Regulating Higher Education In Goa?

In today’s Navhind Times, Dr. Nandkumar Kamar, a noted and genuine scholar from Goa argues the “need” to “regulate” the higher education space. I think the whole argument of regulating education is completely misplaced.

A DOCTORATE in any subject for Rs 2 lakhs, an MPhil in languages, natural or social sciences for Rs 1 lakh, any post-graduate degree for little less than Rs 50,000

Why would someone buy a Doctorate for Rs. 2 lakh instead of spending 4 years? The incentives are simple, you get a degree in so little time. Certainly thats illegal but people buy it because it works. The reason such fake degree manufacturers exist and flourish has two very important factors behind it.

Firstly, the acute shortage of educational resource. Our universities are abysmally equiped to meet demands and aspiration of our students. 4 lakh students appear for IIT-JEE, 8000 get through. The remaining 392000 students are not suckers. Most of them do deserve something equivalent to IITs but they dont get into it. They then try to opt for other opportunities, including buying out a degree.

Secondly, it works! The people who pass out from an institutes like Goa Engineering college, are not really in practice smarter than someone who has done a good course from NIIT or SEED. Both of them are considered as equivalent in Industry. In fact I can show examples where people with absolutely not engineering background have fared far better in real world than those who have degrees. Clearly, the fake degree is useless and doest make any value addition to individual, but then neither does the real degree.

Before blaming the mushrooms of educational institution promising quick and sure degree, we must question if an institution like Goa University is any better. Instead, Goa University is run by public funds. It is a complete farce. It is just a government authorized degree sale center where degrees are cheap but one has to only spend time in there. That is why people prefer to buy degrees instead of earning them.

Though Dr. Kamat argues that Goa needs more laws and regulations in Education field in order to prevent these malpractices, the solution he suggest doesnt go well with me.

The trade of selling degrees is booming because the government has not shown any practical interest to amend and arm the Goa University Act, 1984 suitably to bar competing profit-making private interests in higher education.

What scares me is that several intellectuals seem to be opposed to the idea of institutes making profit by providing education as a service. The taboo word being “profit”. I believe that India’s education policy is not only harmful for growth of private educational institutes but the degree with which government has controlled and regulated education and higher education is just scandalous.

Government has failed completely in building system of education which will give wise man to society. While it is hiding its failure by painting glossy fake pictures of India, it has prevented other people in building any alternate system. They have restricted access to the most vital resource of the country as well as an individual. No wonder the individuals find work around to get it.

The sorry state of higher education in India can be understood from Atanu’s posts.

Of the ten percent who do get post-secondary education in India’s around 300 universities (comprising of 17,000 colleges), their results are disheartening. India produces around two and a half million college graduates, including 400 thousand engineers annually. But the quality is so poor that only a quarter of them are actually unemployable. Stark statistics reveal the oversupply of raw graduates and the under supply of unemployable graduates. Infosys, an IT giant, last year sorted through 1.3 million applicants only to find around two percent were qualified for jobs, according to a recent report in The New Yorker.

The remaining 98% one must remember are mostly passed out from reputed institutions across the country with good marks spending 3-4 years of graduation. But what they have learned in those 4 years is as equivalent to getting a fake degree by paying 2 lakhs.

If we take Goa’s case, where industrialization is not a common phenomenon, if you want a better future you need to get out of this place. If you need a government job one has to show proof that he has so and so degree and pay a bribe to minister. Minister takes care of everything else. What you have learned, your competence in the subject hardly matters. Obviously buying a degree is much easier and better than earning it.

I think Goa has good potential to become an education hub for the country. Certainly laws can be passed and committees can be set up. But it should be to free education from Government control and make it more open and accessible. Once you allow private colleges to compete freely with government one’s, the only differentiating aspect will be the usefulness of degree awarded. The attempts to improve this usefulness will lead to improved quality of education.

What applies to India generally applies to Goa, but I feel Goa can always take up pioneering work because it is a small state. Atanu Dey’s Policy brief on the topic is an eye opener and I wonder why our policy makers cant accept it.

Education forms a very important feature and pre-requisite for economic and social development. A more and better educated society is likely to prosper and be peaceful than others. For this excellence should be the goal of system. A governmental setup can not struggle for excellence, it needs to happen by letting the entrepreneurs of our country invest in education. Let the Tatas , Ambanis start universities, also let the educational start-ups come up with sufficient funds. Government should act only as a facilitator and not a controller.

Who can put this in better words if not Mr. Arun Shourie?

he first thing to do is to stop counter-positioning primary, universal education against higher education. We need both. We can afford both. Second, we must see both — the threat as well as the opportunity: the threat that we may lose our best minds at an even faster rate than the rate at which we have been losing them in the past decades; on the other side, the opportunity that we can be educators to the world.Third, to ward off the threat and to tap into the opportunity, we require the same sort of measures. To arrest and reverse the alarming deterioration of standards in most of our institutions of higher learning. To ensure that in regard to both – students as well as faculty – merit, performance here and now, alone counts. To ensure that rewards are strictly commensurate with performance.

