We, the Guinea Pigs of the World

As the pandemic hit, governments all over the world imposed severe lockdowns, clamping down everything to naught. This was a mega experiment of making people sacrifice their freedom of movement, right to livelihood, and right to learning in order to save their lives. Did community transmission help in checking the spread of the virus? We have no conclusive evidence of that. Did it help in developing immunity from the virus amongst a large section of the population? We can’t say. If there was some immunity amongst some people, was it lasting and reliable? We don’t know. These were all experiments conducted on people who were treated no better than guinea pigs.

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Catastrophic Consequences of the Conflict

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has had a long history and with threat perceptions on both sides. However, the conflicts and wars benefit only a few, and that too in the short term. The world must work together to end this crisis at the earliest. Or else, its cascading effect might push the whole world into an abyss from where the recovery would become extremely difficult. The underdeveloped and the developing world are likely to be the worst affected and they all must come together to pitch for peace.

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Fee Fixation for Technical Higher Education

Prescribing a precise amount of fees may well be construed as if the council is exceeding its mandate of prescribing the norms and guidelines for charging tuition and other fees. Pricing regulation assumes particular significance in the context of the higher educational institutions, which are, as yet expected to operate as not-for-profit entities. They are prohibited from profiteering or indulging in crass commercialization. Nonetheless, unable to fill their sanctioned intake, many institutions do not invest in labs, physical facilities, infrastructure, and human resources and, thus, find themselves trapped in the vicious cycle of mediocrity. Fixing a mandatory minimum level of fees would favour such institutions but cannot be said just for the students.

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Defence Sector During Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Implications for India

Although several developed countries might propagate the idea that the conflicts and wars bring misery to humanity at large, they promote the idea of defence preparedness as a means and instrument of deterrence, and this ensures that their interests are served even during good times. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created all the needed threat perception amongst many a country to cause the global armament exports to flourish. Will the geopolitics permit, promote, and support India to capitalize on this export opportunity, or would it be prevented from doing so? 

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The Indian Economy: Stop the Slide…Before It Slips

The current crisis in Sri Lanka must make us sit back and realize our own vulnerabilities. Slowing growth rate, rising borrowings, increasing magnitude of withdrawal by the institutional investors and widening gap between export and import must make India cautious. The economy must be beyond electoral politics. We must leave everything aside and work with focused attention to protecting and safeguarding our economy. The rest can wait, but not the economy!

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Alternative to SWIFT: Russia-Ukraine War Highlights the Urgency

The financial warfare against Russia, inter alia, has cut off Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) thereby blocking Russia from rapid money transfers internationally. Even though SWIFT accounts for no more than 1 percent of the transactions involving Russian entities and payments, the ban may potentially disrupt its trade in energy and agricultural produce as well as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Institutional Investors (FII). In totality, the sanctions against Russia may shrink its economy by 5 percent. The current crisis has made many countries of the world think of developing alternative payment systems and capabilities. This would be a challenging task as the alternative to SWIFT would work only when a larger number of countries become willing to cooperate and agree to become a part of the alternative network.

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Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Impact on Global Flow of Funds

The Russia-Ukraine conflict can intensify the already shaken economic conditions created by COVID-19 as inflationary pressures might have an effect on many countries. Investors in Central and Eastern Europe are cautious with their investments. As per an IMF report, the sanctions imposed against Russia will impact the global economy. It clearly seems to have already affected FDI and portfolio investment in many countries, including India. For the sixth month in a row, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) were net sellers in February, selling shares worth $4.9 billion. It was also the most shares sold by FPIs since the epidemic began in March 2020, when they sold $8.3 billion worth of stock. The Union Finance Minister of India had stated that the Russia-Ukraine conflict and surge in crude oil prices pose risk to the financial stability of the country.

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Economic Implications of Russia-Ukraine Crisis

The world has been thrown into yet another catastrophe caused by the Russian attack on Ukraine and the retaliatory sanctions imposed on Russia by the major economies of the world. It is now time to see how would these twin crises of the pandemic and the ongoing conflict affect the geopolitics and world economy. Russia accounts for nearly a quarter of the global gas market and has been a major supplier of crude, platinum. Russia and Ukraine are also the top suppliers of neon gas, essential for making semiconductor chips, an essential component of every electronic item. Even though the direct effect of sanctions on major economies might appear minuscule as they may have relatively smaller and limited trade with Russia, they too would suffer significantly on account of indirect, collateral, and tangential repercussions.

