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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.

Outcomes in School Education – Testing Boards

The Compiling and release of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2005 is a landmark event in the evolution of school education in India. Pratham, a reputed civil society organization conducted a nation-wide survey of school-going children in 485 rural districts. 776 small and big groups along with about 10,000 volunteers participated in this massive exercise, and assessed the elementary education outcomes on a large, randomly selected sample of nearly 400,000 children in 9521 villages.

Crisis in Education

“Today, more than ever before in human history, the wealth–or poverty–of nations depends on the quality of higher education.  Those with a larger repertoire of skills and greater capacity for learning can look forward to lifetimes of unprecedented economic fulfillment.  But in the coming decades the poorly educated face little better than the dreary prospects of lives of quiet desperation”.   These words of wisdom from Malcolm Gills, the President of Rice University in 1999 have great relevance to all nations today.  But nowhere in the world are they more apt than in India.

“Water, Water Everywhere . . . . . ”

dir="ltr">India's unique selling proposition propelling this growth and engendering optimism is the fact that we are home to one of the world's largest technical manpower pools. We have over 5 million scientists, engineers and technicians in India now. About 300,000 of them (6%) are engaged in research and development. We can boast of 450,000 allopathic physicians, 200,000 agricultural graduates and 40,000 veterinarians. The stock of other post graduate degree holders is about 4.5 million in liberal arts, and a million each in sciences and commerce.

IIMs can do with less govt ‘parenting’

Parenting young adults should rank as one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  The parents are obviously concerned about the welfare of their children. So they typically feel the need for more parenting. But, their children want even less.  To paraphrase the famous ‘Coffee Bite’ TV ad: the argument continues…

Education – Promise vs Fulfilment

One of the great myths prevalent in today's India is that we are home to the third largest technological manpower pool in the world.  Many enthusiastic and well-meaning advocates of India as a world hub for value-added services are building their hopes on this belief that we have a vast pool of technically competent manpower.

Rhetorical Flourishes as Substitutes to Resolute Action

dir="ltr">With the nation's attention riveted on the dastardly terrorist attack on Parliament on 13th December, the recent talk of universal literacy has receded to the background.  For every failure of ours we have two easy alibis of global recession and cross-border terrorism.  An occasional rhetorical flourish is taken as an adequate substitute for resolute action in respect of all our long-standing domestic problems.


Economists are rightly concerned about the slowing down of our growth. But they are wrong when they link our slow growth with global recessionary trends. And lately, 11th September has become the excuse to explain away our own sluggish economy. The problems of our economy are far more fundamental, and have little to do with global cycles.

New IIT will benefit entire society


We all know how difficult it is to get through the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and study at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).  It probably is one of the most restricted selection procedure in the world.  The total number of engineering graduates produced by the five IITs at Kharagpur, Kanpur, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi together, since 1956, is less than the number of JEE applicants in a single year!  In 2002, more than 178,000 students appeared for the JEE.

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