#IITs: Thoughts on Indian education

With Modi sarkar completing 2 years in office, I wondered to myself what would be befitting to write about on such an occasion. I was about to write about the Rishi Kapoor and Senior Bachchan controversies being played out in the media, but I felt this was too trivial a subject to talk about on such a day. After some thought, I felt that I should write about what I feel is the most important sector a nation can possibly have: education.

The biggest resource in India is people. I have always felt bad that India is not particularly rich in coal, oil or uranium, but the one thing we do have is people. And we must remember that ultimately people are what make all resources possible. Nothing is a resource until we know how to use it.

So, this is the biggest new announcement in the Indian education sector:

The Union Cabinet which met today gave its ex post facto approval to amend The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 for incorporation of new IITs at Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Palakkad (Kerala), Dharwar (Karnataka), Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), Goa, Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir) and conversion of Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad to an IIT under the law.


Now I see the utility in having more IITs. We have a huge crop of millions of bright young minds springing up every year and providing them with a sound education is an enormous challenge. But can I go out on a limb and say that “creating more IITs by government order” is not a good solution?

First and foremost, the government simply wishing new IITs into existence by amending a law does not create new world class institutions by itself. Worse, it risks diluting the “IIT brand”, which is a truly powerful global brand. As such, I strongly feel that these new institutions should be created not as IITs at birth, but as “wannabe IITs”.

Let me explain. I mean that these new institutes should have a new name…like Indian Institute of Science and Technology (think of something)…with the possibility of being “upgraded to IITs” at a later stage. This upgradation would happen when the new institutes are able to reach a certain level in number and quality of faculty and most importantly research output. This could be assessed, for instance, every 3 years, with only a fixed number of  institutions to be allowed for upgradation every year. For instance, out of these six new institutions, you could have a provision that not more than 2 can be upgraded to IITs within 6-8 years. This coveted IIT status would bring with it massive prestige and huge increases in funding. This would spark off tremendous competition between the institutes. As a deeply right wing person, I tend to think that the way to improve most things lies in higher competition.

On the other hand and this would be even more controversial…it should be possible…at least in theory to downgrade existing IITs if they screw up on their research output. To make it more interesting, whenever an existing IIT is downgraded, it opens up an extra IIT slot for someone else to fill 🙂 Imagine the condition of a downgraded ex-IIT, which would immediately set off an exodus of its best faculty and a massive loss of face. This fear should definitely set the cat among the pigeons 🙂 🙂

Of course, measures like this are hard to take for any government. Because it is much easier to give out feel good headlines like “6 new IITs”.

Of course, the problems of Indian education run much deeper. The first and foremost problem is to fix the “leaky pipeline” from primary education to college. The vast vast majority of Indian kids never have a chance to be in a decent  primary schools, which is by far our biggest problem. This is a criminal waste of human resources, akin to Saudi Arabia deliberately setting fire to their own oil wells. The real reform cannot come from creating more IITs, but from better primary schools. On this front, government schools can only go so far. Teachers in most states are unmotivated, hired usually due to favoritism and fake degrees are an epidemic. We need BIG change.

We need the charter model of schooling, which is sweeping the US right now. Instead of opening up schools, the government attaches the money to each student. A charter school, which is a private institution, collects the money from the government  for each student it admits. The key is that the charter schools all compete with each other to admit students and parents are completely free to pick the school they want. This model would be even more successful in India, where parents, no matter how uneducated themselves, understand the value of education. I believe that this is one of our greatest cultural advantages. Indians value education. We have a deep seated 5000 year old reverence for knowledge. This is a trait that I have found to be missing in America…where people in the “lower strata” often don’t seem to care about school as much. This is probably also a result of the complete breakdown of the American family at lower levels of the economic ladder, hastened by welfare policies that make it easier for a 16 year old American girl to knock out a couple of kids and go on public assistance rather than make something of herself by getting an education. Marriage is generally not an option because that would actually reduce welfare payments. No wonder that households like this, with single parents who dropped out of school at 15-16 and with kids from several fathers, don’t really understand the importance of education. Please note that this is not a moral opinion on personal sexual conduct or lifestyle choices of people, just an assessment of the perverse incentives created by the current American system.