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Expansion in Medical Education: Easier Said Than Done

The Ukrainian Crisis has brought the problems of medical education in India to the fore. While the most urgent challenge has been to evacuate all the Indian students to bring them back safely and also to explore all the possibilities to rehabilitate them within the country. In a short to medium-term framework, India must aim at expanding its intake capacity in medical education by manifold but with due regard to quality as well as affordability. Here are the facts as well as the opinions and views of a cross-section of society for investigating the expansion in medical education.

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People Prefer Their Leaders to Look, Feel and Behave Like Them

“I often wonder, how would the governance and policies of a nation would get impacted, if there was a Union Political Public Service Commission (UPPSC) to conduct a tougher than the civil service examination to determine the minimum eligibility condition for contesting the election as MP or MLA?” People clamour for political reforms. They want politics to change. They want competent people to represent them in power and in opposition. Interestingly, however, they do not identify themselves with the educated and those holding official positions based on the merit determined by their educational attainment. They find them far removed from people to represent and promote their causes. Obviously, people prefer their political representatives to look, feel and behave like themselves.

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Bracing for the Changing Geopolitics: Ukraine Crisis and Energy Security in India

As Russian troops reach Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, the Brent crude prices have already touched $110 a barrel, a level that was breached 8 years ago in 2014. The moot question, therefore, is, whether or not India was ready to anticipate and handle the consequences arising out of such a crisis with minimal disruptions. Taxes on petroleum, today, may be a major source of revenue but is also vulnerable to volatility impelling upon the need to look for an alternative but stable source of revenue to the government.

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Why do Indians Go Abroad for Higher Education?

Against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the Prime Minister of India has revived a concern that needs to be taken seriously and urgently. It is imperative for the higher education policy planners, administrators, and regulators to take proactive measures to ensure quality higher education at an affordable cost within the country across the broad spectrum of higher education, including but not limited to only medical education.

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A Tax-Free Economy to Tackle the Menace of Black Money?

Recently, Rajya Sabha MP and economist Dr. Subramanian Swamy made a bold suggestion that Income Tax be abolished to boost the economy and that the revenue loss to the public exchequer could be easily recovered through other sources. Although a good number of economists may agree that taxation is the major culprit for creating black money, they are likely to shun the idea of abolishing taxes to tackle the menace of black money, due to their orientation and training in public finance which sees taxes inevitable. Yet, a few economists should at least explore this as a possibility by factoring in all the enormities and complexities that the idea entails.

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Challenges of Designing a New Regulatory Framework in Higher Education

While everyone has been recommending, since 2007, for an all-embracing single regulatory body to take care of all higher educational institutions and programmes, none has been able to provide details of deficiencies that have made the existing regulatory bodies dysfunctional. In the meantime, the idea of the single regulator has seen some major dilution. The first anniversary of NEP 2020 was celebrated with gusto, but there is still no sight of the single regulatory authority, even though the Finance Minister announced in the budget speech of 2021-22 that the new regulatory body shall be set up during that financial year itself. It must, therefore, be a real challenge to design a single regulatory body for higher education, which must meet the NKC’s idea of saving higher education from being ‘over-regulated and under governed” or the Kasturirangan Committee’s desire to evolve “light but tight” regulatory framework.

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Motivation for Higher Education

Higher education, for many, is an investment in hope for the future and it is incumbent upon the nation to ensure that it does not get turned into despair. Yet, higher education is generally confined to a minuscule proportion of the students mostly comprising the social and economic elites who have already accumulated enough resources. The mass of the highly educated talent pool that the country has is an invaluable resource that may be garnered as the demographic dividend, making it imperative to gainfully employ them to save ourselves from the onslaught of the demographic disaster.

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Appreciating the Importance of Teachers in Higher Education

People often fail to realize that teachers in higher education require time and space to contemplate, reflect and think on a number of issues relating to their teaching and research. Generation of ideas, formulation of the hypotheses,  methodology, and models are not mechanical processes. They need deep thinking and deep work. In the best universities of the world, teachers are supported a great deal through their teaching and research assistants and also some additional staff to help them prepare proposals for research fundings. Sadly, most universities in the country hardly have such a system. At the best, they have only a common room for all teachers hardly suited to do any serious work.

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Brain Drain: An Apparent Loss to the Nation May Prove Lasting Gain to the Profession

According to an old adage, says that as soon as a student gets into an IIT his soul emigrates to the US; and the moment he graduates, his body too migrates to join the soul. The phenomenon is not confined to the domain of engineering and technology alone. The situation with the Indian scientists and academicians is no different. Many of those who went abroad for higher education and chose to make a career there, were recognized for their accomplishments and rewarded with coveted positions. How come most of the Indian Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medal awardees are those who left the country and were able to make their marks on foreign soil? They might appear a loss to the nation but are a gain to the profession that they wish to pursue and excel!

