Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia


A few top-tier Indian schools, such as the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), are often compared with world-class schools, but the American investors and businesses have finally learned the hard way that there is huge gap between the few tier one schools and the large number of tier two and three schools in India. Other than about 5000 graduates from the IITs, the quality of education most Indians receive at tier 2 and 3 schools is far below the norm considered acceptable in America and the developed world.

In 2005, the McKinsey Global Institute conducted a study of the emerging global labor market and concluded that a sample of twenty-eight low wage nations, including China, India and Pakistan, had about 33 million young professional in engineering, finance and accounting at their disposal, compared with only 15 million in a sample of eight higher wage nations including the US, UK, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, Ireland and South Korea. But "only a fraction of potential job candidates could successfully work at a foreign company," the study found, pointing to many explanations, but mainly poor quality of education.

Some India watchers such as Fareed Zakaria, an Indian-American who often acts as a cheerleader for India in the US, have expressed doubts about the quality of education at the Indian Institutes of Technology. In his book "The Post-American World", Zakaria argues that "many of the IITs are decidedly second-rate, with mediocre equipment, indifferent teachers, and unimaginative classwork." Zakaria says the key strength of the IIT graduates is the fact that they must pass "one of the world's most ruthlessly competitive entrance exams. Three hundred thousand people take it, five thousand are admitted--an acceptance rate of 1.7% (compared with 9 to 10 percent for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton)."

As a student of Karachi's NED University of Engineering and Technology in 1970s, I had similar assessment of my alma mater (and other UETs) in Pakistan as Zakaria's characterization of the IITs in India. NED Engineering College in 1970s was "decidedly second-rate, with mediocre equipment, indifferent teachers, and unimaginative classwork". However, given the fairly strict merit-based admission process, I found myself mostly surrounded by some of the best, most competitive students who had graduated with flying colors from Karachi's intermediate colleges and ranked very high on the Board of Education examination to make it into NED College. It was indeed the creme de la creme of Karachi's youth who have later proved themselves by many accomplishments in various industries, including some of the leading-edge high-tech companies in America. Even in the 1970s, there were a small number of students admitted on non-merit-based special quotas. NED University today, however, appears to have significantly expanded such special, non-merit-based, quotas for entrance into the institution, an action that has probably affected its elite status, its rankings and the perceived quality of its graduates, while other, newer institutions of higher learning have surpassed it. Some of the special categories now include sons and daughters of employees, children of faculty and professional engineers and architects, special nominees from various ministries and an expanded quota for candidates from rural areas and the military.

Looking at the top 500 universities in the world, one can see a few universities from China, Japan, Singapore and India and a few more from Muslim nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The notable institutions from South Asia include several campuses of the Indian Institutes of Technology and Pakistan's National University of Science and Technology (NUST), University of Lahore, Karachi University and Lahore's University of Engineering and Technology. Many new universities are now being built in several Muslim nations in Asia and the Middle East, and they are attracting top talent from around the world. For example, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), scheduled to open on Sept. 23, is the country's attempt to create a world-class research university from scratch. It's hiring top scholars from all over the world. "Our goal is to kick-start an innovation-based economy," says Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, the university's vice-president for economic development. "We need a couple of success stories, and we think this will lead to one (collaboration with IBM Research)."

According to Businessweek, KAUST agreed to buy an IBM supercomputer, which is an essential tool in the research projects that IBM and the Saudis are targeting for their first collaboration. Among other things, the two teams will collaborate on a study of the nearby Red Sea, which they believe will help improve oil and mineral exploration. "[The supercomputer] is a magnet for smart people, and it makes it possible for us to solve big problems," says Majid F. Al-Ghaslan, KAUST's interim chief information officer.

An MIT survey of human resource professionals at multinational corporations in India revealed that only one quarter of engineering graduates with a suitable degree could be employed irrespective of demand (Farrell et al., 2005). Another survey of employers shows that only a handful of the 1400 engineering schools in India are recognized as providing world-class education with graduates worthy of consideration for employment (Globalization of Engineering Services, 2006). These results suggest that engineering degrees from most Indian colleges do not provide signaling value in the engineering labor market. Hence, low quality (in the labor market sense) engineering schooling has come to predominate in the education market. The current situation, with an abundance of low quality engineering schooling, is considered problematic by many in the Indian polity and it could stifle growth of the Indian economy (Globalization of Engineering Services, 2006).

For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. According to Sciencewatch, which tracks trends and performance in basic research, citations of Pakistani publications are rising sharply in multiple fields, including computer science, engineering, mathematics, material science and plant and animal sciences. Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are actively working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics. Pakistan now ranks among the top outsourcing destinations, based on its growing talent pool of college graduates. As evident from the overall results, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of universities and highly-educated faculty and university graduates in Pakistan. There have also been some instances of abuse of incentives, opportunities and resources provided to the academics in good faith. The quality of some of the institutions of higher learning can also be enhanced significantly, with some revisions in the incentive systems.

Admission meritocracy, faculty competence and inspirational leadership in education are important, but there is no real substitute for higher spending on higher education to achieve better results. In fact, it should be seen as an investment in the future of the people rather than just another expense.

Of the top ten universities in the world published by Times of London, six are in the United States. The US continues to lead the world in scientific and technological research and development. Looking at the industries of the future such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, green technologies, the US continues to enjoy a huge lead over Europe and Asia. The reason for US supremacy in higher education is partly explained by how much it spends on it. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.

Related Links:

NEDUET Admissions Prospectus 2009-10

Global Shortage of Quality Labor

Nature Magazine Editorial on Pakistan's Higher Education Reform

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

McKinsey Global Institute Report

Pakistan Ranks Among Top Outsourcing Destinations

Pakistan Software Houses Association

World's Top Universities Rankings

Improving Higher Education in Pakistan

Globalization of Engineering Services 2006

Center for European Reform

Reforming Higher Education in Pakistan

42 comments:

anoop said...

I agree with most of the points you mentioned. The respect and awe IITs get is more due the amazing brilliance of the students and less to do with the institution. But, I'd like to point out that things are changing in India with times. The Indian govt is on its way to pass the Right to Education Bill and it'll make a huge number of Indians poor or not to get basic education. So, the system in India is fixing itself.
You also forget to mention IIMs which are widely considered one of the best business schools in the world and in quality they are better than IITs.. In all fairness you should give some lines on how India is working on it and how its system is working to fix all the problems that has plagued it.. its just a suggestion..

Riaz Haq said...

anoop,
Good suggestion.
Please help me with the sources and content of info re Indian efforts to improve higher education. I'd be happy to write about it.

anoop said...

http://www.indiatogether.org/2005/oct/edu-rightedu.htm

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/iit-vs-iim-recruitment-wars-begin/27694-7.html

http://business.rediff.com/report/2009/apr/30/iimb-ranked-among-top-10-in-asia-pacific-region-survey.htm

http://www.iimb.ernet.in/node/373

Saleem said...

Riaz sahib,

I fully agree with your conclusions about NED (and other institutions of higher learning as well) of earlier days that it attracted GEMS but these GEMS were never cut to perfection.

Among others, two major factors clearly identified in the continuing downfall of Pakistan are:
Encroachment of fuedals in the Civil Service, Military and Politics and thereby a creation of VIP culture that thinks that they are unaccountable to society; and
Poor quality education; An education system that is deserving of a free and independent country was never realized.

People are basically smart but could never refine their skills in the profession of their choosing.

Abul said...

Riaz:

Very good article with reliable fact sources on a very important subject for us, that is the quality of higher education in Pakistan/South Asia. Keep up the good work of sharing info with us. And hope is that most of the very many successful Pakistanis / NEDians can do something about it. What we need is an awareness here amongst Pakistanis and mainstream media in Pakistan about these issues. Again, thanks for writing and disseminating info on this so that more and more folks are aware of the challenges we face to develop the economy and by extension a viable social and human development in that part of the world.

Anonymous said...

INdian education system is fraught with the governmental internvention

WE can take tamil nadu as an example. Every politician worth his name has an engineering college. They had developed so much capacity without demand. I understand that there are 20000 to 30000 seats which are available as management quota is being surrendered. However there might be many state where the suppply could be more than the demand. However there is no central authority through whom a student could apply as education is a state subject.

Mudassar Jehangir said...

our government is try hard to improve the level of education in Pakistan and this is what our Finance minister Shaukat Tareen has asked just recently to US to take care and supervise our education system. you can find it here..
http://www.vop.com.pk/?p=409
so cheers....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an editorial in Nature Magazine on Pakistan's Higher Ed:

Massive funding for Pakistan's ailing universities holds many lessons for other developing nations.

Eight years ago, a task force advising Pakistan's former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, laid out a bold plan to revitalize the country's moribund research system: initiate a fivefold increase in public funding for universities, with a special emphasis on science, technology and engineering. The proposal was a radical departure from conventional wisdom on the economics of developing nations, which favours incremental investments. Sudden surges of cash are held to be dangerous in poorer countries, which often lack the institutions or the calibre of people required to make the most of such a windfall, and the money can easily be wasted or fall prey to corruption.

Riaz Haq said...

Nature Editorial Contd:

Nonetheless, Musharraf agreed to the proposal. The reforms began in 2003. And the results, which have now earned a qualified thumbs-up from a group of experts in science and education policy (see page 38), offer some valuable lessons for other developing nations.

First, conventional wisdom isn't always right. Despite early doubts that Musharraf's autocratic regime could allocate the new funds effectively, the experts cite initiatives such as a free national digital library and high-speed Internet access for universities as examples of success, as well as new scholarships enabling more than 2,000 students to study abroad for PhDs — with incentives to return to Pakistan afterwards. And they acknowledge that the years of reform have coincided with increases in the number of Pakistani authors publishing in research journals, especially in mathematics and engineering, as well as boosting the impact of their research outside Pakistan.

