By Prof Sudhir K Jain, Director, IIT Gandhinagar | www.iitgn.ac.in
When I was a child, I went to a school called Dharamvati Veera Nursery School. Later on I joined the Raja Jwala Prasad Intermediate College. It was then a trend in small towns in India to name institutions after some reasonably wealthy philanthropist. Raja Prasad, the founder of the college where I studied, was an engineer from Roorkee. He built huge canals at a time when the British were ruling the country. He received enough money from his British employers to become rich without having to resort to corruption of any kind. There was a time in India when it was possible for an honest person to become wealthy.
The point is that during the 1930s and 1940s people in the country were setting up educational institutes not for making money, but because they felt that this was the right way to deploy their wealth.
End of philanthropy in education
In modern India a different sort of system has developed. The government started by saying that we will take care of everyone, and individuals need not worry about things like education. We created this system of “grants” to expand our college infrastructure. The government makes the investments in educational infrastructure and pays the salaries to the staff, the education system is heavily subsidised. But this has killed philanthropy. The practise of wealthy people contributing towards education has stopped. The money that the wealthy people have come to own, has started to move in a different direction.
Some of the famous universities in the country have been created by the government, but what has happened to these universities. Once they were at the top, but now their reputation has started taking a beating. The government pays the salaries of the professors and the administrators. If the salary is not enough, there are strikes. The focus of our educationists has turned towards making money, often at the cost of the education that they have to offer. The entire university atmosphere has started to deteriorate. Some private universities have come up. But as we do not allow profits to be made in the educational space, entrepreneurs use unethical methods to make money.
Opening ourselves to the world
Is there any top ranking university in the world which does not have an international character? Can we imagine a university in the world that does not welcome international talent? How many universities in India have International talent? But how many universities have the capacity to have an international faculty? In 1949, when Jawahar Lal Nehru decided that Thompson College at Roorkee will become an university, the first VC was Mr. Hart, who came from England. If you read the history of Thompson College, you learn that one of the reasons due to which Mr. Hart accepted the position was because he was assured of a higher salary. The thing is that India in 1940’s was able to have international talent in education because we were paying better salaries than anyone.
For that matter, Indian professors in England and America are making good income. Can we make it possible that more talented people start entering our education system? That is what I call “Next practice.” We need to get out of this mentality of closing the doors. People from around the world should be able to enter our campuses and indulge in exchange of new intellectual ideas. In the system of education you don’t lose ideas by sharing them. In fact, the more you share, the more you gain.
It is time we admitted the problems that we are facing. We must be able to say that “All is not well,” with the system of education that we have in our country.