Tag Archives: india

Six Pillars that the Narendra Modi Government should Adopt

4 Dec

‘India has become a magnet’, Dominic Barton of McKinsey is reported to have said recently, reflecting both the optimism and the aspirations vested in the country at the moment. Six months in, Narendra Modi’s cabinet has shown some sense of its own vision while very clearly not rocking the boat. Building a credible base is essential for every start-up, and this is what this government is – a start-up seeking investments. India Inc. is run by them and India’s needs are clear: growth, inclusion and freedoms.

The path to these is via a sustained, sound and progressive education system. Education i.e. the task of building a range of competencies, skills and abilities –  is the tool that will power the growth engine. While we tackle teacher shortages, learning outcomes, access to resources, school leadership etc. on a daily basis, here are six pillars, or even principles, that will enable sound choices.

Strategy is key to any good implementation. This government achieved one of the strongest mandates based on an election campaign that revealed a sharp sense of strategy, tactics and operational delivery. We need to see more of that. No policy can be implemented without a good strategy that informs all the stakeholders so that they can align their investments to the national strategy. It would be foolish for an individual (or even CSR funds) to invest in, say, community colleges, if the national strategy is going to support skills academies. If there is a goal, let us all pull together to make it happen rather than scatter our efforts because we were shy of investing in, or declaring a strategy. Designing this engine of growth and rolling it out to meet national goals is the first, if not the only task for this government. Unleashing the potential of the country lies not in its passive demographic dividend, but in its systems for an educated and productive people.

Inclusion must be about value addition and can no longer be about handouts, trickle down, low productivity, poor quality or low value added economic activity. It is not necessary that the poorest be stuck with poor quality or shallow opportunities. And this change must be driven via better education and access to fair opportunity. We have enough evidence of the people at the bottom of the pyramid achieving much – whether it is admission to a prestigious IIT or a transformative innovation that goes beyond mere jugaad. Inclusion now must give every student sight of global standards and they must be enabled to deploy their skills in ways that raise the bar for themselves, their school and community. The goal of education now needs to become one of continuous improvement and greater value addition. For each student, each teacher, each school, each college and university – the test has to be the question- “How did you make it better?” (And by how much)

Opportunities for mobility along a quality ladder e.g. via lifelong learning, are essential to enable each individual to grow regardless of missed chances. It is not just the youth, but the others too who must be included in this journey. The charge to improving this has to be led by the educational institutions. But they need to be let out of their regulatory shackles to breed a culture of enterprise, growth and innovation to ‘make it better’ knowing that they will be held accountable for the outcomes. Learning needs to engage with the goal of improving quality and value. ‘Make in India’ is a great slogan, but at this stage it is powerless if delivered to current productivity and quality standards.

Governance, as promised. Which means oversight, supervision, accountability but does not mean either standardisation or micro-management. Education gets stifled if one tries to create a one size fits all template for all individuals. Governance systems need to be minimal, designed for easy and elegant operations so that there is no reason to bypass them. The purpose of governance mechanisms is not to command or control but is to constructively identify areas for improvement and address the gaps. This is not only a call to fund gaps for quality enhancement, but also a call to use funding intelligently to incentivise good performance.

Partnerships are the only sensible way of proceeding given the scale at which education needs to be delivered and the diversity of the contexts and goals. It would be foolish to leave out private investments, solutions, energy and commitment just in the name of an ideology that has not even been able to prove itself as superior. India has some great examples of both (i) sustaining diverse ownership models and, (ii) of collaborations within the government system that helps improve learning outcomes for all.

Freedoms are fundamental to fostering entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity – all of which are essential to the growth that the nation needs. Higher Education Institutions need to raise the bar and focus on finding and working their core speciality, aiming to be the best in the world in that area. There needs to be a diverse range of teaching, research and problem solving institutions, and each needs to have the autonomy to find their own path. They remain accountable for outcomes but cannot be subject to templatisation. In schools too – there needs to be firm accountability and consequences – but much more space to engage in meaningful learning so that students grow up to be productive, value adding individuals rather than rote learning test takers.