And resources. A large proportion of these will have to come from the government – for instance, private entrepreneurs just do not have the long horizons that basic research requires. Equally, government alone will just not have enough resources for this sector. Thus, one service that finance ministers can do is to give the most generous incentives and tax-breaks for industry to invest in education and in R&D. For every trifling misuse, a Manipal will come up.
And the resources have to be defrayed not just on equipment – that is what is done ever so often: and by the time the underpaid, under-motivated faculty learn to exploit the equipment to its full potential, the equipment is obsolete. A good proportion of the resources have to be set apart for making salaries and allowances of faculty and researchers and their work-environment attractive enough for them to forgo careers in private industry and to choose instead to be in universities and research institutions. [Read Full at Atanu Dey’s Blog]


The union budget: A primer from a non expert.

Because this was en election year only an interim budget was presented by Pranab Mhukharjee this April. Now that a stable government is in place, he is expected to present the final budget.

Like most of the people even I thought that budget and it’s impact on my life is insignificant. Even the tax exemption levels affected me very little. However my opinion has changed over last few months. Thanks to me reading lot many things about economics.

Causes of most of the problems lie essentially in the economic policies of current and past governments. Why am I so poor? Why our roads suck and cities stink ? Why is that a few million children below my age have to sleep without proper food? Many of these question directly depends on economic policies and budget is where those polices manifest themselves.

Economics has two major components. Macro and Micro. While Macro talks about the high level stuff that only experts understand. Such as fiscal policies, currency depreciation (whatever it means) and so on. Where as micro economics is what we do everyday. Why I stopped buying Times of India, stopped watching doordarshan, switched from Airtel to Idea and so on. Budget touches both the aspects of Indian economy someway or other.

“Sir, with these words, I commend the budget to the House.” These words, traditionally said at the end of the finance minister’s (FM’s) budget speech, mark the culmination of perhaps the most complex annual economic exercise in the country. Budget speeches have helped chart the country’s future direction at the macro level (such as when Manmohan Singh allowed 51% foreign direct investment in certain sectors in 1991) to the micro (such as when Morarji Desai specified the number of matchsticks (50) that a matchbox could contain in order to get excise exemptions in 1962).

[Source : Livemint]

Most of my knowledge about Budget is derived from Yeshwant Sinha’s biography. “Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer”. When India was in economic crisis, when India had to keep its gold with world bank to secure loans, when it was about to go bankrupt this man was the Finance Minister. It was just before Narsimha Rao Government.

India right from Nehru’s days had adopted socialist approach to the economy. The 5 years plans. Planning Commission. Mahalobnis model etc. In these models the most natural principle of economics that “demand-supply” relationship was violated. The Government controlled all the resources by means of license quota raj. Most of the companies from BSNL to Indian Oil to Air India to you name it were owned by government. Even private companies were not given freedom to produce what they want.

For example. Say I was rich enough to start my own company that would manufacture polythene bags. In such a case I had to first put an application to the government that I want to start one. Then government issues me an license. That license would also put and upper and lower limit on production. I will have to take separate licenses to import machinery, to buy land to get electricity etc. I will not have any freedom to decide how much I will produce with which machines and at what price I will sell it. All this is decided by the government officials who sit in the government offices.

The idea (and I don’t find it noble) was that the government officials were in a better position to decide what the society needs and how much. Smart people would indeed quickly notice that this gives immense power to the officials. Hence a license may be issued to produce polythene bags but license to import German Machinery may not be given which would get me on my knees. The officials then give me the license only after I pay a bribe of few crores.

Thus someone like Dhirubhai understood the rules of the game a prospered. Many perished. Among those who perished , the common man was the most important one. The state could not protect the interests of common man and secondly it gave a great boost to corruption.

The concept of “state control” was right from British Days. British wanted to control every aspect of economy so that they could hold everyone at ransom whenever they needed. British went the people like Jawaharlal Nehru decided to continue the system because they too wanted the control in their hand. Its absolute power. They glossed it as some “pro-poor” policies.

That is why when the whole world told us that we should give up this license quota raj, our politicians did not listen. They continued till their ass became sore. It was under Narsimha Rao’s government that they had left with no choice but to bring in reforms. He ordered Manmohan Singh to present a budget full of reforms for which he is being hailed even today. No one asks the simple question “Why was it not done before?”.

It happened in 1991. China had started it’s reforms in 1978. Those 10-12 years made a huge difference to us. China’s per capita income was well below India’s in 1978. Today its thrice ours. Which means china has far less poor, hungry ,dieing people than India. Does that mean that India’s poverty, illiteracy must be blamed on the anti-reforms mentality of our leaders? yes certainly it is.

Budget is prepared by a team of few IAS officers who get unreasonable demands from each department of the government. They are locked up in a room in Delhi where they prepare the budget. Only two men can move out of that building. One is the FM another one is the Finance Secretary. The budget and it’s key points need to be approved by the PM before it is presented to the house.

The budget is not just about one year. Firstly it needs to present year before years closed books. Actual figures of revenue and expenses of last year and projected revenue and expenditure of coming year. We mostly focus on last part.

The trade off between political objectives and economic objectives of a budget are significant. A politically oriented budget would find stuff like Loan Waivers a great idea. Where as for an economist it is essentially a nightmare. Economist would always want less and lesser government control on everything while politicians want absolute control over anything. The time has proven that lesser government intervention helps an industry to grow leaps and bounds. Best example is telecom. As soon as FDI in telecom was allowed we have seen a boom. But on other sectors which see strict government control such as Aviation Infrastructure or the general infrastructure are sick.

If you ask me India’s economy is a tale or sins and redemption. A budget is most of the times either a confession/attempted redemption or it is another sin that tries to hide the previous sins.