Such a charter system may not be too far to achieve even in India. Take the midday meal scheme. The government has already partnered with private organizations like Akshay Patra to provide these meals rather than have the school cook the meals. Now all we must do is adopt the same model for the actual academics of the school as for the midday meals. In fact, under RTE, the government already has a model where private schools are paid by the state for each student they take. Now RTE has MASSIVE problems with the issue of minority institutions … in fact it is Sonia Gandhi’s prescription to finish off Hindu educational institutions (which deserves its own post). I am not praising RTE, just noting that the government has already in place a system of paying schools per student. It just needs to be expanded.

Well, thats just my 2 cents on Indian education. Of course the issue is vast and probably deserves a blog dedicated just to it… let me know what you folks think…I just thought that on the 2nd anniversary of the Modi government, I would talk about a difficult and heavy subject rather than some transient cable news media driven issue.

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PS: The last time I threw out a one-line guess on a risky topic, I won and Amma returned to power in TN. So, I am encouraged to make another. After watching Modi’s Saharanpur rally, I am making another: Rajnath is BJP’s CM face for Uttar Pradesh. 




22 thoughts on “#IITs: Thoughts on Indian education

  1. I second your all points. My opinion is that, we do not have a proper education system. As soon as,Indian kid has started nursery, the education load increases exponentially. This makes Indian children more stressed and so they are forced to perform instead innovate.
    I do not have good opinion of IIT, since the students passed from IITs either go abroad or select MNCs. Few percentage serve the nation by joining defense or other government institutes, while we taxpayers end up paying at least 3 lacs per IIT student.(not sure about figure but read somewhere). We even have NITs which are younger brothers of IITs, but the fate of students is same. As per me other the main problem is that, Indian government spends little on “RESEARCH”. We do not have quality PhDs. GOI needs to spend more on research.


    1. The problem with most IIT kids is that the road to IIT is so long and hard that most are burned out by the time they reach. At that point, they have lost their enthusiasm for science and are mostly looking for a safe placement with fat pay packet. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but the problem is that we are destroying the energy of our youth for innovation.


  2. Nice one.We have the advantage of having a demographic dividend.But for us to make full use of this advantage,education is important.You are right when you say that primary education must be improved.I read somewhere that many kids drop out of school after a certain age(forgot the age though) and don’t go on to finish school.This is the #1 problem that needs to be fixed in the education system.Learning in India isn’t fun at all.If you have done really well in academics, and have gotten good marks in India,it just means that you have the capability to memorize large chunk of data/information well.It doesn’t mean that you have a good grasp of the subject that is being taught.I myself am still studying and the curriculum is filled with stuff that a student might not even use once he finishes the course and this just burdens the students even more.And don’t even ask me about teachers/professors.Probably the worst aspect of the Indian education system.Aprt from fixing the education system,we also need to skill training to the workforce in order to take advantage of the demographic dividend that we have.This is why in my opinion,Skill India is the 2nd most important scheme launched by the Modi Govt(on par with Make in India and only behind Jan Dhan Yojana).I hope a large % of the population is skilled in the next 10 years.This was a major ingredient in China’s growth story and is absolutely essential to get in our quest to become an economic powerhouse.


