Friday, July 31, 2009

The long journey to IIT-BHU

The journey from IT-BHU to IIT-Varanasi IIT-BHU has been full of unexpected hurdles. This report suggests that a major hurdle has been cleared taking the institution a long step closer to the destination:

The Telegraph: Deal breaks deadlock, BHU closer to IIT tag

Banaras Hindu University’s engineering wing can retain the name of its parent varsity even after being cleaved into an independent IIT, the Centre has accepted, clearing a major roadblock in the execution of a long-promised upgrade.

Charu Sudan Kasturi's report sounds as if the change-over (aka "upgrade") will happen soon. That should be good news to the folks (IT-BHU Global and their allies) who have been involved in getting this done.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some unflattering views on higher ed

  1. Ben Casnocha: Comparing Modern Education to a Placebo:

    Perhaps at some point it doesn't matter what actually happens during those four years; if the song-and-dance is elaborate enough, you will be convinced that education happened, and you will carry intellectual self-confidence with you into the world.

    Does this phenomenon sound familiar?

    If you want your headache to go away, it doesn't matter if you take real Advil or just something that looks and tastes like Advil -- the outcome is the same. The Placebo effect works. Why doesn't the same hold true for education?

  2. Sridhar Vembu (CEO of says something similar in a post on Why IT Happened in Southern India, an Unorthodox Explanation:

    The education for the most past was poor quality, but that does not matter, because of what I have called the Placebo effect of education. What it confers is confidence, while the real knowledge is gained on the job - which is why dropping out of college doesn't do much damage to upper-middle-class kids, who presumably already have an ample supply of confidence.

    Vembu actually has a longer post (from 2005) elaborating on the placebo effect of higher education (it's restricted to engineering education in Tamil Nadu).

  3. Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias: Why signals are shallow:

    ... academia is primarily an institution for credentialling folks as intellectually impressive ...

  4. The previous link is a part of Hanson's debate with Andrew Gelman whose views are a lot more believable than those of Hanson's. Here's the order of the posts:

  5. This "college education is an elaborate signalling game" meme is not really new: this post has a couple of links (and my own take on college education in the comments).

Routes to linguistics

  1. Emily Finn in NYTimes: How I learned to stop worrying and love linguistics.

    My college admissions essay said it all — if only I had stopped and listened to myself at the time. I was more concerned with finding a hook that would set me apart from the tens of thousands of other applicants, who were, of course, trying to do the same thing. [...]

    At my affluent public high school, potential pre-meds and Wall Streeters (yes, at age 17) lined the hallways. Foreign languages were a more unlikely passion. So I seized on that, choosing to narrate my journey from middle-school Francophilia to full-blown foreign grammar nerd.

    Looking through the brochures accumulated on endless campus visits, I didn’t find many schools that offered bachelor’s degrees to people who studied a random assortment of languages, and wanderlust made me reluctant to choose one. But most offered a major in something called linguistics. Maybe by professing my appetite for such a charmingly obscure course of study, I could win over the admissions officers.

  2. In a post linking to Finn's article, Mark Liberman recounts how he ended up choosing linguistics as his major:

    My own reasons for majoring in linguistics were even more accidental. I entered college with sophomore standing, and so I had to declare a major right away. I wanted to major in math, but this required an interview with the department chair, Prof. Gleason, who was distinctly not encouraging.

    "Tell me, young man," he said, peering at me coldly over the top of his glasses, "what new theorems have you proved?"

    "Well", I said, taken aback, "just the ones I was assigned for homework, or on tests. But those weren't new, I guess…"

    "Exactly," he said. "As a rule, we find that mathematical talent shows itself early. So if you haven't made an original contribution by the time you enter college, the chances are that you won't ever do so. I tell you this for your own good."

    I felt somewhat disappointed, since no one had told me before that perfect scores on the SAT mathematics and AP calculus exams were an inadequate qualification for undergraduate study in mathematics. But I could take a hint, and so I decided to seek my fortune elsewhere.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Links ...

Just a couple of links:

  1. IISc admits more doctoral students:

    ...[IISc] has made a record offer of 450 doctorate seats to students this year, the highest ever in its 100-year history.

    The offer is the first step the IISc has taken to expand its student strength and outlook and to respond to suggestion that it could open up a bit more to students.

    The acceptance of this year's offer is expected to be well beyond last year's -- about 320 students registered for PhD last year. This year, already 375 of the 450 have sent in their acceptance letters.

