Professor Dinesh Mohan of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) New Delhi was right on the mark. Speaking in New Delhi last week, his understanding of the socio-economic reasons behind the so-called neo-liberal assault on higher education made me think. He is so right.
He said if you look around your circle of friends and extended families you will find that most people who are even less than mediocre are doing so well. They have been 'educated' in foreign universities or have degrees from some private education institutes in India and yet we know they fall in the category of stupid. They are there because they could afford to be 'educated', even if they didn't deserve it.
Well, I immediately let my mind wander, and gosh he was so right. Many of my close friends and relatives certainly do not deserve to be where they are. They wouldn't have gone beyond the graduation level if higher education was not available for a price. Because they got those degrees, they managed to meet the essential qualification that landed them with plush jobs. These jobs should have actually gone to more aspiring and deserving candidates who were left behind because they could not 'afford' higher education.
Estimating the middle class to be around 250 million, Prof Dinesh Mohan said this means we have roughly 40 million families which fall in that category. They have children, some of them of course are bright, but a majority are stupid. Every parent makes the best of efforts to see that his children, howsoever stupid they may be, acquire the best of education (read degrees). Now, this wouldn't be possible unless he/she overcomes the competition from youngsters who come from the poor strata of life.
Since this stupid generation is unable to compete on merit, the next best option is to remove merit. Therefore, while the middle class talks of merit and talent, it actually hates competition based on merit. Private schools, colleges and universities have come in handy to rescue this stupid generation, and ofcourse generations after generation.
I found this argument very appealing, and of course true.
If money couldn't buy education, and deprive the poor but bright students from higher education, we wouldn't have a majority of the politicians, and scions of the business families, coming back with degrees from Harvard, Cambridge and even some obscure university hidden in a street corner somewhere in Liverpool or Melbourne. Just think. Anil and Mukesh Ambani wouldn't have been heading the Empire if they were not the children of Dhirubhai? They certainly couldn't have managed higher education in the US since they were not meritorius enough. At best, they would have been upper division clerks somewhere if they were born to lesser mortals.
If you look around, you will find the same story everywhere. Your neighbour's son/daughter would have found it difficult to strike a better deal in matrimony since even there education qualification counts.
No wonder, more than 300 members of Parliament own colleges/universities. They are catering to a class of society that can only 'buy' education.
To hasten this process, the government is planning to introduce in Parliament the following four bills:
1. The Foreign Educational Institutional Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010.
2. The Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010.
3. The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 20101.
4. The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010.
At least, two more Bills in the same vein, including one on establishing the much-hyped National Commission for Higher Education and Research for facilitating single-window clearance for private/foreign universities, are reportedly in the offing, says Anil Sadgopal. And let us not forget the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Research, Education and Marketing (KIA) that UPA-I had introduced.
This is a subject which needs a lot of debate and discussion, which unfortunately is not happening. Although the Prime Minister says that he is not working for the US, the fact remains that his government is in a tearing hurry to corporatise all sectors of the Indian economy, including education. And as James Petras, author of Globalisation Unmasked, had said: "The inevitability of globalisation and the adjustment or submission of people all over the world to free market capitalism depend upon the capacity of dominant and ruling classes to bend people to their own will and make them see the interest of capital as their own."
[If you want to know more about what the government is doing to destroy education, suggest you try to get hold of a small publication: "Neo-liberal assault on Higher Education" edited by Anil Sadgopal. His email is: email@example.com]