    1. Looking at Chinese universities, it is remarkable how well the Chinese brought research into their institutions. They firmed up their education system at the primary and secondary levels and then put their university faculties under intense pressure to produce research…with a system of direct incentives. India needs an “Education Czar” who can make sweeping reforms. Its this tremendous resource we have and we are wasting it all…


  3. Regarding Rajnath Singh,I hope you are wrong.PV(@Pingvond)(grew up in UP apparently) suggested Udit Raj who is a Dalit(don’t know much about him though) and he didn’t like the idea of having Rajnath as the CM candidate.I will be happy if BJP either:1)doubles it’s seat tally and gets 100+ seats(got 47 last time) and preferably 114+ since 114 would be enough to get 3/10 RS seats that will be up for grabs in 2018(you need to get 38 seats in order to get 1 out of the 10 seats that will be up for grabs in 2018 so 38×3=114) or 2)picks up a large chunk of Dalit votes.If BJP achieves either of these objectives,I will be happy.


    1. For sure, BJP’s priority is to win UP in 2019 LS polls. And to be sure, electorate will distinguish between state and central poll. As such, priority #1 is to finish off SP as a challenger and become at least main opposition. But BJP must fight to win. We cannot fight for second place…then we will be like CPIM…lolz.

      I have followed PV on Twitter for a while, but he is dead wrong on Udit Raj. If they make him CM candidate, RSS workers will revolt. Udit Raj has just joined the BJP. Look at Udit Raj’s writings and views before that… He was a junior Kancha Ilaiah. If I was in Delhi, even I might have refused to vote for Udit Raj. There is no way such a newcomer, very likely a rank opportunist with deep anti-Hindu ideological roots can be CM candidate of BJP…that too from Uttar Pradesh.

      I have been saying for a long time that a Dalit CM face in UP would be a gamechanger. But it seems BJP simply cannot find one. There are enough Dalit MPs, but none of them has any real image. To win UP, BJP needs to activate the twin planks of Hindutva and development, but cant find a Dalit whom the entire state knows. Ram Shankar Katheria from Agra is an option though…he is the dark horse. But still his name recognition is nothing compared to Rajnath Singh.


        1. Cabinet perhaps not, but yes maybe State minister. But as on date, no Sangh worker can feel connection to him. I twitch in embarrassment every time someone like Jagadambika Pal or Sabir Ali comes on TV to defend BJP. I understand that for strategic reasons we need migratory birds…but surely for UP the party should find someone who has given his life to party work. Sonowal’s case is totally different, since his anti-illegal Bangladeshi plank fits perfectly and has been neatly absorbed into BJP’s wider philosophy.


  4. I feel the very term “educated” needs to be redifined not merely as a degree holder but an individual who has been inculcated with moral,ethical and social values who will contribute to the welfare ,development and prosperity of the society and the country.
    We have to reflect on the fact that our rote oriented education does not produce creative engineers or scientist who have invented any new or game changing invention or our scientist have postulated original theory on any matter.
    Our IIT educated engineers make good Java coders and are good at copy paste jobs but have not been able invent any software language,our scientists and institutes have not produced any earth shaking discoveries.In short our education system does not produce geniuses or prodigies like Zuckerberg,Bill Gates who created PC operating system,or Gosling who invented Java language.
    Small country like Switzerland has produced airplanes which can fly on solar power.
    Our education system does not produce archeologist who have deciphered ancient pharoic acript or made discoveries of ancient tombs or mythical city such as Troy.
    Our archeologist merely potter around for years with out any finds except few pottery pieces inspite of our countrys 5 thousand years old history.
    Submerged city of Alexenderia was explored and huge evidence of Cleopatra was mapped under the sea.
    The ancient mythical submerged city of Dwarka in BJP led Gujarat lies unexplored,its potential to back the historical exitence of Lord Kirshna remains unattended in the most Krishna
    Conscious state of India.
    Cut throat business men like Bill Gates,WarrenBuffet give 80 to 90 percent of their wealth to charities but our billionaire tycoons or wealthy cine stars,cricketers have heart of stone and cannot part with single paise for drought affected farmers.
    We all need to think on what is wrong with our system.


    1. Indeed..India is massively lagging behind in innovation. The problem is the quality of the faculty at IITs and our social setup. I will be doing a post soon analyzing in detail why our institutions have not been able to excel in research.