Second, human capital matters. One concern raised by the report published in this issue is that the 3,500 candidates for Pakistan's new domestic PhD programmes have had lower qualifications than the candidates going abroad. But that is a situation that should correct itself over time as Pakistan's schools improve. For the time being, the more important point is that Pakistan has opened up the chance of a research degree to many more people than in the past — including those who do not have wealthy families, or access to influential people, or good skills in European languages. Harnessing those reserves of talent is an integral part of any nation's development.

Finally, accountability is essential. This was not a priority for the architects of Pakistan's educational reform, partly because they were working for an autocratic regime, and partly because they were in too much of a hurry. The government seemed to be living on borrowed time, Musharraf's science adviser, Atta-ur-Rahman, has recalled. On the one hand, politicians, judges and lawyers were pressing for a return to democracy; on the other, the influence of the Pakistani Taliban was increasing. Suicide bombers twice tried to assassinate Musharraf — once by blowing up his motorcade as he returned from making a speech to scientists. If the reformers didn't get their programme in place quickly, they feared they might not get it in place at all.

The result, however, is that the body created to implement the reforms, the Higher Education Commission, has operated with minimal oversight by academics, parliamentarians or anyone else. There has been some waste, although no one has yet accused the commission of egregious abuses of power. But it has exhibited blind spots that an outside influence might have corrected — notably a total lack of investment in the social sciences and policy research, disciplines that encourage the asking of questions that autocratic regimes frequently dislike answering.

This must change. Pakistan is no longer a dictatorship. The elected government, under President Asif Ali Zardari, has expressed cautious support for continuing Musharraf's education reforms. It therefore has an opportunity to build on their successes and correct their shortcomings — starting with an independent review of the commission's performance.

Riaz Haq said...

India is opening up its education sector to foreigners. Here is a Time story:

For decades, foreign universities have been an integral part of India's higher education. Whiz kids across the country with the financial means have left for highly regarded global universities to study. Many never return, taking both their tuition money and their talent overseas. More than 160,000 students are currently studying in schools in the U.S., Australia, Britain and elsewhere. Over 100,000 pack up and head to study abroad every year, spending $7 billion on tuition and housing.

But what if big foreign universities like Yale, MIT, Stanford, Columbia Business School and the London School of Economics could set up campus in India? India's new Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, wants to make that happen. Sibal intends to have new laws in place by next July that would open up India's heavily regulated educational system to foreign players, with a goal of building a skilled pool of local managers and workers to help run an economy that continues to grow at a rate of 6.7%. Sibal also intends to make this new wave of higher education accessible to a larger swath of students, having foreign schools reserve over a quarter of their seats for India's economically disadvantaged. "If India wants to be a world-class educational hub, then we need access to global institutions," said Sibal early in July.

anoop said...

Wonderful news..!

Anonymous said...

I would take these rankings with a large helping of salt.

Germany is conspicuous by its absence as is Russia but australia has 7 entries.Why?
Because in Germany major research is done in Max Plak and Fraunhoffer institutes even most of continental europe is absent due to similar reasons.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Hoodbhoy has been harshly critical of fraud in Pakistan's academia in terms of fake research and plagiarism in paper publication. Here is an excerpt from a NY Times report about fakery in China:

China devotes significant resources to building a world-class education system and pioneering research in competitive industries and sciences, and has had notable successes in network computing, clean energy, and military technology. But a lack of integrity among researchers is hindering China’s potential and harming collaboration between Chinese scholars and their international counterparts, scholars in China and abroad say.

“If we don’t change our ways, we will be excluded from the global academic community,” said Zhang Ming, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “We need to focus on seeking truth, not serving the agenda of some bureaucrat or satisfying the desire for personal profit.”

Pressure on scholars by administrators of state-run universities to earn journal citations — a measure of innovation — has produced a deluge of plagiarized or fabricated research. In December, a British journal that specializes in crystal formations announced that it was withdrawing more than 70 papers by Chinese authors whose research was of questionable originality or rigor.

In an editorial published earlier this year, The Lancet, the British medical journal, warned that faked or plagiarized research posed a threat to President Hu Jintao’s vow to make China a “research superpower” by 2020.

“Clearly, China’s government needs to take this episode as a cue to reinvigorate standards for teaching research ethics and for the conduct of the research itself,” the editorial said. Last month a collection of scientific journals published by Zhejiang University in Hangzhou reignited the firestorm by publicizing results from a 20-month experiment with software that detects plagiarism. The software, called CrossCheck, rejected nearly a third of all submissions on suspicion that the content was pirated from previously published research. In some cases, more than 80 percent of a paper’s content was deemed unoriginal.

The journals’ editor, Zhang Yuehong, emphasized that not all the flawed papers originated in China, although she declined to reveal the breakdown of submissions. “Some were from South Korea, India and Iran,” she said.

The journals, which specialize in medicine, physics, engineering and computer science, were the first in China to use the software. For the moment they are the only ones to do so, Ms. Zhang said.

Plagiarism and Fakery

Her findings are not surprising if one considers the results of a recent government study in which a third of the 6,000 scientists at six of the nation’s top institutions admitted they had engaged in plagiarism or the outright fabrication of research data. In another study of 32,000 scientists last summer by the China Association for Science and Technology, more than 55 percent said they knew someone guilty of academic fraud.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Hoodbhoy has been harshly critical of fraud in Pakistan's academia in terms of fake research and plagiarism in paper publication. Here is an excerpt from Calcutta's Telegraph newspaper report about science fraud in India:

Some of India’s most respected scientists are accused of covering up wrongdoing by others. Not surprisingly, not everybody is happy with the SSV’s efforts. One scientist derisively calls it a “self-appointed watchdog” while another likens it to Don Quixote, charging at imaginary windmills.

Yet the evidence is out in the open. Physicist K.R. Rao, associate editor of Current Science, a peer-reviewed research journal published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, says he has detected 80 cases of plagiarism — major and minor — in articles submitted to the journal in recent years.

Earlier this year, chemistry professor P. Chiranjeevi at the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, was punished for copying from others’ research. Repeated attempts to reach him failed, but a member of the investigating committee says Chiranjeevi denied any wrongdoing when he appeared before it. The committee indicted him, and Chiranjeevi was barred from holding administrative posts or taking new research students.

In October last year, a team of materials scientists from Anna University, Chennai, and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, was found to have published a paper on ionic conductivity that was a copy of a previous paper by a Swedish team. But the one who hit the headlines was Raghunath Mashelkar, former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

In March 2007, Mashelkar admitted in a letter to the SSV that sections of a book he had co-authored on intellectual property rights had reproduced verbatim material from a paper by a British scholar without crediting him. “…I am highly embarrassed by this and I have decided to take some hard actions,” he wrote. He said he would stop further editions of the book and not take any personal gains from it.

A few months earlier, the US Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) retracted a research paper by Gopal Kundu and his colleagues at Pune’s National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS). Kundu was accused of using the same data or images relating to proteins in two unconnected articles submitted to the journal. Kundu holds there was “absolutely no wrongdoing” by his team. He says another international journal has accepted the data.

But the authorities are still wary of confronting such accusations. Three committees, for instance, looked into the Kundu affair. A seven-member panel of top scientists exonerated him despite JBC’s withdrawal of the paper. Panel chairman G. Padmanaban says the journal’s decision was not “wrong”, but “harsh”.

The inconsistency between the Padmanaban committee’s views and JBC’s decision to withdraw Kundu’s paper has prompted some scientists to take the issue up. Rahul Siddharthan, a physicist and computational biologist at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, says he stepped into the controversy with “a sense of deep indignation” at the way the committee decided to dispose of the case. He says the duplication — intentional or unintentional — of images is so “blatantly obvious” that he cannot understand how a top scientists’ committee can dismiss the charges.

Some scientists at Lucknow’s Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants have complained to the SSV that their director, Suman Preet Singh Khanuja, has been claiming credit for too many research papers. Since he took over as director in 2001, Khanuja has published more than 140 papers and staked his claim to at least 40 patents. Some question how a director can find time to produce on an average 20 research papers a year. A large number of the papers appeared in a journal produced by his institution and of which he is the chief editor.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Friday Times Op Ed by University of Wisconsin's Dr Howard Schweber who
taught students at a private university in Lahore, Pakistan and found them bright, resourceful and highly confused. He particularly singles out lack of general education and consequent lack of critical thinking skills as problems:

.... the students I met and taught reveals more mysteries. Some had serious problems with English, particularly in their writing, but most were extremely well prepared as far as language skills were concerned. It is when we look beyond language skills that puzzles begin to appear. What was most startling was the realization that these students were palpably uncomfortable with abstract concepts and what people in Education Schools call ‘critical thinking skills.’ When I raised this point to faculty and alumni, every one without exception acknowledged the problem, and pointed to the system of secondary education as the culprit. Undoubtedly the point is correct, but I think there is a deeper observation to be made here. In addition to being uncomfortable with abstract concepts, these students and their families seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of knowledge that is not justified by an immediate practical application. That discomfort extends to a reluctance to embrace basic scientific research as well as the humanities. I heard from students who wanted to study theoretical physics whose parents insisted that they become engineers; students who wanted to become historians whose parents did not see the point. The same attitudes exist in other places to be sure, but among my Pakistani students it seemed almost universal.