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Internationalization of Indian Higher Education

Indian higher education is widely recognized and respected across the globe despite none of its higher education institutions being in the top 100 of World University Rankings. The paucity of suitable infrastructure and physical facilities along with the self-imposed rigidity in the processes of teaching, learning, admission, evaluation, etc. is responsible for discouraging the foreign operations by Indian universities. Given the international reputation of Indian higher education and the comparative cost advantage that they enjoy, it should not be difficult for universities and colleges to attract students from developing and less developed countries. This will require certain policy initiatives on the part of the government as well as at the end of individual universities and colleges. Fortunately, NEP 2020 supports and promotes the idea.

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Private Participation in Higher Education

Private Participation in Higher Education is imminent but may not be sufficient to promote Access, Equity, and Quality in Higher Education. It is reassuring that NEP 2020 recognises the public education system as the foundation of a vibrant democratic society, and the way it is run must be transformed and invigorated in order to achieve the highest levels of educational outcomes for the nation”. The policy also argues for “increased access, equity, and inclusion through a range of measures, including greater opportunities for outstanding public education”. It is now time to walk the talk.

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Examinations: An Exercise in Futility and Barrier to Academic Reforms

The present system of examination, rather than facilitating learning, acts as a barrier in broad-basing the curricula, introducing modularity, and offering wider choices because they pose a logistical nightmare in terms of examination and evaluation. Studies after studies, in India and abroad, have proved that such an examination system is not capable of assessing the talents, abilities, and potentials of students. As NEP 2020 is being celebrated annually to showcase its speedy implementation, it appears desirable to draw the attention of the academic community to this critical aspect of higher education at this juncture.

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Self-Financed Private Universities: Implications on Affordable Quality Higher Education

Private higher education may have gained traction in the country since the mid-nineties, but it is as old as the history of modern higher education itself. ‘Private tendencies’ have also been penetrating deep into the ‘public higher education’. The situation urgently calls for minimally invasive ways and means of ensuring affordable access to quality higher education for all segments of the society

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In Defence of Higher Education

Higher education can, indeed, be censured for expanding rather too rapidly, but it was in response to the call of the industry and to alley their apprehension that the country shall not have enough graduates to match their requirements to sustain their growth momentum. If the jobs are still not in the offing for the graduates, it is because enough jobs are not being created to match the growth in higher education.

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Excess Impedes Excellence: Empirical Evidence for Regulation in Higher Education

Quality of higher education in India seems to be inversely proportional to the intensity of regulation. Does empirical data support this proposition?
It is not only the newly-launched NIRF but also the time-tested NAAC grades which amply prove that stringent regulatory regimes have not necessarily promoted excellence in higher education. Relaxing the regulatory environment seems imminent for promoting excellence in higher education.

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National Education Policy 2020: Issues and Implications

It has been a year since the NEP 2020 was announced and shall be due for the anniversary celebration on 29th July 2021. All policies must undergo the stages of formulation, notification, anatomization, modification, implementation, and, in between, celebration. It is now high time that the details are worked out and implementation strategies announced.

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Students Steering the Education Wheel through Stormy Virus

How did the Students Cope with the Disruptions in Learning and Life Around Them?
It has been more than a year since campuses were compelled by the COVID-19 pandemic to close their doors to their students and resort to remote teaching. Since few universities and even fewer colleges had a Learning Management System (LMS) in vogue, choices of the tool, technology, medium, and platform were largely left to the teachers to manage to the best of their abilities. The result was a wide variety of ways in which the teaching-learning processes were carried on. Students, though more tech-savvy and better equipped to guide the transition, hardly had a say in the matter and they remained largely at the receiving end. Not only did their chosen and settled ways of learning get disrupted, their lives and the lives of people around them too got tossed into the turbulence

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Time to Rethink and Reform the Examination System

Alas, the colonial mindset of subjecting their subjects to the supervision and control of their masters has only deepened, as far as the education, examination, and evaluation systems are concerned. Isn’t it desirable or isn’t it the time to reform these terminal examinations to the teacher-based and school-supervised comprehensive continuous internal assessment – an idea that has been in discussion for decades?

The pandemic situation has been quite frightening this time. This indeed limits the choices to a compromised solution – a truncated examination, sufficiently delayed to allay the imminent threat of the pandemic. Whatever is decided by or for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), most state boards are likely to follow the suit.

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