India’s demographics are such that for many years it may end up supplying much of the world’s middle management and even leadership, but it certainly does not want to remain at the bottom of the pyramid. The way out is via education for higher order skills. Each of us who goes out, often to return to the country, is an ambassador building the nation’s credibility and therefore in a position and with an ability to negotiate on the world stage. Let India educate a billion ambassadors – each one making India proud, standing tall on the world stage, not because of the past, but because of a productive constructive present. Yes, I have a dream.

This was published in the DNA http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-6-principles-that-the-narendra-modi-government-should-adopt-in-the-education-sector-2040252

India Continues to surprise in Global University Rankings

17 Oct

India continues to surprise in global university rankings

Meeta Sengupta
03 October 2013, 09:19 AM IST

India does manage to have some interesting things happening in the education manthan – the churning that traditionally threw up the treasures of the world.

And this time the crown goes to Panjab University that has managed to rise above all other Indian higher education establishments and is ranked between 226 and 250 in the world. Still low, for a country as educated and populous as India, but a significant achievement nonetheless. Panjab University has been known for its commitment to its faculty and academic standards, and it is good to see acknowledgement of that effort in global rankings.

Of the three or four major global higher education rankings, the Times Higher Education rankings are the most comprehensive and the most popular. With heavyweight analytics by Thomson Reuters and the might of the Times group in publication, the reach and rigour of the rankings is unparalleled. The strength is in the methodology that is revised and updated and here is a link to the criteria the university managed to score more than any other Indian university http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking/region/asia/methodology The rankings have noted the global shift from the West to the East in the higher ranks. This is a steady progression seen over the past few years and the younger universities of the east have worked hard to make themselves known in the upper echelons of the rankings.

Can this be managed? Can one climb up the rankings at will? Of course this is not an easy process that can be accomplished overnight. But like any assessment system one can work towards what is being assessed, work harder at those aspects and move up league tables. This is not to say a system is rigged – it is not. It is merely recognising and adopting a set of criteria seen as essential to defining a good university. Can Indian universities do this? I had written about this before in another publication and it is linked here ( http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/1876684/standpoint-what-will-it-take-to-get-indian-universities-into-the-league-tables) This is of course a pragmatic and narrow view of progress at any university. All good universities will do this and more, depending upon their context, needs and goals.

How did Panjab University do it? We will have to ask them of course, but they seem to have done exceedingly well in the citation indices. They clearly focused on the criteria and were able to rank higher than the prestigious IITs too.  (May I please take a self indulgent I-told-you-so moment here?) Here is what Panjab University’s scores look like on the Times Higher Education page – http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking/institution/panjab-university While the University scores under 30 points for each of the criteria for teaching, international outlook and industry income, the scores are very interesting for their research and citations. Panjab University scores a mere 14 points for their research, but a colossal 84.7 for their citations ( 30% weightage) pushing them neatly into the middle leagues – to bring their overall rank to between 226 and 250. This is a leap forward for India that struggled to get mentions even in the two hundreds. Punjab University did receive a grant of almost Rs. 35 crores for investment in research infrastructure in acknowledgement of its good work in quality research and research papers. It was among the top three universities along with Delhi University and Hyderabad University, and amongst 14 to receive such appreciation.

Does that make Punjab University the best University in India? Today, it does. They deserve congratulations for their achievements. As with everyone who achieves leadership, we now wait for them to reveal their secrets to their peers, in the spirit of collegiality that will take Indian higher education forward – for this has to be the real goal. It is not enough for one institution to do well. Each institution will do different things well, and it is only when we share and embed best practices across higher education institutions that the students and academia will gain.


This was published in Times of India blogs on October 3, 2013 and is linked here http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/india-continues-to-surprise-in-global-university-rankings