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Part of the reason for this discomfort with abstraction may have to do with a curiously limited range of background knowledge. My students – many of whom, again, had graduated from the finest schools – knew almost literally nothing of non-Pakistani history and culture. The reason is not that Pakistan is culturally isolated – far from it. At one point I found myself confronted by a room full of students who had an exhaustive knowledge of the movies that were Oscar candidates last year, but among whom the vast majority had never heard of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. In general, students had no idea – not even a wrong idea! – about the significance of the French Revolution or World War I, the history of nationalism and empires, the contents of the Book of Genesis, the Scientific Revolution or the Renaissance. Again, when I pressed students, faculty members and alumni, the answer was always the same: the fault lies with the secondary school curriculum, and particularly the fact that during General Zia ul Haq’s rule secondary school curricula were shifted to emphasize Pakistan Studies and Islam at the expense of everything else. Again, that can only be a very partial explanation. But it is worth noting that this lack of cultural literacy helps feed the culture of conspiracy theories for which Pakistan is justly famous.

But what happens once these students get to college? I saw and heard about fine courses in Shakespeare and Islamic Jurisprudence, but when it comes to the social sciences it appears that the students who learn anything about these subjects at all (that is, those who choose to take courses outside of Accounting and Finance) are fed a steady diet of snippets of readings and excerpts from trendy current theories. Many students could and were eager to could talk fluently about Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and (rather weirdly) Nazi Germany, but Locke and Rousseau, Machiavelli and Madison, Cromwell and Marx were all equally unknown territory. Undoubtedly, at this point I will be accused of Western ethnocentricism; how many American college students know the names of the first four Moghul Emperors?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about the promise of Danish Schools, a series of boarding schools being set up in Pakistani Punjab by the provincial govt of chief minister Sahbaz Sharif for the poor as an alteranative to the madrassa system:

Outside the window, a Pakistani flag flutters, inside, a teacher asks a group of 6th-grader girls and boys, “Who can make a food chain?” A girl comes up to the board and uses a pen as a mouse to click and drag an animated plant to the first box, a worm to the second and a bird to the third. “Excellent,” Says the teacher. She goes and sits down with a smile on her face.

This is not an ordinary board, it’s a smart board, the first of its kind in Pakistan, and this is no ordinary school. Inaugurated January 18th, The Danish School System at Rahim Yar Khan stands in stark contrast to the rural terrain of this Southern Punjab city. Children enrolled in this school have to fit a certain criteria, not just that they have to pass an entry test, but they have to either have a missing parent, or both parents, they have to have an illiterate parent and they must have a monthly income of less than USD 100 - they must belong in short to the forgotten class of Pakistan’s poor and minorities.

This is affirmative action, giving the underprivileged a chance to have a level playing field. But how real is it? For one, it has the clear support of the government of Punjab which has faced severe criticism from all quarters about the surge of 25 billion rupees invested in a series of these purpose-built campuses for both girls and boys all over Punjab. These critics claim that money could have been better spent elsewhere on better alternatives like building roads or canals.
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The Danish Schools stands as an alternative to madrassa education because the school provides free lodging and boarding to all its students. It not only gives students a rounded education in the sciences and the arts but also provides social and extracurricular exposure. An on call psychologist also monitors each of the student’s behavior and has counseling sessions with the children and their parent or gurdian for a smooth transition into boarding life.

Despite the challenges, there is a certain spark and energy in the entire Danish school core committee headed by LUMS Provost, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, and the teachers and students. At the inaugural ceremony, one child danced on Shakira’s Waka Waka, another child, Aasia Allah-Wasiah told a 500 odd gathering the story of her life, how she became an orphan and how Danish school was her only hope for a future.

Not all parents were this easily convinced of Danish School’s objectives. One asked the girls’ school principle, “Why would you give me back my child after giving her clothes and shoes and spending so much on her? I know this is a conspiracy to buy our children from us.”

Other parents objected to there being non-Muslim students eating in the same utensils. The management responded by saying “we all eat in the same plates as any Hindu or Christian boy because this school is for everyone equally.” Needless to say that Rahim Yar Khan, despite scattered industrial units is largely agrarian and the people are deeply influenced by the exclusivist brand of Wahabism.
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With a meager amount of the GDP being spent on education, it is a positive sign to have politicians finally focus on this sector to secure their vote bank. With time the criticism towards these initiatives, such as the importance of Danish schools adopting the O-Levels system, may fine tune the programs into being more effective for the people. And especially those people who don’t have a voice.

Riaz Haq said...

The fundamental problems in South Asia are very different from problems in the West.

Solution to South Asian problems can not be found by aping the West...and original thinking is required to find such solutions.

Take individual liberties and rights for example.

The biggest beneficiaries of such rights are those few who have the power to enforce such rights for themselves through the use of the courts and the state apparatus, usually at the expense of the society at large. This situation leads to growing inequalities, and greater poverty for the majority.

Similarly, the western style capitalist economy encourages unrestrained growth in consumption...something that Asian nations with their massive populations and rapidly depleting natural resources can simply not afford.

No amount of cheap widget manufacturing, computer code writing and low-cost BPO services can solve these problems.

There is an estimate that it would take five times the resources of the planet earth for the rest the world to live as Americans do today.

What we need is to acknowledge that the developing world can not achieve the same standards of living as the OECD nations have without catastrophic destruction of the planet.

So what is the alternative? How do the Asians and the Africans achieve reasonable standards of living without destroying the planet? What political and economic system is needed to ensure equitable sharing of rapidly depleting resources of the earth?

These are the kinds of questions that need to be explored and answered by Asian intellectuals now.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on how Azim Premji's foundation is helping improve primary education in India:

PANTNAGAR, India — The Nagla elementary school in this north Indian town looks like many other rundown government schools. Sweater-clad children sit on burlap sheets laid in rows on cold concrete floors. Lunch is prepared out back on a fire of burning twigs and branches.

But the classrooms of Nagla are a laboratory for an educational approach unusual for an Indian public school. Rather than being drilled and tested on reproducing passages from textbooks, students write their own stories. And they pursue independent projects — as when fifth-grade students recently interviewed organizers of religious festivals and then made written and oral presentations.

That might seem commonplace in American or European schools. But such activities are revolutionary in India, where public school students have long been drilled on memorizing facts and regurgitating them in stressful year-end exams that many children fail.

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Outside of India, many may consider the country a wellspring of highly educated professionals, thanks to the many doctors and engineers who have moved to the West. And the legions of bright, English-speaking call-center employees may seem to represent, to many Western consumers, the cheerful voice of modern India.

But within India, there is widespread recognition that the country has not invested enough in education, especially at the primary and secondary levels.

In the last five years, government spending on education has risen sharply — to $83 billion last year, up from less than half that level before. Schools now offer free lunches, which has helped raise enrollments to more than 90 percent of children.

But most Indian schools still perform poorly. Barely half of fifth-grade students can read simple texts in their language of study, according to a survey of 13,000 rural schools by Pratham, a nonprofit education group. And only about one-third of fifth graders can perform simple division problems in arithmetic. Most students drop out before they reach the 10th grade.
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Narayana Murthy, a friend of Mr. Premji and chairman of Infosys, a company that competes with Wipro, said he admired the Premji Foundation’s work but worried it would be undermined by the way India administers its schools.

“While I salute Azim for what he is doing,” Mr. Murthy said, “in order to reap the dividends of that munificence and good work, we have to improve our governance.”

Mr. Premji says his foundation would be willing to work with private schools. But he argues that government schools need help more because they are often the last or only resort for India’s poorest and least educated families.

Mr. Premji, whose bright white hair distinguishes him in a crowd, comes from a relatively privileged background. He studied at a Jesuit school, St. Mary’s, in Mumbai and earned an electrical engineering degree at Stanford.

At 21, when his father died, Mr. Premji took over his family’s cooking oil business, then known as Western Indian Vegetable Product. He steered the company into information technology and Wipro — whose services include writing software and managing computer systems — now employs more than 100,000 people. He remains Wipro’s largest shareholder.
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After visitors left a classroom at Nagla school, an instructor began leading more than 50 fifth-grade students in a purely rote English lesson, instructing the students to repeat simple phrases: Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Good night. The children loudly chanted them back in unison.
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Underfunding is pervasive in the district. But so are glimmers of the educational benefits that might come through efforts like the Premji Foundation’s.
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Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excepts from scienceprogress.org analysis of US PISA results that concludes white students are doing very well relative to other OECD nations:

Policy makers are responding to reports that students in the United States on average scored lower than their peers in 16 out of 30 other wealthy industrialized nations on an international science exam, predictably arguing that the U.S. performance on the test (the Programme for International Student Assessment) indicates that U.S. students cannot compete in the international workforce. But a recent analysis from the Urban Institute previously discussed on Science Progress suggests otherwise. Talking about “competitiveness” makes it easy to gloss over inequities in the educational system connected to race and class.

News outlets are eager to frame the results as U.S. backsliding in the international economy. The Washington Post quoted former Colorado governor Roy Romer: “How are our children going to be able to compete with the children of the world? The answer is not well.” The Associated Press likewise presented the ranking in a dim light: “In math, U.S. students did even worse — posting an average score that was lower than the average in 23 of the other leading industrialized countries.”

In the Urban report, Into the Eye of the Storm, Harold Salzman and B. Lindsay Lowell acknowledge that policy makers often cite the results from PISA and TIMSS, another international exam, “supposedly showing U.S. students lagging the performance of most other countries.” But using the results to make such sweeping comparisons “stretches the PISA far beyond its appropriate or even intended use.” They go on to make several critical points about the test.

Achievement varies significantly by socioeconomic class and race

The majority of U.S. students, who are white, “actually rank near the very top on international tests.” But minority and low-income students face obstacles to such achievement because of differences in the quality of educational systems and household income. Salzman and Lowell conclude: “The test results indicate that, rather than a policy focus on average science and math scores, there is an urgent need for targeted educational improvement to serve low performing populations, such as recent immigrants and some minorities.”