  2. IIT-Hyd to offer MBBS course:

    ... The newly established IIT-Hyderabad is all set to become the first one of its kind to offer MBBS course in the country. ... Speaking to Express, Director IIT-Hyderabad UB Desai revealed that the process has begun right after the IIT Directors meeting with the HRD Minister at New Delhi. “The idea is to have multiple disciplines in the IITs. In the second year itself we have introduced disciplines like humanities, social sciences along with the existing engineering and technology courses,’’ he said. ... “After [taking care of] some formalities, we would be soon announcing the details of the MBBS course,’’ Desai said.

BTW, I checked the website of IIT-H; it is completely different from the wonderfully candid and exuberant version that existed sometime ago -- if you recall, it featured its future plans going all the way up to 2108, and it announced boldly that its junior and senior faculty would receive start-up grants of Rs. 10 million and 20 million, respectively. What it now has is pages and pages of bureaucratese dry content. The stuff about starting an MBBS program is yet to make it to the website.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Buyers of 1984 get a taste of 1984

Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle:

In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by

Here are a few blog reactions:

  • David Pogue: Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others

  • Selva: Do you 'own' your digital things the same way as your material things?

  • Lekhni: Why I will never buy a Kindle

  • Nina Paley: More (C)ensorship

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Higher Ed Links ...

  1. Featured link: Regulatory moves we can believe in:

    Higher education institutions will have to place online details of their faculty and funding, deemed university fees will be regulated and teachers rated under sweeping measures to inject transparency approved today.

    Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal this morning ordered a set of steps aimed at dramatically reducing obfuscation by institutions.

  2. CBI raids AICTE officials. Unearths tons of money.

  3. Bibek Debroy in The Indian Express: In Defence of Kapil Sibal.

  4. Richard Green: Enough Punishment for One Day.

T.T. Ram Mohan on the problems of Delhi Metro

In a post about the recent troubles at DMRC, he says this:

I am in no position to comment on the way the Metro is proceeding. But, as a B-school prof, I will say one thing: there is something terribly wrong with a situation where a 77-year old engineer is considered indispensable.

Hmmm. I wonder why this situation sounds soooo familiar ;-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Links ...

  1. Featured link:

    The Situationist Blog: The Gendered Situation of Chess, has a link to this report in ChessBase News on an interesting version of the stereotype threat:

  2. In a [recent] study, ... Anne Maass, Claudio D’Ettole, Mara Cadinu, Dr Anne Maass (et al.) pitted male and female players against each other via the Internet. Women showed a 50% performance decline when they were aware that they were playing a male opponent.

  3. Ed Yong, writing in December 2008: Why are there so few female chess grandmasters?

  4. P. Balaram in a recent Current Science editorial: Teaching and Research: Inventing a Connection (pdf).

  5. Manoj Mitta in ToI: How JEE is inferior to AIEEE in transparency

  6. T.V. Padma in India pours funds into climate, space research.

  7. Paul Krugman, on his blog: Princeton has asked "all faculty members [to] supply copies of their marriage licenses..." Which makes him wonder, "are there a significant number of my colleagues just pretending to be married?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Death of a professor: "Too much of insufficient evidence"

From this very distressing report:

Nearly three years after he was allegedly beaten to death, six Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists accused of the murder of Prof HS Sabharwal in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, were today acquitted by a Nagpur court due to lack of evidence.


Public prosecutor Praful Shandilya said that there was "too much of insufficient evidence" when the case was transfered from Ujjain to Nagpur. He said he had made an application for further investigations in the case, as relevant material which could lead to a conviction had not been collected by the investigating agency.

"The investigating agency is under the state and there were allegations against the political party ruling the state. So it [state government] got it executed in the manner it wanted," Shandilya said. [Bold emphasis added.]

And the report adds that "ABVP lawyer Pushpendra Kaurav said the prosecution had failed to establish that the accused were at the site of the incident."

How can we understand this failure when "the assault was shown repeatedly on national TV, with two of the main men even circled to identify them," as Dilip points out?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

STIs and HSIs

Shreesh Chaudhary, a professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT-M, returns to the theme of "why Indian science and technology institutions (STIs) [such as the IITs and IISc] [are] known globally and Indian institutions of humanities and social sciences (HSIs) are not, even when we have a tradition of humanities and social sciences?" [He had an earlier column in The Hindu on the reasons behind the success of STIs]. He identifies are three reasons — structural, financial and managerial:

Sidebar: Ashis Nandy's 2004 column in ToI recounts the kind of damage inflicted on our universities by the Indira Gandhi regime: "Long before an emergency was imposed on the country by prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975-77, an emergency was imposed on Indian higher education in the early 1970s."

