya and the grace and dignity of the people.

Change the nature of demand

Any one who notices the higher education scene in Andhra would be awe struck by the tremendous demand for professional courses. Right from childhood every student aspires to become either an engineer or doctor. The parents feel that unless their children have a professional degree, they will not get a decent job. In reality, our society needs lot more people with diverse skill sets and expertise other than engineering or medicine. But, unfortunately we haven’t created either the demand for that sort of knowledge or the capacity to utilize those skills productively.

Unfulfilled Potential

The other day I was talking to a chauffeur who was driving me around in a district town. He stopped his education at 3rd grade. His father had passed away and his mother could not take up a job with two little kids in the house. So he and his older brother took up work to support the family. He is now about 30, and has a wife and two kids. He earns a decent wage. He seemed bright and hard working. “Why can’t you study now?” I asked. That set him thinking. He responded, “In my twenty three years of work at different places, no-body ever told me to study. You are the first person”.

Election of a Selection (Process) that Functions

Recently, in May, an ‘entrance examination’ of massive proportions was held in our democracy.  The candidates’ performance within the span of just a few hours decides his/her future and career.  The doors to their dreams, ambitions and vision are opened only to those hopeful candidates who manage to qualify in this exam.  The large numbers of candidates who do not succeed are forced to wait for their next chance.   Without any doubt, this ‘entrance exam’ is probably one of the toughest and most demanding in the entire world.

F for Future and G for Generation but, H is for Hope

No sooner the EAMCET results were out, the faces of top-ranking students from various ‘institutes’ figured in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, street banners and television commercials.  But to one institute, all these are somewhat passé. It went one step further: they organized a colourful and noisy car rally - one decorated, music-playing car for every top ranker they produced!

Reform Public Administration – A “Common Will”

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s suggestion to recruit the Civil Servants after 10+2 (Intermediate) has generated an interesting debate on the various possibilities of recruiting civil servants. The candidates selected after the usual entrance exams will be put in a national academy and after completing three years will get a graduate degree. The meritorious students among them will then go for a service-oriented course in the academy for two years. On successful completion of which, the candidate will get an MBA degree and would be inducted in the services.

Combining Equity with Efficiency

The recent debate generated by the proposal to reserve 27% seats in Union educational institutions for backward classes has predictably been very shrill and hysterical. Reservation is a classic zero-sum-game issue and polarizes society intensely, as the gains to a social group are matched by losses to another. Prejudice and bitterness in this debate must be overcome by facts and logic. We all need to step back a little and take a deep breath.

Competition, Choice and Higher Education

Indian higher education is in deep crisis.