The diversity of the U.S. population both contributes to economic competitiveness and lowers the average score of students on the test

They point out that the United States “has a large population and the most diverse demographics of any industrialized nation,” and that averaging across such a mixed group of students ignores the size of the population and the distribution of student performance within that population:

What does one infer from comparing the average test score in a nation of over 300 million with that of a nation of 4.5 million (Singapore) or using educational performance as an indicator of economic performance? We would expect India’s 39 percent illiteracy rate and its secondary school enrollment rate of less than 50 percent (World Bank 2007) to make it an inconsequential global power. Of course, that is not the case because rather than average performance it is the small percentage of high performers in a nation of 1 billion that is the more important indicator of its relative science and engineering strength. The use of average rates across a diverse group of nations and diverse populations is of limited use in drawing conclusions about global standing economically or educationally.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post about Qatar that speculates on OECD PISA scores of Qatari and immigrant students from India and Pakistan:

As I've noted before reforms in education will take a long time to bear fruit and it is important that those reforms include the earliest school years as that will impact the education of students in the later years. But what are the issues in Qatar's educational system? If you search my blog for PISA you'll find a few posts from last year that discuss the issue, one of which noting in detail some of the things I heard from both teachers and Qataris about how schooling works in the public sector, and it is definitely an eye-opener. That can't be the full story though. It was not only Qataris that were tested, students in the various private schools were also tested and Qatar has a large number of private schools: Indian curriculum, British curriculum, Pakistani curriculum American curriculum, French curriculum, even a Canadian school. I also don't think Qataris make up the majority of students in the country anymore given that Qataris only make up about 15% of the population, I speculate they are around 30% of the students due to the high birthrates amongst Qataris as well is the fact that many of the ex-pat workers do not have their families here. PISA likely tested students from all backgrounds.

Yet Qatar scored far lower than all of the OECD countries, and scored lower than other Arab nations such as Jordan and Tunisia. But if many of these kids went to private schools on Western curriculums one would have thought that at least a portion of the students would've scored around the levels of their home countries (unfortunately India, Pakistan, and major Arab countries like Egypt didn't participate in the PISA study so we have no idea how well those curriculums would do). This would imply that the public school students would've on average scored even lower than the Qatar average would suggest. While I have no data to back it up I can't believe that would be true -- Qatar public schools would have to be some of the worst on the planet for that to be right! The schools may have a number of issues based on what I've been told but I have met many Qataris and their education is certainly not that bad.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a report of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission (HEC) under attack by crooked politicians:

ISLAMABAD: Parliament’s revenge against the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for its laudable role in identifying the fake degree holding MPs will not only destroy the higher education structure, built in decades, but also threatens huge and committed $550m (Rs47 billion) in foreign assistance.

Informed government sources told The News that the USAID had hinted on Friday of keeping on hold the committed $250 million assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Act to establish three centres of excellence besides pursuing certain other potential goals for higher education development in the country.

Already, the World Bank, which has only recently approved $300 million soft loan for the HEC to support its various programmes for the next five years, has verbally told the commission’s bosses to wait as the Bank is unsure about the future of the HEC.

The sources said that the USAID, in its communication with the HEC officials, has indicated of not doing the cost reimbursement PIL for the next six months because of a meeting the USAID had with the Economic Affairs Division, which has told the American agency that the HEC is going to be devolved.

Out of the $250 million, so far only $45 million has been transferred to the HEC by the USAID, which had agreed to hand over to the HEC all the education related programmes handled by the US Financial Assistance Development (FAD) programme. Now for the HEC officials, all the committed US aid for the HEC is frozen.

The sources said that under the USAID assistance programme, the HEC had designed to set up three centres of excellence (CoE), including the CoE in water resource at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, the CoE in food security at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and the CoE in energy at the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar.

Already, as reported, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would lose 300 million dollars of loan approved by the World Bank (WB) to support its various programmes for the next five years.

According to the report, the $300 million equivalent credit was supposed to finance the government’s tertiary education development programme. It is said that the loan deal would automatically come to an end after the devolution of the HEC due to some legal implications. “There is a clause in the agreement between the WB and HEC that any change in the legal status of the HEC would end the agreement at once,” the reporter quoted HEC Executive Director Dr Sohail Naqvi as saying. This is a soft loan.

The HEC is facing the wrath of the parliamentarians after it had refused to accept any pressure for the verification of the MPs’ degrees, more than 50 of which have already been declared invalid whereas above 200 degrees were termed suspected.

The federal and provincial governments and members of parliament and provincial assemblies exerted all sorts of pressure on the HEC to stop it from the verification work but to no avail. Later, more than 200 MPs refused to cooperate despite the apex court’s decision, refusing to provide to the HEC or the universities concerned the details of their qualification certificates and degrees to stop their verification by the HEC.
---------
In its meeting on March 28, 2011, the federal cabinet, instead of devolving all functions of the Education Ministry, decided to retain several of them at the federal level by assigning these functions to different ministries and divisions like the cabinet and foreign ministry.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal story titled "India Graduates Millions, But Too Few Are Fit to Hire":

BANGALORE, India—Call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd. is desperate to find new recruits who can answer questions by phone and email. It wants to hire 3,000 people this year. Yet in this country of 1.2 billion people, that is beginning to look like an impossible goal.

So few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants.

India projects an image of a nation churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are well educated, a looming threat to the better-paid middle-class workers of the West. Their abilities in math have been cited by President Barack Obama as a reason why the U.S. is facing competitive challenges.

Yet 24/7 Customer's experience tells a very different story. Its increasing difficulty finding competent employees in India has forced the company to expand its search to the Philippines and Nicaragua. Most of its 8,000 employees are now based outside of India.

In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore.

"With India's population size, it should be so much easier to find employees," says S. Nagarajan, founder of the company. "Instead, we're scouring every nook and cranny."

India's economic expansion was supposed to create opportunities for millions to rise out of poverty, get an education and land good jobs. But as India liberalized its economy starting in 1991 after decades of socialism, it failed to reform its heavily regulated education system.

Business executives say schools are hampered by overbearing bureaucracy and a focus on rote learning rather than critical thinking and comprehension. Government keeps tuition low, which makes schools accessible to more students, but also keeps teacher salaries and budgets low. What's more, say educators and business leaders, the curriculum in most places is outdated and disconnected from the real world.

"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys," says Vijay Thadani, chief executive of New Delhi-based NIIT Ltd. India, a recruitment firm that also runs job-training programs for college graduates lacking the skills to land good jobs.

Muddying the picture is that on the surface, India appears to have met the demand for more educated workers with a quantum leap in graduates. Engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students, nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade group.

But 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India's high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centers, according to results from assessment tests administered by the group.

Another survey, conducted annually by Pratham, a nongovernmental organization that aims to improve education for the poor, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools across India. It found that about half of the country's fifth graders can't read at a second-grade level.

Riaz Haq said...

The quality of primary and secondary education is clearly important in preparing students for higher education, and there has lately been a lot of hand wringing on about declining test scores in the US, particularly with respect to minority kids in schools.

Here are some of my thoughts on it:

1. With a PISA reading score of 500, US kids outperformed those in Germany( 497), France (496) and UK (494).

2. Based on PISA reading scores as analyzed by Steve Sailer, US Asians (score 541) are just below Shanghai students (556), US whites (525) outperform all of their peers in Europe except the Finns, and US Hispanics (466) and US Blacks (441) significantly outperform kids in dozens of countries spread across Asia, Latin America and Middle East.

For example, US Hispanics did better than Turks, Russians, Serbians, and all of Latin America.

In fact US Hispanics outperformed all BRIC nations with the exception of China.

And US Blacks did better than Bulgaria, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Jordan, Indonesia, Argentina, etc.

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

3. The only data available for India is 2003 TIMMS on which they ranked 46 on a list of 51 countries. Their score was 392 versus avg of 467. They performed very poorly. It was contained in a report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

I think Pakistani kids would probably also perform poorly on PISA and TIMMS if these tests administered there.

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~tzajonc/india_shining_jan27_flat.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the story of two Indias by World Bank's managing director Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala:

India’s global profile is rising—from a slow-growing poor country to a burgeoning economic power:

· India grew fast before the crisis--9% per year--and has resumed fast growth--8.6% in the fiscal year that ended in March.

· India is globally recognized as a key player in the IT revolution, and in sectors as diverse as pharmaceutical, cement, steel and space
---------
But there is also another India:

· India’s GNI per capita ($1170) is lower than that of 161 other countries. World Bank’s poverty numbers show 456 million people in India are poor—about one-third of the world’s poor, and more than in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

· India lags significantly on health and nutrition targets: It is home to half of world’s underweight children, and it accounts for 1 in 5 maternal and child deaths worldwide.

· Social exclusion remains a stark reality—Scheduled Tribes lag twenty years behind the general population, Scheduled Castes ten years; gender norms can be quite restrictive and gender gap persists in realms such as child mortality and labor force participation.
The 9% growth hides an infrastructure crisis. Innovation in the private sector has often got around this—60% of firms and a large percentage of homes rely on back-up generation, and on an industry of logistical firms. But this has costs, and sooner or later infrastructure constraints will bite, and growth will slow, absent major change. This is especially true in urban areas.
PPPs are often hailed as a solution. Private participation in infrastructure took off in the early 1990s in telecoms and power supply. Highway, port, and airport concessions began to emerge in the late 1990s, with water supply and solid waste management following. We have been here before. In the 1990s Latin America had major infrastructural gaps, and PPPs were thought to be the solution (including by the World Bank). But gaps were effectively closed only in telecoms (which was not an issue for India) and in Chile (a small country with by far the best governance to manage private sector involvement). Elsewhere, there was insufficient private involvement, or private involvement that was high cost, often corrupt, and with frequent renegotiation to extract better deals from the state and society.

The lesson is that improving governance, and solving institutional problems, is unavoidable to improve infrastructure provision, and is necessary for effective private involvement.