* * *

Structural (autonomy):

Except in the very recent past, STIs have experienced little political interference. People like A. L. Mudaliar, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, H. N. Sethna, Darshan Singh Kothari, M. J. K. Menon [I think he means M.G.K. Menon], Raja Ramanna, C. N. R. Rao, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, M. S. Swaminathan, Kasturi Rangan and Russy Modi have been on their boards and have protected their charge.

HSIs, on the other hand, have not been so lucky. Hardly a humanist of the calibre of S. Radhakrishnan is available, or likely to be appointed Vice Chancellor, or even as a member of the university executive council today. HSIs do not have the autonomy of the STIs. No one knows why CIEFL became EFLU one fine morning, and why its mandate was changed from research and teacher training in foreign language pedagogy to graduate and undergraduate teaching done by any number of other colleges in and beyond Hyderabad.

STIs make all appointments without reference to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). HSIs have to seek sanction, often go through the UPSC and even the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity of the Government of India, to announce a vacancy.


STIs, besides MHRD funds, receive substantial amounts from other ministries and national bodies.

An IIT spends nearly Rs 300 crore annually of the government money, besides donations from alumni and grants from foreign agencies, industry, and NGOs. HSIs have only MHRD crumbs. STIs award as many research fellowships as the number of eligible candidates. IIT, Madras alone takes nearly 300 research scholars every year. For over 300 universities, the UGC selects fewer than 300 research scholars annually.

HSIs, therefore, do not attract graduates of sufficient merit in sufficient numbers to their research programmes. HSIs provide a poor work environment to their faculty. Their offices, computers, libraries, phones, faxes and vehicles are always inadequate and antiquated. With the exception of JNU, professors at HSIs receive lower salaries than their counterparts at STIs.

Managerial (governance):

Indian STIs may not be the last word in probity, they may not have made great teams, but they have made enough decently functioning ones. That a test like Joint Entrance Examination for admission to the IITs has gone on without a scandal for over 40 years in a country like India — counted among the top ten corrupt countries — is a huge compliment to the systems STIs have created and maintain.

The humanities and social sciences community of India could not save one American Studies Research Centre at Hyderabad, in spite of decades of support from the U.S. Government. The Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla, the result of a dream of the likes of S. Radhakrishnan, has a rather long list of fellows who enjoyed its hospitality without turning in a script. HSIs have become back numbers, proud only of the past. STIs only help create skills.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap

That's the title of this very interesting paper by Scott E. Carrell, Marianne E. Page, James E. West. Here's the abstract:

Why aren't there more women in science? Female college students are currently 37 percent less likely than males to obtain a bachelor's degree in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and comprise only 25 percent of the STEM workforce. This paper begins to shed light on this issue by exploiting a unique dataset of college students who have been randomly assigned to professors over a wide variety of mandatory standardized courses. We focus on the role of professor gender. Our results suggest that while professor gender has little impact on male students, it has a powerful effect on female students' performance in math and science classes, their likelihood of taking future math and science courses, and their likelihood of graduating with a STEM degree. The estimates are largest for female students with very strong math skills, who are arguably the students who are most suited to careers in science. Indeed, the gender gap in course grades and STEM majors is eradicated when high performing female students' introductory math and science classes are taught by female professors. In contrast, the gender of humanities professors has only minimal impact on student outcomes. We believe that these results are indicative of important environmental influences at work.

Budget highlights for higher education

The budget for higher education has gone up by a whopping 36 percent. Take a look at this summary (taken from Expenditure by Ministry/Department, which is a part of Expenditures - Vol. 1; all the budget-related documents are here; all the figures are in crores (10 millions) or rupees:

  2007-08   2008-09 (RE)   2009-10 (BE)  
Total 6242.25 11340.00 15429.00
Plan 3127.50 6800.00 9596.00
Non-Plan   3114.75 4540.00 5833.00

[Keywords: RE stands for revised estimate, and is the best guess from the government about how much it spent in the previous year. BE is the intended allocation for this year. "Plan" stands for buildings, equipment, infrastructure, etc. "Non-Plan" stands for recurring, routine expenses -- salaries, maintenance, etc.]