  5. Good post!

    The need of the hour is to on war footing take up on the huge shortage in the country of primary schools and Shortage of Teachers.

    Our education system should be skill oriented/job oriented. Churning graduates ,who don’t know what to do after graduation is meaningless.

    All professional colleges should be merit based only no reservation whatsoever!

    I am of the opinion the increase in number of IIT is good ,for our country considering the size of population/country . I don’t understand why there should be dilution,it can be world class provided they have attractive package to attract the best academicians. The facility and infrastructure can be made world class!

    The GOI should have attractive incentives for the cream of intelligent/brilliant students to take up pure science and research and subsequently assured place in research institutes. Indians are basically brainy compared to the whites ,unfortunately all these brainy guys make a beeline to foreign countries and develop for those countries ,where the credit will be take by the whites!!

    Examples of some great Indians whose inventions/discoveries were stolen by west YELLAPRAGADA SUBBAROW  and JAGDISH CHANDRA BOSE.


    1. I once watched a documentary about Dr. Yellapragada Subbarao and was wowed by everything he had discovered. My mother, who is a doctor and prescribes every day the medicines he discovered, had never heard of him either…


  6. Please re evaluate ur support for Modi. He is doing a no of things that is irritating Hindu voters.
    Sharia banking is latest. If BJP doesn’t act honestly on Bangla issue in Assam, then it can be safely assumed, that Modi is another sekoolar fraud.


    1. Dear AS,
      I first became aware of Islamic Banking when Raghuram Rajan was becoming RBI gov. Someone forwarded me an old link to Rajan supporting Islamic Banking. I was very angry too. However, an investment banker friend of mine (and big time BJP supporter) explained to me about Islamic banking. There is a lot of idle money sitting in Indian banks because Muslims don’t believe in the traditional banking system. Idle money helps no one. If this money is actually invested, it is always better. Money is money. The Saudi Bank from Jeddah is coming to invest in India. Why should we say no to billions of $$$$ ?

      Islamic banking is not a subsidy. It is the opposite of a subsidy. It is Muslims investing their own private money. And when money is put to work, everyone wins. I don’t see anything objectionable.


      1. I am sorry. This is just another pathetic symbol of religion of peace.

        The total GDP of top Gulf states is $4tn (Saudi, Iran, Egypt added Turkey too). They can’t bring in more than 4-5 bn. Not of consequence.

        Muslim world got nothing. Except oil. Stop pandering to Islam. Chabahar is another nonsense. That money should have gone in Myanmar/Timor/Vietnam. We don’t have much money. Look east. And keep ur powder dry in the west.

        Earlier RBI Governors rejected Islamic Banking. Its total fraud. Of the low IQ variety.

        There is already a section of ‘bhakts’ losing faith in Modi on Hindutva issues. Non action in Assam will be the last straw.

        Hindutva support for Modi is not automatic. BJP ‘trimurti’ should remember 2004.

        Islam pandering is not acceptable.


          1. I am a banker. I know those No’s. No one puts more than a couple of bns in 1 place.

            I rather take money from Japs/Chinese and US/EU pension/insurance funds.

            Modi is veering dangerously towards the path of sekoolarism.

            Sharia Banking is an appeasement symbol. In UK, Muslims were ‘offended’ by ads of Barclay’s saving deposits scheme because it had pics of ‘piggy bank’. Pl don’t go that road.

            There are many other issues too on which he is doing sekoolar ism. There are many where we expected, but he did not do anything. http://swarajyamag.com/ideas/modi-government-has-not-done-much-to-correct-civilisational-issues

            Then there is happy bday nawaz sharief.
            I doubt if he is sincere in bangla immigration in assam either.

            Sharia financing will open floodgates of mullah financing. Check how the mosques in EU are funded.

            Like i said, it may be time to ‘watch’ Modi now. Intentions don’t seem to be there. 2004 can’t be repeated.


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