The challenge here is so well-known that I do not need to dwell on it much. India has enormous untapped potential—productivity in Eastern states, for instance, is well below what it is in Punjab, and sustainability is an issue in states like Punjab.
-----------
V. Education: Focus on results, not inputs

The two Indias are very visible in education: Graduates of India's famed Institutes of Technology literally drive growth. But basic and secondary education are dismal. In fact, even in tertiary education quality is in islands of excellence, not widespread. The demographic dividend can turn into a demographic curse if the millions of young people entering the labor market every year are not equipped to take up the jobs that a fast-growing economy can create...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Financial Times story on Indian education crisis:

A report on the state of Indian education, the largest study of the country’s rural children, makes for grim reading.

India’s schools are in bad shape, and not getting any better. Maths ability is declining, and reading is way below where it should be.

The Annual Status of Education Report 2010, prepared by Pratham, an education non-governmental organisation supported by many of India’s top companies, has a blunt message. School enrolment is up but quality is unacceptably low. Inadequate state provision is fuelling the expansion of private education, which India’s largely poor people can ill-afford.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

1. 96.5 per cent of children in the 6 to 14 age group in rural India are enrolled in school. While 71.1 per cent of these children are enrolled in government schools, 24.3 per cent are enrolled in private schools.

2. India’s southern states in particular are moving strongly towards more private sector education provision. The percentage of children in private school increased from 29.7 per cent to 36.1 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, from 19.7 per cent to 25 per cent in Tamil Nadu and from 51.5 per cent to 54.2 per cent in Kerala

3. There has been a decrease in children’s ability to do simple mathematics. The proportion of Standard 1 children who could recognise numbers from 1-9 has declined.

4. After five years of schooling, close to half of children are below a level expected after just two years of formal education. Half of these children cannot read. Only one child in five can recognise numbers up to 100.

5. Toilets were useable in only half the 13,000 schools surveyed. Teacher attendance was 63 per cent, lower than pupil attendance.
Kapil Sibal, the new education minister, has breathed some life into a portfolio left moribund by his elderly predecessor Arjun Singh. But lately, Mr Sibal, a lawyer, has been seconded into the telecommunications ministry to clean up a mess surrounding the controversial award of new 2G licences that may have cost the exchequer as much as $39bn.

There are few more important challenges in India than improving its schools. Not for the first time ineptitude and greed at the top are robbing India’s young of resources.

http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/01/17/indian-schools-failing/#axzz1aLbWwL1D

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from "Sweet Smell of Success" originally published in The Caravan Magazine before it was censored, by Sidhartha Deb, the author of "The Beautiful and The Damned", on quality of private higher education in India:

A PHENOMENALLY WEALTHY INDIAN who excites hostility and suspicion is an unusual creature, a fish that has managed to muddy the waters it swims in. The glow of admiration lighting up the rich and the successful disperses before it reaches him, hinting that things have gone wrong somewhere. It suggests that beneath the sleek coating of luxury, deep
under the sheen of power, there is a failure barely sensed by the man who owns that failure along with his expensive accoutrements. This was Arindam Chaudhuri’s situation when I first met him in 2007. He had achieved great wealth and prominence, partly by projecting an image of himself as wealthy and prominent. Yet somewhere along the way he had also created the opposite effect, which—in spite of his best efforts—had given him a reputation as a fraud, scamster and Johnny-come-lately.

Once I became aware of Arindam Chaudhuri’s existence, I began to find him everywhere: in the magazines his media division published, flashing their bright colours and inane headlines from little newsstands made of bricks and plastic sheets; in buildings fronted by dark glass, behind which earnest young men imbibed Arindam’s ideas of leadership; and on the tiny screen during a flight from Delhi to Chicago, when the film I chose for viewing turned out to have been produced by him. It was a low-budget Bombay gangster film with a cast of unknown, modestly paid actors and actresses: was it an accident that the film was called Mithya? The word means falsehood, appearances, a lie—things I would have much opportunity to contemplate in my study of Arindam.

Every newspaper I came across carried a full-page advertisement for Arindam’s private business school, the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), with Arindam’s photograph displayed prominently. It was the face of the new India, in closeup. His hair was swept back in a ponytail, dark and gleaming against a pale, smooth face, his designer glasses accentuating his youthfulness. He wore a blue suit, and his teeth were exposed in the kind of bright white smile I associate with American businessmen and evangelists. But instead of looking directly at the reader, as businessmen and evangelists do to assure people of their trustworthiness, Arindam gazed off at a distant horizon, as if pondering some elusive goal.

There were few details about the academic programme or admission requirements in these advertisements, but many small, inviting photographs of the Delhi campus: a swimming pool, a computer lab, a library, a snooker table, Indian men in suits, a blonde woman. A fireworks display of italics, exclamation marks and capital letters described the perks given to students: “free study tour to Europe etc. for twenty-one days,” “world placements,” “Free Laptops for all.” Stitching these disparate elements together was a slogan: “Dare to Think Beyond the IIMs”—referring to the elite, state-subsidised business schools, and managing to sound promising, admonishing and mysterious at the same time. The new India needed a new kind of university, and a new kind of attitude, and Arindam, said the ads, was the man who could teach you how to find it.

"I'VE SPOKEN TO THE BOSS about you,” Sutanu said. “He said, ‘Why does he want to meet me?’”
Sutanu ran the media division of Arindam’s company from a basement office where there was no cellphone reception, and it took many calls and text messages to get in touch with him. When I finally reached him, he sounded affable enough, suggesting that we have lunch in south Delhi. We met at Flames, an “Asian Resto-Bar” in Greater Kailash-II with a forlorn statue of the Buddha tucked away in the corner...


http://pastebin.com/UBtEqF1L

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a brief summary of Pakistan foreign education market put together by the British Council:

Pakistan is one of the six countries which accounts for 54 percent of the UK’s (non-EU) international students. After September 2001, it has become the market leader, a place traditionally taken by the US, but the US is picking up after a long time, owing to simplified visa procedures and increased marketing efforts, not to forget the excellent scholarship opportunities that thy have to offer Pakistani students.

There were 5222 students from Pakistan studying in the United States in 2009/2010 (Source:IIE Opendoors). Pakistan now has the largest Fulbright Scholarship Programme in the world. There is an upward trend of Pakistani students studying in Australia. 2557 students studied in Australia in 2009/2010 compared to 2190 in 2008/2009 (Source: AEI). Other European countries have also become quite active in marketing their education in Pakistan. Countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are more visible and perceived as offering quality education at lower prices. UK has remained the highest in this with 10,420 students studying in the UK in 2009/2010 (HESA, 2011).


Market opportunities
Pakistan is predominantly a postgraduate market, of the students currently studying in the UK, approximately 71 per cent are postgraduate and 29 per cent undergraduate. While the further education market is still relatively small, there is potential for growth, as there is a greater need for skills in a more service sector-led economy.

One-year Master's programmes are popular, due to their shorter duration compared to competitors. A further major aspect of the postgraduate market is the relatively wide availability of scholarships by UK institutions and Government funding agencies. In addition to the Pakistan Government‘s new overseas scholarship schemes, this target group also has access to scholarships offered by international organisation such as IMF, Commonwealth and World Bank. Popular subject areas are for 2009- 2010 are Business Studies, Engineering, Computer Sciences, Social Sciences followed by law.

Based on HESA statistics, the total number of Pakistani students enrolled in the UK was 10,420 in 2009 / 2010, a 2 percent growth on 2008/2009.

There is also significant growth in GCE O- and A-levels conducted in Pakistan, which naturally leads to demand for UK undergraduate study. More than 46,000 students took these examinations in 2010 / 2011. Popular subjects include business, law, accountancy, IT, management and engineering.

Foundation programmes have a market in Pakistan as a pathway from 12-year study into UK higher education.

Vocational programmes are a new market in Pakistan, with increasing student awareness of the opportunities. National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC) is a regulatory body for promoting linkages among various stakeholders to address challenges aced by Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET)....

Riaz Haq said...

Whys is India not a scientific power, asks an Op Ed in The Hindu:

.....It is the robustness of scientific research and innovation that sets apart great powers from the mediocre ones.

We have good scientists, but why has India not produced outstanding scientists who make path-breaking discoveries that will make the world sit up and take notice? Should we continue to be satisfied with tweaking borrowed technologies? Is reverse engineering an innovative phenomenon?

All debates about scientific research inevitably end up zeroing in on the deficiencies of our educational system as the root cause of the abysmal record in scientific research. This is only part of the story.

A nation's culture — belief systems, values, attitudes — plays a significant role in determining the quality of scientific research. The Oriental attitudes differ from the Occidental values in many respects. Asian societies are basically collectivist, that is, the collective good of society ranks higher than individual happiness and achievements. People do not ask what they can do for their country; they are always asking what the country will do for them. They look up to the state for guidance, leadership and direction. There is no burning individual ambition to excel and achieve something new.

In the West, individuals try to achieve their potential through their own efforts, aided and facilitated by enabling laws and institutions. Self-reliance is the key objective of life. An independent life requires a free and questioning mindset that takes nothing for granted and constantly challenges conventional wisdom. Children are encouraged to push the frontiers of knowledge by self-examination and open-minded enquiry. It is only a sceptical and dissenting mind that often thinks out of the box to explore new vistas of knowledge.

Collectivism promotes conformism and deference to authority whether it is parents, elders, teachers or the government. It is heresy to question established values and customs.

We pass on our passivity and uncritical attitudes to our children. No wonder, the educational system encourages rote learning and unquestioning acceptance of what is taught in the classrooms and stated in the textbooks. How can we expect our children to suddenly develop an enquiring and inquisitive attitude when they have been brought up in a milieu that discourages ‘disruptive' thoughts?