As you can see, the allocation increased at a higher rate on Plan side (41 %) than on the Non-Plan side (28 %).

The details are also important; so, let's look at them (for which you have to go to Expenditures - Volume 2, and get the document for the Department of Higher Education):

  1. Of the 15,000 crores, UGC gets the biggest slice nearly 47 percent, or 7366.65 crores (up 34 % from 2008-RE).

  2. The next biggest slice -- nearly 35 % -- goes to Technical Education, which provides funding for the IITs, IIMs, NITs, IISc, etc.

  3. The IITs appear to suffer a 5% decrease in allocation of 1605 crores in 2009, from 1685 crores in 2008. If you look at the details, the Plan side actually gets a whopping 23 % cut (685 crores in 2009, against 894 crores in 2008). This is worth exploring a bit more; my initial guess is that last year's allocation for the IITs included a sum for the new IITs, which probably went unspent.

  4. NITs get 1299.90 crores, as against 1159 crores last year -- an increase of 12 %.

  5. Some 400 crores is set aside for the setting up of new IITs. Similarly, a sum of Rs. 20 crores will go towards the setting up of new NITs.

  6. IISc's allocation goes up from 209 crores to 224 crores -- an increase of just 7%. The Plan side stays constant at 75 crores.

  7. IISERs get 215 crores against 175 crores last year -- up 22 %.

  8. IIMs get 120 crores, up 8 % from last year's 111 crores.

Finally, there's a provision for Rs. 810 crores (it was 368 crores last year, and 451 crores in 2007-08) for something called the National Mission for Education through Information and Communication Technology. All of it comes under Plan expenditure. I wonder what it does -- 810 crores is a lot of money! All I could find about this mission is a bunch of documents and web pages on the Sakshat website.

Budgetary quotes

Given P. Chidambaram's fondness for quoting Saint Thirvalluvar -- in chaste Tamil, followed by an English translation -- in his budget speeches (some seven of them in two regimes), I was fully prepared for some serious Bengali stuff to be unleashed in today's Budget speech. While there were absolutely no Bengali quotes, the language was present right through the speech in the form of our Finance Minister's charming accent.

So, we had to settle for Kautilya who's the source of not just one, but two quotes :

  • In the interest of the prosperity of the country, a King shall be diligent in foreseeing the possibility of calamities, try to avert them before they arise, overcome those which happen, remove all obstructions to economic activity and prevent loss of revenue to the state.

  • Just as one plucks fruits from a garden as they ripen, so shall a King have revenue collected as it becomes due. Just as one does not collect unripe fruits, he shall avoid taking wealth that is not due because that will make the people angry and spoil the very sources of revenue.

Mahatma Gandhi manages to provide one quote:

Democracy is the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all.

And, oh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gets one, too, right at the beginning of the speech:

It is a mandate for continuity, stability and prosperity. It is a mandate for inclusive growth and equitable development.

Other rhetorical flourishes that made me smile:

  • At the end of this process [of creating a simple, trust-based system of taxation], I hope the Finance Minister can credibly say that our tax collectors are like honey bees collecting nectar from the flowers without disturbing them, but spreading their pollen so that all flowers can thrive and bear fruit.

  • Although there is a school of thought that legal consultants do not provide any service to their client, I hold my distinguished predecessor in high esteem and disagree!

Then there was this bit of unintended humour:

The financial sector is the life blood of any economy. Our Government’s approach to the banking and financial sector has been to ensure robust oversight and regulation while expanding financial access and deepening markets. The merit of this balanced approach has been borne out in the recent experience, as the turbulence in the world financial markets has left the Indian banking and financial sector relatively unaffected. Never before has Indira Gandhi’s bold decision to nationalise our banking system exactly 40 years ago - on 14th of July, 1969 - appeared as wise and visionary as it has over the past few months. Her approach continues to be our inspiration even as we introduce competition and new technology in this sector.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Global experience of loss of adolescence

Exhibit A: China's College Entrance Exam.

Exhibit B: South Korea's Coaching industry trends.

An interview of Sylvester James "Jim" Gates Jr

The interview is from 2005 [found via Michael Nielsen and Q2C Festival Blog], and it starts with this preamble:

In the 100 years since Einstein's historic year, African Americans and other minorities have progressed in many academic pursuits, but little advancement has been made in Einstein's field of theoretical physics. Sylvester James "Jim" Gates Jr. (pictured left), the University of Maryland's John S. Toll Professor and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory spoke to MiSciNet recently about his career, his influences, and the challenges that scientists of color face.

