Over the top

Your cover feature ‘Coming of age in the republic of chronic injustice’ (EW January) while well intentioned, was a bit over the top. Though it may be true to argue that post-independence India is a republic of injustice, it’s hardly the republic of injustice. There are at least 20 other republics worldwide — including the People’s Republic of China — where worse injustices, especially human rights violations, are rampant.

Nevertheless your attempt to spotlight the impact of chronic social, economic and legal injustices upon the minds of the young and impressionable is commen-dable. Though our self-serving leaders are unaware of it, there is a lot of pent-up anger within the nation’s youth which is being reflected in a tidal wave of youth crimes, which police forces in all the states are successfully suppressing. As Dr. Sekhar Seshadri of nimhans rightly observes "schisms, hierarchies and discrimination within post-liberalisation India are becoming sharper and more pronounced".

You rightly suggest that Republic Day this year after the great tsunami tragedy, should be a time for deep introspection and stocktaking about the future direction of Indian society.

T.S. Oomen
Kochi (Kerala)

Case for common school system

Congratulations for your excellent special report feature ‘India’s unchecked textbooks racket’ (EW January). It is a devastating expose of the countrywide textbooks racket that is blighting the future of hundreds of millions of children born into the country’s poorest and most socially disadvantaged households.

Srinidhi Raghavendra deserves kudos for blowing the lid off the issue of vernacular languages as the medium of instruction. The linkage between promotion of regional languages and printing of shoddy textbooks in vernacular languages which are "shoved down the unprotesting throats of children of the poor" is clearly established. It’s shameful that this racket which blights the prospects of millions of poor children, has been allowed to flourish for so long.

Your well-researched special report makes an eloquent plea for a common school system which will result in standardised textbooks for all children. It needs to be implemented immediately, without further delay!

Amithabh Srivastava

Mallya Aditi example

Your cover feature ‘Fading allure of five-star schools’ (EW December) made very interesting reading. I am a teacher who put her son through the first new school in Bangalore (at that time). I later returned to India to teach there, but have left the country again. I have worked in international schools throughout my professional life, and am keenly aware of what is true international education.

The school that I’m talking about is the Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore, and I am surprised you didn’t mention it in your feature. It’s the one that led the country into international education at reasonable, affordable prices. It is a not-for-profit initiative, and this in itself is a new idea in the structure of educational institutions in India. It still delivers splendid education to students, is a research-based organisation and despite the pull of the IT industry, attracts really good teachers. It is the first school I know of in this city which has put together a dedicated support programme for students with learning differences.

You might perhaps want to visit this school and see its magic, for some future edition of your excellent magazine!

Jyoti Thyagarajan on e-mail

Case for state subsidisation

I read with great interest Srinidhi Raghavendra’s news report titled ‘Autonomy give and take’ (EW December, p. 13). While the writer laments with certain city colleges over the prevarication of the state government in granting autonomy, he also disappoints us with serious misconceptions and misrepresent-ations concerning government funding of private aided institutions. Curiously he seems to believe that one unsubstantiated statement from an anonymous education consultant can frame the debate over state funding and resolve a profoundly complex issue such as education financing.

Let me begin with the implications of the insinuations of the anonymous education consultant. In his opinion college managements are "hooked on government handouts" and are "lazy" and "gutless" in fending for themselves and hence take the "subsidies" totally for granted. Besides the vulgarity of the comment, it assumes that government funding is a terrible mistake because educational institutions are dependent on "unconscionable" subsi-dies. This simplifies the issue of educational finance itself and no one worth his/ her intellectual integrity can legitimise such abject insensitivity.

Institutions require sustained state funding to keep the cost of education low enough to include marginalised and deprived communities within their sphere of access. This means that there is a concerted social conscience that institutions continue to possess, despite the abject commercialisation of education all around. In a sense this social commitment resists the denial of higher education to disadvantaged classes, both rural and urban. For instance, the mission to offer "excellence with relevance" that focuses on the preferential option for the poor and the marginalised, distinguishes the educational vision and orientation of St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore. We admit students who can barely afford to pay their present subsidised tuition, examination and other fees. This is the rationale for seeking sustained state support rather than laziness or dependency.

Second, the education consultant implies that since the state is only a funding body, it can abrogate its role in and responsibility to higher education. Education then is perceived as a profit good and must be forced to yield returns on investment. Indeed that means a commodification of the educational processes. By implication education should be for sale to the highest bidders.

Third, Raghavendra seems to believe that academic autonomy to educational institutions must be stitched together with financial autonomy. One needs only to observe — not just superficially — educational experiments particularly in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, to evaluate the progressive and meaningful success stories there. The state continues to support higher education there without resorting to the threats about "streamlining grants". Moreover the state’s grant for faculty salaries, if downsized, may have to be passed on to students. Wouldn’t that make education unaffordable to the marginalised because the cost of education would treble?