India and China were once advanced nations before foreign rule drained their resources and sapped their willpower and scientific traditions. Cultures tend to become conservative and defensive when subjected to long spells of colonial exploitation.

Indians are great believers in destiny. But our tradition does not frown upon free will and individual excellence. We must realise that our ability for free action remains unhampered despite what destiny may hold in store for us.
Fear of failure

Another flaw in our culture that prevents individual excellence is the fear of failure. The stigma associated with failure makes our children risk-averse while choosing their courses and careers.

Scientific research is a long-drawn war on received wisdom that requires many battles before it can be won. Science was not built in a day. Some of the battles can end in defeat. In the West, they celebrate failure as a stepping stone to success.

Educational reforms must be preceded by mental deconditioning of parents, teachers, educationists and policymakers — throwing away the cobwebs of uncritical submissiveness to conventional knowledge. Let us bring up a generation that will not hesitate to ask inconvenient questions. This generation will be the torch-bearer of a scientific revolution that will unleash cutting-edge research to make the Nobel Prize committee sit up and take notice....


http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/article2704625.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Results of PISA international test released by OECD in Dec, 2011, show that Indian students came in at the bottom of the list along with students from Kyrgyzstan:

Students in Tamil Nadu-India attained an average score on the PISA reading literacy scale that is significantly higher than those for Himachal Pradesh-India and Kyrgyzstan, but lower than all other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 17% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline needed to participate effectively and productively in life. This means that 83% of students in Tamil Nadu-India are estimated to be below this baseline level. This compares to 81% of student performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on average.
Students in the Tamil Nadu-India attained a mean score on the PISA mathematical literacy scale as the same observed in Himachal Pradesh-India, Panama and Peru. This was significantly higher than the mean observed in Kyrgyzstan but lower than those of other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 15% of students are proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways that are considered fundamental for their future development. This compares to 75% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of boys and girls in mathematical literacy.
Students in Tamil Nadu-India were estimated to have a mean score on the scientific literacy scale, which is below the means of all OECD countries, but significantly above the mean observed in the other Indian state, Himachal Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu-India, 16% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. This compares to 82% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was a statistically significant gender difference in scientific literacy, favouring girls.


http://www.acer.edu.au/media/acer-releases-results-of-pisa-2009-participant-economies/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Bloomberg piece written by Pankaj Mishra:

In the 1990s, the drive (Delhi-Simla) would take eight hours. In 2009, it took about 11, and this autumn it took almost 12. Stretches of the road, especially those near small cities, resembled four- lane highways anywhere in the world. Elsewhere, passing through roadside settlements, the road shrank to a single lane; and here the queues built up, the air grew thick with dust and exhaust, and road rage erupted out of even the air-conditioned vehicles.
------------
The metaphor of highways has been deployed frequently to describe India’s potential, most famously by Thomas Friedman, who claimed in 2005 that India “is like a highway full of potholes,” but “off in the distance, the road seems to smooth out, and if it does, this country will be a dynamo.”

Like many other popular metaphors about India -- tiger, elephant, cellphone -- this one isn’t wholly mistaken. Indian highways rank highly among the infrastructure projects crucial to sustaining the country’s rapid economic growth (INQGGDPY), which is threatened by inflation, declining industrial production, a weakening currency (the rupee has dropped about 15 percent against the dollar this year) and corruption scandals that implicate some of India’s most well-known politicians and businessmen.

The question that Friedman asked in 2005 has grown more urgent: “Is that smoother road in the distance a mirage or the real thing?” Or, to put it differently: Did the perennial gap between illusion and reality somehow widen imperceptibly in the New India?
Education Racket

The answer to this question seemed obvious on the half- built highway to Delhi. The most conspicuous sights along the roadside were the placards for shiny new private educational institutions. They seem -- if you have never been inside one or met any of their alumni and looked only at the (misspelled) signboards promising professional success -- to be hectically preparing the basis for India’s “demographic dividend”: an overwhelmingly youthful population (WPOPINDI) that will soon become producers and consumers in the global economy.

In actuality, while most state-funded schools and colleges are barely functional, private education in India is largely a money-making racket. In September this year, a study of schools in the biggest states discovered that India’s peers in adult literacy are Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea.

Hundreds of millions of poorly educated and unemployable youth increasingly find themselves drawn to some peculiar forms of entrepreneurship. Twice on the highway from Shimla to Delhi, we were flagged down by groups of young men collecting “taxes.”

I have often come across these soft forms of banditry on the country roads of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, two of India’s poorest and most populous states. The only difference here was that the young men seemed better educated, more resourceful and authoritative. One of the groups that stopped us near the Indian capital, less than a mile from an authentic police checkpoint, even had a jeep with the words “Delhi Municipal Toll” painted on the windshield.

Bleak employment prospects and a general social breakdown - - of morality no less than law and order -- were pushing them into a career of crime. Their brazen modus operandi in one of the country’s richest regions hinted that India’s “demographic dividend” was more likely to boost crime rather than gross domestic product.

For most of the previous decade, many Indians have been spellbound by a vision of imminent national greatness, oblivious to the basic fact that no country without a substantial manufacturing base and skilled workforce has ever become an economic superpower.....


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-30/on-road-to-delhi-india-s-economy-gets-real-commentary-by-pankaj-mishra.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Financial Times Report on the inadequacy of India's primary education:

Primary education standards in India are as bad as in Papua New Guinea and crisis-torn Afghanistan and Yemen, according to a team of Indian development economists.

In a study of schools in the country’s most populous states they found that fast-paced economic growth has failed to improve India’s basic educational standards over the past 15 years. The Public Report on Basic Education Revisited showed some children were unable to read after three years of schooling across the Hindi-speaking northern belt.

“When the investigators arrived, half of the government schools were still devoid of any teaching activity,” the report said. “In a functioning democracy, this would be a major national concern. Yet little notice has been taken in the corridors of power.”

According to Jean Drèze, one of the report’s researchers and a prominent Indian policymaker, India now finds itself in an adult-literacy peer group that includes Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen.

The ratio of students to teachers in Indian primary schools was three times higher than in China, with a typical class in Bihar, one of the poorest states, having as many as 92 pupils.

“After 20 years of meteoric economic growth, there’s been so little improvement in terms of the living standards of the people,” Mr Drèze said. “There’s a very serious crisis. We have to wake up to the fact that we are relying too heavily on economic growth.”

There are 5.5m teachers in India, but at least 1.2m more are required. “The reason there aren’t any teachers in school is because states have not recruited them for many years,” said Kapil Sibal, minister of Human Resources Development.

The report’s authors said that it had taken years to analyse and verify data collected in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. One team member, A.K. Shiva Kumar, said that he and his colleagues had also reviewed educational data for the 2009-2010 year and found them to be “identical” to those of 2006.

The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report for 2010 said Indians received just 4.4 years of schooling on average, compared with 7.5 years for China’s citizens. Sri Lanka outscores both with 8.2 years of schooling and is on par with China’s 99 per cent literacy rate for young female adults.

“Most developing countries are talking of [offering their children] 10 years of schooling,” said Mr Kumar, who is also a development economist and advises Unicef, the UN’s child welfare agency. “Here there’s lots of focus on growth rates but we are not looking at how India gets to 10 years of schooling.”

Meera Samson, a researcher at the Delhi-based Collaborative Research and Dissemination and report co-author, said head teachers had not been appointed at 20 per cent of the schools surveyed. At another 12 per cent of schools, only one teacher had been offered a position.

Last year, India’s parliament passed legislation requiring the state to provide universal education.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3b2c9da2-cf01-11e0-86c5-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1i06MWVHc

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Meeta Senguota's blog post on PISA results in Times of India:

Our pedagogies and entire school systems are designed to feed a specific type of learning- generically known as learning by rote. We teach and learn for the assessment. And assessments, if they are to be standardized and defensible are often merely linear tests of information, not knowledge.

The traditional education system is often berated for belonging to the industrial age - where a standard product needs to be created, using standardized processes, where products move along an assembly line, from one level of preparedness to the next. Till finally, the product is ready for the job market. This is clearly a utilitarian view of education, where we need to feed the machinery of the present with efficiency, and for efficiency.

The meaning of the word learning has been debated and measured in literature largely via assessments. And yet, the purpose of education is often stated in more lofty terms - growth, progress, development; thought and society among others. Yet, our assessments do not reflect the stated purpose of education. While we practice and acknowledge that our teaching is geared to our assessments, and we also measure individual and systemic success via the same assessments, it becomes incumbent on us to focus our efforts on designing those assessments well.

Learning for each of us means different things. For some it means proficiency in the classic 3 R's - reading, writing and arithmetic. For others it is reflected in the ability to pass exams, or, in the number and range of competitions won. for some, it is the ability to carry an argument forward, to a cohesive end that demonstrates learning, while for people like me, it is clearly the ability to make good decisions that signifies that good learning has taken place. For some, learning is about good values- both at work and as a human being.


http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/the-race-to-better-learning

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a piece by Lan Pritchett of Harvard University on India's poor performance on PISA:

Compared to the economic superstars India is almost unfathomably far behind. The TN/HP average 15 year old is over 200 points behind. If a typical grade gain is 40 points a year Indian eighth graders are at the level of Korea third graders in their mathematics mastery. In fact the average TN/HP child is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Equally worrisome is that the best performers in TN/HP - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to complete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.

As the current superpowers are behind the East Asian economic superstars in learning performance the distance to India is not quite as far, but still the average TN/HP child is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Indians often deride America's schools but the average child placed in an American school would be among the weakest students. Indians might have believed, with President Obama, that American schools were under threat from India but the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.

Even among other "developing" nations that make up the BRICs India lags - from Russia by almost as much as the USA and only for Brazil, which like the rest of Latin America is infamous for lagging education performance does India even come close - and then not even that close.