Here are some excerpts:

On how "inviting" theoretical physics is to people of color:

I once told someone that the field of physics reminds me in some ways of professional baseball before Jackie Robinson's appearance. He had to be given the chance to perform in order to provide evidence that he and others like him could perform well. But, unlike professional baseball, there appears to be no Branch Rickey [the former Brooklyn Dodgers executive responsible for recruiting Robinson] at our "major league"' physics departments.

On what 'minorities' need to succeed in physics:

I think that minorities are programmed in a way that accounts for an additional liability. What do I mean by that? Well, this society continues to deliver messages to young women and people of color that they are less capable at intellectual pursuits than others. And, as far as I'm concerned, for people not to admit this is racist or sexist. So, you have this negative message before you ever get into your field, and the question becomes how do you react when the challenge is presented to you? Many minority people ask, "Is there something wrong with me?" If that's the case then there's very little chance that you will continue to pursue the field. Others, particularly those who go on to be successful, say, "What's wrong with that?" or "What's wrong with them?"

On the kind of discrimination faced by scientists of color from other countries:

When I was a postdoc at Cal Tech (1980?1982), I came across a transcript of a meeting from the mid-sixties. One of the people at the meeting was Abdus Salam, who hails from Pakistan and later went on to become a Nobel Prize winner in physics (1979). I would characterize those transcripts of exchanges--between him and his colleagues--as disrespectful towards him, which I suspect was because of his ethnicity, although I can't prove it. So there seems to have been a time when Asian physicists would have faced something similar to the discrimination women and people of African descent face now. To some degree physicists from Latin America likely face these same kinds of issues. But for Asian physicists it's my belief that this issue has fundamentally changed.

Finally, a very interesting analogy between genres of music and 'ways of doing' physics:

Suppose we lived in a world where the only kind of music that existed was classical music and some bright young person came along and learned classical music, but then created jazz. How does the existing establishment view him? He's not playing by their rules. Some people might say he's not playing by any rules. So the difference in aesthetic plays an enormous role. I have a strong suspicion something like that's at work in theoretical physics.

In the early eighties Professor Salam commented he suspected that when a sufficient number of people of the African Diaspora start to do physics, something like jazz would appear. It took 15 or 20 years before I had the intimate knowledge of physics necessary to interpret this statement well enough to understand his meaning.

You see, there are different styles in how physics is done. There are styles of physics that are Russian, Germanic, English, and even American, which is very detectable to me. When enough people of African heritage do physics, they're going to bring a different aesthetic, and it will be new and valuable. Because classical music and jazz exist we don't think that we're musically poorer. Had jazz never come into existence we would've been musically poorer, but before jazz, musicians could say, "We're doing just fine. We have this wonderful art form here." And that's what's lost when people with different inputs don't participate in science. We miss the opportunity to create jazz.

Imagining Karnataka

The Karnataka Handbook 1924, Sugata Srinivasaraju says in a truly fascinating article, is one of the early attempts at imagining a State for Kannada-speaking peoples, and presenting the case to influential leaders -- in this case, to the leaders of the Indian National Congress on the occasion of INC's first session "within her [Karnataka] borders" at Belgaum. These attempts eventually led to the formation in 1956 of the State of Mysore, which got its present name -- Karnataka -- in 1972. An excerpt:

The fascinating element though is that all through history, Karnataka was only an imagined home of the Kannada-speaking people. It was a cultural construct and a poetic fancy with no specific political or geographical formation to back it up. In fact, none of the kingdoms that ruled over the geographical spread that now gets denoted as Karnataka -- Chalukyas, Gangas, Rashtrakutas, Kadambas, Hoysalas, Tuluvas and Wodeyars among others -- ever called themselves as Kannada dynasties. It was only a retrospective ascription and an utterly modern enterprise to manufacture a history for the Kannada-speaking people at the beginning of the 20th century. [...]

Internationalization of US Graduate Education

Sarah H. Wright at NBER Digest: The Internationalization of US Graduate Education, a summary of a paper by John Bound, Sarah Turner, and Patrick Walsh.