What disappoints me is the writer’s presumption that aided institutions suffer from a "dependency culture". What surprises me is how EducationWorld, a magazine reputed for its intellectual standing, could permit a writer to base his pompous argument about higher education on a fashionable but appallingly naïve comment from a spineless informant who chose to be anonymous.

Prof. Etiennne Rassendren
St. Joseph College, Bangalore

Srinidhi Raghavendra writes: While it is arguable that de-subsidisation of higher education would deny access to the "disadvantaged classes", Prof. Rassendren does not address the issues of targeted subsidisation and creation of a corpus for scholarships by St. Joseph’s College. This would enable the college to reduce its abject financial dependence upon the state government.

Shortsighted edupreneurs

Your cover story ‘Fading allure of five-star schools’ (EW December) highlights yet another field in which entrepreneurs and enterprises have demonstrated shortsighted, poor quality strategic planning and preparation. Businessmen in education ensure it is driven by lucre rather than principles and dedication.

The problem with promoters of five-star schools is that they fail to take a balanced approach which is sustainable and successful in the long term. They create a show of quality without substance and exploit a fad-driven public. No doubt the world has plenty of rich fools who are impressed by glitz and glamour. But in turn promoters who neglect faculty training and development are fooling themselves because the truth will be out.

K.V. Simon on e-mail

Open secret of the West

I have read the November and December issues of EducationWorld with consu-ming interest. You’re absolutely right in discerning that the golden key to India’s development and renaissance is universal quality education for all. Indeed this is the open secret behind the triumph and success of the western world.

In particular I appreciated your anniversary issue (November) lead features — ‘Vital reform agenda for Indian education’, ‘Young champions of education in Parliament’ and your special report ‘Swelling tide of youth violence’ (EW December). There’s no doubt that your magazine is highlighting vital human development resource issues which have been ill-advisedly neglected in the centrally planned Indian economy.

However on the downside, your publication is poorly publicised and hard to obtain. After a friend recommended it to me, I had to make the rounds of several bookshops in Delhi to acquire copies of EducationWorld. You need to improve your distribution and circulation.

Raskesh Asthana

Optometry information

In the careers page report ‘Glowing future for optometrists’ (EW December 2004) Indra Gidwani lists several institutions and universities offering study programmes in optometry.

I may add that our Study Centre, Gujarat Vidyabharti Education Academy at Ahmedabad also offers the six semester (three years) Bachelor of Optometry programme of the Allahabad Agriculture Institute — Deemed University, Allahabad (UP), under its distance education programme. This university is approved by UGC and Union ministry of HRD.

Dr. D.N. Chhatrapati
Director, Gujarat Vidyabharati Education Academy,

Convincing piece

I would like to comment on the cover story ‘Fading allure of five-star schools’ (EW December).

As an experienced expatriate teacher teaching the IB programme in one of the other Mumbai schools (not mentioned in the article), it was of particular interest and I must congratulate your team on what seemed to me to be a thouroughly well researched and convincing piece of journalism. There were many valid and pertinent points that were raised.

Philip Yau on e-mail

Unwarranted English language bias

I am a regular reader of EducationWorld and have also written letters regarding articles published in the past. I am indeed outraged by the way you advocate English medium education for all school children in the country.

This letter is in direct response to the special report feature titled ‘India’s unchecked textbooks racket’ (EW January). In the article the writer deplores "…government schools which force questionable quality education in under-developed vernacular languages down the unprotesting throats of the children…"

Implicit in the comment is that all Indian vernacular languages are under-developed. I believe you are unaware that several Indian languages including Sanskrit and Tamil have been conferred ‘classical language’ status, which means that these languages are highly developed and nearly perfect. Just because beef-eating, thick-tongued westerners are unable to speak our languages, it doesn’t make them under-developed.

I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that studies have shown that by 2015, Spanish will be the most widely spoken language in the US. Spanish is already a dominant language in Europe and South America. So going by your current judgement, if you are still the editor of EducationWorld in 2015, you will probably advocate the use of Spanish as the medium of instruction in India also.

I would like to bring to your attention other articles published in your magazine which clearly expose that you are short-sightedly biased in favour of English. For example, in the feature ‘Young champions of education in Parliament’ (EW November), though four of the seven young MPs with ‘blue-chip education’ interviewed by your correspondents were against the introduction of English as the medium of instruction in schools, you implied that they were strongly in favour of teaching in English.

I don’t know whether you have ever bothered to learn to speak, read and write an Indian language but going by your advocacy of English, I am scared to think what might happen to the core of India i.e diversity in culture, language, dressing etc if you were to become the country’s prime minister. You would probably pass a legislation imposing one language (English), dressing (western), maybe even eating (continental) etc for the entire country without bothering about people’s cultural sensitivities.

Rahul Vasisht on e-mail

There is no dearth of research studies which indicate that the majority of people in India prefer English medium education as it ensures equal employment opportunity — Editor