Saturday, August 27, 2005

We Don't Need No Education

Finally the eternal problem of professional admissions has reached a flash point. This does not mean that the issue is going to be resolved. It just brings to light how politics can ruin anything without heart or thought.

As far as I can remember, in the 70's till late 90's, everyone in Kerala used to publicly despise private professional colleges, while privately sending their children to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and even Nepal. There were demonstrations, self immolations and violence mimicking civil war by the so called student bridages of the left aligned political parties in Kerala. This led to more people (read talented youth) leaving Kerala to learn better things than petty politics, most of them working and settling in other states and countries.

The breakthrough came in the form of "Co-operative" colleges and slowly everybody began accepting that private colleges, by ethical and professional groups, can be as good or even better than government run colleges. The most striking and earliest example has been the Manipal Group in the case of medical education, followed by plenty of management college and engineering colleges. After the era of acceptance of co-operative colleges by the hypocritic malayali public, it was time for the mushrooming of totally private colleges in Kerala. In between events such as the "Rajani murder by the college management and banks" helped a few more people get panchayat and party seats.

Today what we see is a total turn around of the situation. We have these political party student outfits campaigning for a quota in these private colleges which were hitherto shunned by the same groups. They seem to be worried only about the fees and reservation pattern and not anymore about the quality of education, which is a big step forward as far as their outlooks are concerned!

Anyway, in my opinion the Apex court has taken the best possible decision. There are many reasons and examples I can give to prove this.

First of all, we have governments unable to provide even quality primary education wanting to have a say in the admission pattern of professional colleges. While they should be striving to provide 100% quality primary and secondary education, they are engaging in eroding the higher education system. Today IIM's and IIT's are symbols of excellence around the world because they are autonomous and free from political interference. Dr.Murali Manohar Joshi tried to take away this and ruin this by attempting to regulate the admission and fee structure at the great institutions. Luckily for the nation, better sense prevailed and this attempt was foiled.

Another example is the present scenario in Karnataka for medical education. In the early 90's Manipal group provided MBBS seats for around Rs.7-10 lakhs for the duration of 5 years to the resident Indian students and for NRIs at a slightly higher rate. In 1993, they were given deemed university status for being a center for excellence and they brought in the Manipal entrance test through which students were admitted at a lesser rate (for resident Indian students). They reserved 15% for NRI students at a much higher rate. They remain autonomous, thanks again to a Surpreme court ruling, and function very well even today bringing out some of the best doctors in the world.

During the period, plenty of private medical and engineering colleges opened around Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the seats filled mainly by Keralites!. Around the late 90's, the government of Karnataka decided that they have to have a say in the admission process so that they can assure cheaper fees for students. So a tussle between management and government began, which goes on to this day. The seat matrix was initially 75 % for management and 25% for government, then it was 50-50% and Government wanted 75% as well in between. This led to a steep hike in the fees for the management quota, thereby implying a reduction in the Government quota. Today, strangely, the fees for a five year course in the Government quota is higher than the rate at which Manipal group provides the same degree, even though Manipal has a more reputed and quality course. In the process, the only thing the Government achieved was a say in the admission process and corrupting the entire system to a higher degree than before. Today if you want a seat in Karnataka, you have to pay not only the management as before, but also the politician and the bureaucrat.

In my opinion the Government should attempt to provide strict guidelines for quality and functioning, but not get involved in the management and corrupt it like its own machinery. Every single admission process conducted by the Government, whether it be the reputed national entrances or the state entrances are fraught with corruption. There have been exposes on how the question papers leak for UPSC and how even AIIMS entrance seats have been fixed.

Today everything comes at a price. It is a very blunt reality that not everyone can become a doctor or engineer or manager; whether it be due to differences in intelligence, caste or bank balance. By such reservations Government is only widening these differences. If the Government wants to really improve higher education, it should provide excellent primary education first. Then it can invest the many crores being wasted and misused into Government hospitals and convert them into medical colleges. It should not attempt to take over privately owned institutions in the name of helping the less privileged. That is a very narrow vision and will only ruin the entire system in the coming years. Instead it can provide financial assistance for a section of the economically weaker students. It can form quality guidelines and close down colleges that do not maintain good quality. Attempts to take over private institutions or manage them will only inhibit further investments in the sector. It again boils down to the attitude of "not being able to eat and not letting anyone eat".

1 comment:

Ashish Gupta said...

not quite.

look at the pattern and difficulty level of IIT entrance exam (JEE) they have now come up with - to be implemented from IIT-JEE 2006 onwards :(

Terms of Use and Disclaimer