To put these results in perspective, in the USA there has been huge and continuous concern that has caused seismic shifts in the discourse about education driven, in part, by the fact that the USA is lagging the economic superstars like Korea. But the average US 15 year old is 59 points behind Koreans. TN/HP students are 41.5 points behind Brazil, and twice as far behind Russia (123.5 points) as the US is Korea, and almost four times further behind Singapore (217.5 vs 59) that the US is behind Korea. Yet so far this disastrous performance has yet to occasion a ripple in the education establishment.
------------
These PISA 2009+ results are the end of the beginning. The debate is over. No one can still deny there is a deep crisis in the ability of the existing education system to produce child learning. India's education system is undermining India's legitimate aspirations to be at the global forefront as a prosperous economy, as a global great power, as an emulated polity, and as a fair and just society. As the beginning ends, the question now is: what is to be done?


http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/first-pisa-results-for-india-end-of.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story published in Fast Company about an "Education Revolution" in Pakistan:

TED Fellow, social entrepreneur and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is on a mission to foment Pakistan's education revolution.

The province of Sindh, where Obaid-Chinoy is based, decided less than two months ago to completely revamp public school textbooks, and the government enlisted Obaid-Chinoy to help. "There needs to be an overhaul," Obaid-Chinoy tells Fast Company. "Textbooks are outdated and I've been working with the government on how to encourage critical thinking and move away from rote memorization....It's tough, because the mindset is not there. The teachers are essentially products of the same system. We have to break the culture, which takes a long time."

Sindh's teachers now spend extensive time in professional training with education experts to try and reform the instruction of English, math, and social studies. "We're really making this a movement for education for social change," Obaid-Chinoy says.

"People are excited by it. Everyone's getting into it, rolling up their sleeves. We're trying to bridge the divide between the public and private school systems," which, she says, is at the heart of Pakistan's education challenges. The poorer schools are under-resourced and are often recruiting grounds for young terrorists. By improving the public education system, the less-fortunate children have a better shot at a solid future, away from terrorist groups, and local leaders hope to accomplish improvements by focusing on textbooks and teacher trainings.

"Pakistan also feels it needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of education and that was the genesis for the education overhaul," says Obaid-Chinoy. "Terrorism defines us today," but, she says, there was a time when the country was known for its vibrancy and sense of hope.

Obaid-Chinoy is doing her part in other ways to revamp Pakistan's education system. In 2007 she started CitizensArchive.org, the country's first digital archive documenting its oral history with interviews, rare photos, and other online collections. The initiative allows students in schools throughout Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to better understand Pakistan and its history and Obaid-Chinoy was able to interview several notable figures who have since passed away, such as Deena Mistri, one of the country's first female educators. And students around South Asia are now engaged in learning exchanges with students in Pakistan, to help the countries build bridges.

And throughout her education work, Obaid-Chinoy's medium is often filmmaking. She makes about one film per year and has covered a range of topics from jihadi schools to female victims of acid attacks. Her next film will look at 9/11 through the eyes of different figures, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary this year.

"My mother gave up her dream of becoming a journalist when she got married and I think she always wanted to make sure that her six children pursued their dreams. I have four sisters and all of us work in male-dominated professions in Pakistan." And Obaid-Chinoy now brings that same sense of passion and justice to her work and thanks to her, her country may soon become a bright spot for global-minded education.


http://www.fastcompany.com/1731268/pakistan-education-revolution

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Russian analyst Anatol Karlin on India's prospects and its comparison with China:

It is not a secret to longtime readers of this blog that I rate India’s prospects far more pessimistically than I do China’s. My main reason is I do not share the delusion that democracy is a panacea and that whatever advantage in this sphere India has is more than outweighed by China’s lead in any number of other areas ranging from infrastructure and fiscal sustainability to child malnutrition and corruption. However, one of the biggest and certainly most critical gaps is in educational attainment, which is the most important component of human capital – the key factor underlying all productivity increases and longterm economic growth. China’s literacy rate is 96%, whereas Indian literacy is still far from universal at just 74%.
-----------
The big problem, until recently, was that there was no internationalized student testing data for either China or India. (There was data for cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it was not very useful because they are hardly representative of China). An alternative approach was to compare national IQ’s, in which China usually scored 100-105 and India scored in the low 80′s. But this method has methodological flaws because the IQ tests aren’t consistent across countries. (This, incidentally, also makes this approach a punching bag for PC enforcers who can’t bear to entertain the possibility of differing IQ’s across national and ethnic groups).
--------------
Many Indians like to see themselves as equal competitors to China, and are encouraged in their endeavour by gushing Western editorials and Tom Friedman drones who praise their few islands of programming prowess – in reality, much of which is actually pretty low-level stuff – and widespread knowledge of the English language (which makes India a good destination for call centers but not much else), while ignoring the various aspects of Indian life – the caste system, malnutrition, stupendously bad schools – that are holding them back. The low quality of Indians human capital reveals the “demographic dividend” that India is supposed to enjoy in the coming decades as the wild fantasies of what Sailer rightly calls ”Davos Man craziness at its craziest.” A large cohort of young people is worse than useless when most of them are functionally illiterate and innumerate; instead of fostering well-compensated jobs that drive productivity forwards, they will form reservoirs of poverty and potential instability.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutrition DOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens....


http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2012/02/04/china-superior-to-india/

Riaz Haq said...

Pak threat to Indian science

Hindustan Times

Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science. “Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan. It has tripled the salaries of its scientists in the last few years.” says Prof C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council.

In a presentation to the Prime Minister, Rao has asked for a separate salary mechanism for scientists. The present pay structure, he says, is such that “no young technical person worth his salt would want to work for the Government or public sector”.

He adds, “You needn’t give scientists private sector salaries, but you could make their lives better, by say, giving them a free house.”

Giving his own example, he says, “I have been getting a secretary’s salary for the last 35 years. But I have earned enough through various awards.

But I can raise a voice for those who aren’t getting their due.” Last year, Rao won the prestigious Dan David Award, from which he created a scholarship fund. So far, he has donated Rs 50 lakh for scholarship purposes.

The crisis gripping Indian science seems to be hydra-headed. “None of our institutes of higher learning are comparable with Harvard or Berkeley,” points out Rao. The IITs, he says, need to improve their performance: a faculty of 350 produces only about 50 PhD scholars a year. “That’s one PhD per 5-6 faculty members,” says the anguished Professor.

Rao fears that India’s contribution to world science would plummet to 1-1.5 per cent if we don’t act fast. At present, India’s contribution is less than three per cent. China’s is 12 per cent.

“We should not be at the bottom of the pile. When I started off in the field of scientific research at 17-and-a-half, I had thought that India would go on to become a top science country. But now, 55 years later, only a few individuals have made it to the top grade,” he laments.


http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/NM13/Pak-threat-to-Indian-science/Article1-124925.aspx

Riaz Haq said...

There are no South Asian universities in Top 200 QS list this year.

There are several Indian (IITs) and one Pakistani university (NUST) in top 500.

http://content.qs.com/supplement2011/top500.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Times of India on Indian textbook distortions about Pakistan:

Pakistan is a part of India and P V Narasimha Rao is the Prime Minister of the country, this is being taught to school students in some states, according to a member of Parliament.

AIADMK member S Semmalai highlighted this in Lok Sabha today while referring to the controversy over Ambedkar cartoon in CBSE textbooks during a discussion on Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Amendment Bill, 2011.

"In the CBSE textbooks of Karnataka, it is mentioned even now that Pakistan is a part of India. It went on to state that American constitution is based on capitalism. Class-III students of Urdu medium in Andhra Pradesh are taught that P V Narasimha Rao is the Prime Minister of the country," Semmalai said, evoking laughter all around the House.

Finding further faults with the textbooks, he said, "In the CBSE textbooks, a forest is defined as a group of trees and heavy industry is defined as one where heavy type of raw materials are used."

The member said that only 15 per cent of graduates are suitable for employment and it is a sorry state of affairs. It reflects the poor quality of education at all levels, from primary to higher levels.

He lamented, "If this is the quality and stuff that we provide to our students, one can imagine what will be the standard of our students.

"Unless we make concerted efforts to allocate six per cent of the GDP to education, our goal will remain unreachable," he added.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/School-textbooks-Pakistan-is-part-of-India-P-V-Narasimha-Rao-is-countrys-PM/articleshow/13170970.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET piece by Aakar Patel on why Indian kids do well in spelling bees in US:

The annual ritual where Indians demonstrate they are smarter than all other Americans is the National Spelling Bee.

So dominant are the Indians in this school competition that they have been winners eight times in the last 10 years. If anything, this trend is becoming even more pronounced. Indians took the first spot in each of the last five years and all three top places in this year’s contest that finished on May 31.

What explains this total dominance of Indians, who are only one per cent of America’s population? It is hardly the case that we speak or write English better than Europeans or Americans. How are Indians so good with difficult words?

The online magazine Slate explored this subject in 2010 in their “Explainer” column. The writer concluded that the effort of an organisation called the North South Foundation was responsible.

This body of expatriate Indians conducted local spelling and other contests that made Indian children better. These contests were very competitive, therefore, giving Indians both experience and an edge when they took the national stage. The Slate writer doesn’t explore why it is that Indians are so enthusiastic about this particular contest in the first place.

The fact is that it plays to their strength, which is learning by rote. Memorising tracts is and has always been the Indian way of acquiring knowledge. It is also the way in which learning is examined in Indian schools. Answers to questions about history, geography and even science that aligned word for word with what the textbook said got you full marks when I was a child, and this hasn’t changed.

Indians have a word in each of their languages for this sort of learning. It is called ratta in Hindi, for instance, and gokh in Gujarati. It refers to reading, repeatedly reciting, and thereby, memorising whole pages of prose.