While there is no direct evidence of [US citizens getting "crowded out" by the increasing number of foreign grad students from] doctoral programs, the influx of foreigners into the science and engineering labor market in the United States has changed the return to investment in advanced degrees in science and engineering for U.S. residents. Bound, Turner, and Walsh suggest that these effects explain why domestic demand for programs in science and engineering has remained stagnant or declined in the period of increasing foreign demand. Over the last quarter century, the relative returns to U.S. students from advanced study in the sciences have not increased. Labor market data show that the earnings of new advanced degree recipients in science-and-engineering fields trail earnings for other college-educated workers. At U.S. universities, the extended duration of low-wage post-doctorate appointments has lengthened the time between entry and completion of graduate school; the salary gap between senior and junior faculty has widened; and permanent university employment is uncertain.

Laura McKenna on Blogosphere 2.0

Laura McKenna at Apartment 11D: The Blogosphere 2.0: How blogging has changed in the past six years.

4. Blogger Burn Out. Many of the top bloggers have been absorbed into some other professional enterprise or are burnt. It's a lot of work to blog. Most bloggers, and not just the A-listers, spend 3-5 hours every day blogging. That's hard to maintain, especially since there is no money in this. They used that time to not only write their posts and monitor their comment sections, but to read and foster other bloggers. Blogging survived based on the goodwill and generosity of others. It's probably no coincidence that every blogger that I've met face-to-face is an extraordinarily nice person. But it's hard to volunteer that much time over a long period of time. The spouses tend to get annoyed.

5. Reader burn out. You all are not clicking on the links like you used to. I'm not really sure why. In the past, if I was linked to by a big mega blogger, it meant 10,000 new readers in one afternoon. Now, a link by a mega blogger sends over a couple hundred readers. Readers are probably tired out of trying new stuff. Maybe we've sent you to too many crappy places over time and you're sick of it.

Is this stuff some boiler-plate, or worthy of serious consideration?

In a box item (in Section 8 of Chapter 10) entitled "Education Reforms: Some Issues," this is what the Economic Survey (2009) has to say:

Education in India comes under the concurrent list and thus both the Central and State Governments are involved leading to multiple controls and regulations by the governments and statutory bodies. There is an urgent need for replacement of bureaucratic controls in education by professional regulators along with private-public partnership to ensure universal primary education. Competition in tertiary and secondary education is also equally essential. Rating the quality of educational institutions and all education service providers (private and public) may be helpful. Entry of registered societies (non-profit) and publicly listed (education) companies in all fields of education, subject to the regulatory framework which ensures quality and reasonable pricing may be encouraged. Government’s higher education funds should be focused on promoting scientific and technical education and encouraging R&D in all subjects. Education societies acquiring land at concessional rates or other assistance from the government should pass on the benefits to the students. There is a mad rush for higher education at prestigious institutions like IITs and IIMs. A large number of private coaching institutions are thriving on this phenomenon. Parents are incurring huge expenditure on their children to get coaching from the tutorial colleges to compete for engineering or management entrance examination. At the same time, there is heavy pressure on children which may adversely affect their physical and mental development. There is a need to streamline the admission procedure to such institutions while at the same time ensuring that quality of student intake does not suffer. Intake should be based on entrance examination which tests the aptitude to grasp knowledge and not the knowledge itself. Besides, the number of institutions could be increased through entry of private players while ensuring that they are professionally regulated so that their curriculums/degrees are internationally accepted.

The Economic Survey, I think, is supposed to lay out the current government's thinking on where the country is and where it should be heading. Since it comes from the Ministry of Finance, I guess its pronouncements in the economic sphere would be generally considered weighty.

But how about its vague statements in other spheres? I'm talking about sentences like these: "rntry of ... publicly listed (education) companies... may be encouraged," or "number of institutions could be increased."

How important are such non-Finance pronouncements? Does the Ministry of Human Resource Development, for example, take them as guidelines when it formulates its policies?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Reactions to the Delhi High Court verdict decriminalizing homosexuality

I have to link to the following blog posts just for their headlines:

The Rational Fool: Gay Ho!

Rahul Siddharthan: Is 377 now 404?

Now that homosexuality has been decriminalized, Nivedita Menon has a suggestion for something that must be criminalized: English news channels!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Delhi High Court does the right thing

In a historic judgement, the Delhi High Court on Thursday legalised consensual sex among gays.

The court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Read the report here. In a slap on the face of cynical consensus-mongers [sadly, our law and health ministers are among them ], the court had this to say:

"In our view Indian Constitutional Law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconception of who the LGBTs (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster dignity of every individual," the Bench said in its 105-page judgement. [Bold emphasis added]