A question (or two) for Atanu

Published on: 2008-5-29

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A question (or two) for Atanu


India has asked Britain for help in setting up a new "World Class University", according to this report. Atanu says that we are in fact, Begging for a world class University Now, I am sure that most of us do feel ashamed at our government knocking at Her Majesty's doors to build a University when there is enough talent and resources within the country itself to do so. Quoting Atanu: I hang my head in shame to see India debased so pathetically. Indians are second to none when it comes to talent, drive, hard work, and entrepreneurial ambition. Whenever they have had the freedom to do so, Indians have demonstrated all those through their considerable success. Until very recently, those success stories have mainly been associated with Indians abroad because it was in free countries such as the US that they had the freedom to achieve their destiny. True. Atanu is an economist and he is actively involved in many development initiatives. He knows his job well. When he says: So back to the question: why does the government control the educational system? I believe it does so because it is the life-blood of the economy. By controlling that, it gains a stranglehold on the economy which it can exploit for its objective of extracting every bit of rent that it can. Letís remember that government is made up of people ó the bureaucrats and politicians. People are motivated by self interest. Through their control, they gain personally in terms of power, prestige and most importantly money. Like any monopolist, these people limit the supply of educational opportunities and then ration out the limited supply to favored groups to buy their allegiance. Reservations based on caste, religion and other non-relevant criteria are obvious symptoms of this rent-seeking rationing. I don't find any problem with his reasoning. Our Government is corrupt - and when corrupt people are in charge of things, the guys (we, the "people") at the receiving end are sure to have a *very* bad time. Atanu's solution? Liberalise. Liberalise. Liberalise. That brings up my questions. One, isn't the Indian education system already "liberalised"? Any Tom, Dick and Harry with enough dough in hand can start an "educational" instituition, atleast in most places in South India. And, Tom, Dick and Harry would be ashamed to hear of the kind of people who are there in the education "business" (liquor barons, politicians, thugs, pseudo-spiritual "charities" ...). And, what has this done to the quality of education? What is the guarantee that the private establishments and "corporations" who are in charge of the "liberalised" education sector are not as corrupt and self-serving as the "government" itself? What is the guarantee that they will cater to those sections of soceity from whom they can't extract maximum "Return On Investment"? Will the private establishments/individuals spend money to build "world class" instituitions like the IIT's when they can as well earn a fortune by setting up pathetic engineering/medical/management colleges? (Ok - we shall not forget the visionary J.N.Tata who gave away land and properties to build the IISc; but times have changed - his successors are now grabbing land from farmers).


Fri May 30 00:55:56 2008

Its definitely shameful to be begging for assistance in a field where we are the dominant and prominant people around. Liberlisation and globalisation have been dragged around way too much among the corridors of our legislature since 90's , so much tat they have essentially lost their meaning. A renaissance, though almost impossible in current political scenario, is the only solution i could think of after reading through the post,sir. A renaissance by which a common framework is set up to track progress of education globally and upgrade ours accordingly. Regards Devidas.


Fri May 30 04:23:18 2008

Wait a sec...I honestly don't understand this rant about us begging...I tried, and failed, to leave a comment on Atanu's blog. It wants me to login...but anyway, what is so wrong in seeking foreign help? If we want our universities to be as good as Harvard or Cambridge, why should we not seek assistance from the very people who made those universities? I think we have our priorities wrong. Right now, we need good quality education. If that come through with the help of the UK or the US, why should we say no? This rant about national shame hides our deep-rooted sense of inferiority. We try to camouflage it by talking as if we were the best in the world.


Fri May 30 10:28:32 2008

I have nothing to say -- either for or against -- about this business of 'begging'. But I'm glad to see your rebuttal to Atanu's mantra of liberalization. Just one minor quibble: J.N.Tata gave the money, but the land came from Mysore's Wodeyar dynasty.

Pramode C.E

Fri May 30 13:58:35 2008

Thanks for the clarification, Abi!


Sat May 31 05:07:35 2008

I am actually for liberalization reason being there will be much more competition in the market.If we have short supply people will pay and keep quiet and there is no incentive to improve.If we have more supply of seats than demand then they will have to improve infrastructure or else nobody will take admission in there college. Actually i am seeing that effect in mumbai where there is more seats .Because of paucity of students most colleges are trying to upgrade infrastucture which was unheard of during my times when only a few colleges existed.

Pramode C.E

Sun Jun 1 17:44:22 2008

Good "infrastructure" doesn't mean good quality when infrastructure is only a part of the equation! The problem is that there is no "magic" in "free markets" which will ensure quality. As a teacher, I know that this is true at least in the field of education.


Sun Jun 1 19:11:14 2008

`Liberalization', `free market' etc. do not play neat roles in educational system (that is my feeling). The institutions gradually become driven by money, and finally lose what they are supposed to provide - quality education. This is already evident in many colleges/universities across India. It might also result in education becoming too expensive for `the common'.

Pramode C.E

Mon Jun 2 16:46:24 2008

Check out this post by Atanu: http://www.deeshaa.org/2008/03/07/summary-post-on-education/ And then, read the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_vouchers I am starting to believe that his strong faith in the free markets is making Atanu ignore many important issues ... and, that is sad.

Begging for a World Class University — Part 2

Tue Jun 3 08:43:03 2008

[...] responses to the post: one, the comment left by Aditya, and two, a post by Pramode titled “A Question (or two) for Atanu“. First let me take up Aditya’s comments, which are substantial and I am grateful for [...]

Atanu Dey

Tue Jun 3 08:48:01 2008

Pramode: I have addressed your question in a follow up post on my blog: Begging for a world class university -- Part 2. Thanks.

Pramode C.E

Wed Jun 4 09:59:00 2008

Atanu: I understand your point about the education sector not being liberalised - thanks for the clarification! Just another observation: Some people are not happy with the "free market" because it too has a lot of *very* serious problems associated with it - and not because they have any love for soviet-style freedom-denying socialism; I think you missed this point completely.