This may not be a good way of learning, if it is learning at all, but this has always been the case in India. Hindus developed a complex system of memorising and reciting the entire Rig Veda so that it would not be lost in the period before literacy.

Even today, Indian adults consider it an act of learning to be able to put on display their ability to be mug up. Stephen Cohen wrote about this in his book India: Emerging power. He remarked that there was a difference in styles when Indian and American diplomats negotiated. Indians took pride in recounting the minutiae of events in the past, dates and background and that sort of thing. This was done, Cohen felt, for no reason other than to show that there was mastery over the subject. Americans, on the other hand, were focussed only on the issue at hand.

It is true that all students, whether Indian or not, must memorise to be able to do well in America’s National Spelling Bee. A Washington Post report before the finals quoted one American child’s mother saying that her son had studied for 8,000 hours in preparation.
------------
This advantage Indians have of being able to find the time and motivation to commit things to memory is not particularly useful outside of things like spelling contests. It is of no use in thinking about problems and solutions. I would say it is the reason why the output of our colleges and universities is low on quality (India’s software body NASSCOM says nine out of 10 Indian engineering graduates who apply to one of the big four software firms are rejected as being unemployable).

So while India’s dominance of the National Spelling Bee puts on display its middle class values, it also showcases the problems of its system of education.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/387854/why-indians-win-the-spelling-bee/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a TOI story of dearth of research in India:

NEW DELHI: At a time when India is being looked at as the next big knowledge superpower, this could come as a shocker. Just 3.5% of global research output in 2010 was actually from India. In most disciplines, India's share in global research output was actually much below this overall average count.

Sample this - India's share of world research output in clinical medicine was a meagre 1.9% in 2010, 0.5% in psychiatry, 1.4% in neurosciences, 1.8% in immunology, 2.1% in molecular biology and just 3.5% in environmental research.

In mathematics, India's share of world output stood at around 2% in 2010 while it was 17% for China. In case of materials sciences, India's share of world research stood at 6.4% in 2010 while China's stood at 26% -- a rise from 5% in 1996.

While India's research on physics stood at 4.6% in 2010, China's stood at 19%.

In 2010, India's largest shares of world research output were in chemistry (6.5%), materials science (6.4%), agricultural sciences (6.2%), pharmacology and toxicology (6.1%), microbiology (4.9%), physics (4.6%) and engineering (4.2%).

India is often referred to as the next big place for computer sciences. But the figures on its research is abysmally low. Only 2.4% of global research on computer sciences was from India in 2010 while the world share moved to three emerging research economies - China 15%, Korea 6.3% and Taiwan 5.7%.

India's global share of research in economics stood at 0.7% in 2010 while in social sciences it was worse - 0.6%.

The biggest declines in volume of research between 1981 and 2010 were in plant and animal sciences (-2.2%) and agricultural sciences (-1.6%). The most significant expansions were in pharmacology and toxicology (+4.2%), microbiology (+3.2%) and materials sciences (+3.1%).

These are the findings of the study on India's research output and collaboration conducted by Thomson Reuters and recently submitted to the department of science and technology.

"India has been the sleeping giant of Asia. Research in the university sector, stagnant for at least two decades, is now accelerating but it will be a long haul to restore India as an Asian knowledge hub. Indian higher education is faced with powerful dilemmas and difficult choices - public/private, access/equity, uncertain regulation, different teaching standards and contested research quality," the report said.

According to it, India's share of world output in engineering fell from 4.3% in 1981 to 2.2% by 1995. India later regained its lost share, increasing to 4.25 by 2010. However, even then, India was overtaken by China (16.4%), Korea (5.4%) and Taiwan (4.4%).

India, where agriculture dominates economic standards, had quite a large share in agricultural sciences which averaged 7.45% over the 1981 to 1995 period, well ahead of other emerging research economies. Its share, however, fell to 6.2% in 2010. Even in the field of plant and animal sciences, the global research output fell from 6.1% in 1981 to 3.9% in 2010.

The report said, "India has a long and distinguished history as a country of knowledge, learning and innovation. In the recent past, however, it has failed to realize its undoubted potential as a home for world class research."

It added, "During the 1980s and 90s, the output of India's research was almost static while other countries grew rapidly, particularly in Asia. China expanded with an intensity and drive that led it rapidly to overtake leading European countries in the volume of its research publications. India is just beginning on this gradient."


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-accounts-for-just-3-5-of-global-research-output-Study/articleshow/16551045.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Thane Richard, a Brown University student who did a semester abroad at St. Stephens College in India:

“Wait, what?! You are studying here for three years just so you can go do it again for four more years?” I could not grasp the logic of this. What changed my understanding was when I started taking classes at St. Stephen’s College. Except for one, they were horrible.
This was not an isolated incident — all my fellow exchange students concurred that the academics were a joke compared to what we were used to back home. In one economic history class the professor would enter the room, take attendance, open his notebook, and begin reading. He would read his notes word for word while we, his students, copied these notes word for word until the bell sounded. Next class he would find the spot where the bell had interrupted him, like a storyteller reading to children and trying to recall where he had last put down the story. He would even pause slightly at the end of a long sentence to give us enough time to finish writing before he moved on. And this was only when he decided to show up — many times I arrived on campus to find class abruptly cancelled. Classmates exchanged cell phone numbers and created phone trees just to circulate word of a cancelled class. I got a text almost daily about one of my classes. My foreigner peers had many similar experiences.
---------------
To pause for a moment, here is the problem with me talking about this topic: right now many Indians reading this are starting to feel defensive. “Nationalist” is a term I have heard as a self-description as they defend Mother India from the bigoted, criticising foreigner. They focus on me rather than the problem. I have had people unfriend me on Facebook and walk out on meals because I politely expressed an opinion on politics or history that went against the publicly consented “Indian opinion.” For a nation that prides itself on the 17 languages printed on its currency, I am greeted with remarkable intolerance. Even after living in India for close to three years, attending an Indian college, working for an Indian company, founding an Indian company, paying taxes in India, and making India my home, I am not Indian enough to speak my mind. But in a nation that rivals all others in the breadth of its human diversity, who is Indian enough? Because if loyalty and a feeling of patriotism were the barometers for “Indianness,” rather than skin colour or a government document, then I would easily be a dual U.S.-Indian citizen. This Indian defensiveness is false nationalism. It is not a stance that cares about India, it is one that cares about what others think of India, which is not nationalism. That is narcissism.
My voice should be drowned out by the millions around me who are disappointed with how they have been short-changed by the Indian government — their government. Education is one of the most poignant examples of this and serves as great dinner conversation amongst the elite:
“The Indian education system is lost in the past and failing India.” Everyone at the table nods, mumbles their concurrence, and cites the most recent Economist article or Pricewaterhouse Cooper study on the matter in order to masquerade as informed....


http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/an-indian-education/article4683622.ece

Riaz Haq said...

India's lost generation: A systemic risk?

Singaporean Thomas Ong, a director at a local private equity firm, recently got invited as a guest lecturer at a private college in Jaipur, India. "I had heard stories about India's young people with 'excellent academic and English speaking skills' but what I encountered was the complete opposite," he said.

Not one student in a class of 100 has ever heard of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Most students could not understand, let alone speak fluent English. "The only question they had at the end the lecture was how to find a job at home or abroad," Ong said.

His account is anecdotal evidence of what human resource experts, corporate leaders and countless surveys have been highlighting over the past few years - that despite India's huge talent pool of graduates, few are equipped with skills to be gainfully employed.


According to a survey conducted by Aspiring Minds, an entrepreneurial initiative in preparing youth for employability, as many as 83 percent of graduating engineers in 2013 could not find jobs, given their poor English language and cognitive skills.

In fact, only 2.6 percent of graduates in India were recruited in functional roles like accounting, 15.9 percent in sales-related roles and 21.3 percent in the business process outsourcing sector. "Nearly 47 percent of Indian graduates are unemployable in any sector, irrespective of their academic degrees," noted Varun Aggarwal, co-founder and COO of Aspiring Minds.

The statistics run counter to the perception that India's relatively youthful population could help reap demographic dividends for the country down the line.
----------
For India however, the reality on the ground couldn't be more different. "It is not unusual to see graduates employed as security guards, driver or waiters in restaurants, given the poor standards of education. So what demographic dividend are we talking of? The generation coming of age in the 1920s faces the greatest underemployment ever in history," said Anil Sachdev, a human resources specialist and career coach.

The fault appears to lie in the dismal education standards in India. As little as 10- 12 percent of the 15-29 year-old age group in India receives any formal or informal training compared with to 28 percent in Mexico or 96 percent in South Korea.

For tertiary education, none of the 42 central universities in India feature in the most recent QS list of best 200 colleges in the world. In the rankings of the best MBA schools by the Financial Times, the prestigious Indian School of Business has fallen six places to the 36th spot this year and Indian names are conspicuously missing in the top 25 places.

Analysts say a lack of occupational focus in the degrees offered by local universities could be partly to blame. Some 82 percent of the enrolment is in arts, sciences and commerce programs rather than specific skill-based courses. Even among the engineering and management colleges, less than 25 percent can apply theoretical knowledge to functional areas, given the emphasis on rote learning and theory in the education system, says Aggarwal. The situation progressively deteriorates moving into the tier 2-3 towns from the metros.


"Excessive government regulation, outmoded curricula and a drop in the standards of teaching have led to a deterioration in the standards of education so much so that India's demographic dividend may well turn out to be a demographic disaster," said Pramath Sinha, co-founder of the new-age Ashoka University and ex-dean of Indian School of Business, the country's first public private initiative to bridge jobs and employability gap.


http://finance.yahoo.com/news/indias-lost-generation-systemic-risk-223155178.html