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‘Our B-schools Mustn’t Forget The Age-old Ideals’

In an interview with Suman K. Jha, Satya Pal Singh opens up on higher education, B-schools, and the need for reforms

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Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma,

Former policeman Satya Pal Singh was a surprise choice, many thought, for the position of MoS, HRD. Singh, however, has a lot of plans for education reforms, especially the B-schools. Much before he became a Minister, he was invited to IIM-A to speak on “ethics in public life”. In an interview with Suman K. Jha, he opens up on higher education, B-schools, and the need for reforms.  


Edited excerpts:


What is your vision about higher education and technical education specifically in the country?

There is a challenge before the government and the society, as far as higher education is concerned. How to improve the standards — whether it is school education or higher education or vocational or technical education — is something that concerns us.


Under the leadership of PM Modi, this ministry is trying address this challenge. If you want to improve the standards of higher education, first and foremost we need to have quality teachers. Unfortunately, over the years perhaps attention was not paid. Our ministry has taken a lot of action about it. Now, to cope up with the shortage of quality teachers, we have gathered around 3,000 top teachers and professors from higher education institutions as well as from IITs, IIMs and all the technical institutions. And we have designed 300 ‘massive open online courses’. There are 32 channels through satellites, smartphones, internet and we are catering to the requirements of more than 3 lakh students.


Second, the HRD Ministry has taken an initiative called GIAN or Global Initiative of Academic Networks. Last year, 200 professors from reputed institutions around the world visited our institutions. This time, we are expecting around 800 professors. This is about our teachers having a dialogue with teachers from reputed institutions across the world.


Third, when we talk about employability of graduates, perhaps we are lagging behind other developed countries in the world. Unfortunately after 70 years of Independence, our access to higher education is only 24.6 per cent.  Now, the question is how to make our higher education accessible and affordable and how to impart quality education.


In different parts of the country, there are a lot of social disparities. There are some states where education is not so easily accessible. We don’t have a sufficient number of  higher education institutes. We have to address this in order to ensure equity.


The fourth point is about accountability whether quality education is imparted. The HRD ministry is also addressing this issue.


Soon, we are coming up with the new education policy. It is the most democratically exercised initiative where more than 2 lakh people have participated, given their suggestions on what could be done and what should be our education policy. Within the coming months, the new education policy will be out. All these issues will be addressed in this education policy.  


How do we compare with the world’s best?

If you talk about world-class institutes such as Harvard, MIT, Yale, etc., they have a regular curriculum committee that decides what will be the syllabus for the next 20 years. In some of our technical institutions, we are lagging by 10-20 years.  The gap is too much.


We have to work on that.  We are lagging behind in frontier technologies such as Oil & Gas Exploration, Nuclear and Atomic Energy, Deep Mining. Our PM has started 1,000 fellowships in the field of technology.  First time in the history of Independent India, we have started Smart India Hackathon — the 29 ministries got together and digital solutions came from different institutions.


Higher Education Finance Agency (HEFA) has been created, which will raise Rs 20,000 crore. Two hundred and fifty-eight unique research projects worth Rs 596 crore has been approved. National Academy Depository has been started to keep safe the certificates in a digital format. We have also started National Digital Library where books and documents are available online. Also under the ‘Uchchatar Avishkar Yojana’, 92 projects have been started.


If you look at B-schools, there are top grade schools like the IIMs and there are some that are not doing well. How do you look at the entire ecosystem of the country?

Today is the age of management and we have to give a lot of attention to our management schools. We have six old IIMs, they are faring quite well.  A lot of autonomy has been given. Most of our management institutions are trying to copy the West. Let me be very clear,  we should not be prisoners of the past. But if we can learn lessons, ideals from them, we should incorporate them in our syllabus. Because the ideals or the concepts, which we practised for 1,000 of years, many of them, if not all, are still relevant especially in the management field. For example, we should teach our students how to manage life.


Do you think there is an issue of employability as hundreds of thousands of B-school graduates are still unemployed?

Employability is still a very relevant and important issue. There has been a spurt of management schools especially in the private sector. That is why the quality of education is going down. Two things are very important whether it is school or higher education. In higher education, there is the question of employability. But more important than employability is life values.  


For example, take Delhi or Mumbai, the number of murders taking place is 400-500. But the number of suicide cases are six times more than that and it includes educated people like doctors and engineers. This is happening because our education system has failed to teach them the value of human life. Tell me, why do we need to open old age homes in a country where our culture teaches us to treat parents as gods and goddesses?


Moreover, a lot of business or commercial frauds are committed by educated people rather than someone from the villages. This is happening because our management schools have failed to inculcate probity, integrity and we must have ethical business practices. Our country has not suffered so much from the traditional crimes as it has suffered from economic crimes. This is something they must emphasise.

 

With the passing of the IIM Bill in the RS in the coming session, should there be a greater freedom for management schools or do you think some control is required?

Our Constitution has given freedom to everybody and that is a fundamental right. But reasonable restrictions are always required to maintain sovereignty, law and order, discipline, etc. Similarly, in a management school also, autonomy must be given but reasonable restrictions are required.



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