Prof. Yash Pal says "I didn't say that", but the mess continues

Yesterday, Prof. Yash Pal, of The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education fame, spoke up against Kapil Sibal's proposal to remove State Education Boards. Prof. Yash Pal...
...the man behind these announcements, said he was not responsible for all the recommendations. Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal had proposed on Thursday that the Class X board exam be scrapped and that the state boards be done away with to bring about parity in the education system.
In a welcome statement, the professor clarified that he didn't recommend doing away with state boards:

Though I had suggested a uniform examination pattern throughout the country, I did not recommend doing away with the state boards. The state boards can function alongside.
While it's easy to see that Kapil Sibal could have conjured up such nonsense himself, we'd like to point out that the Yash Pal Committee is no less a party to this whole mess. The Committee's statements on School Education are very confusing, incomplete, superficial, incorrect, and totally disconnected from ground reality - especially in Karnataka.

The report does actually talk of needing to "rethink on the need to continue" with state boards. Here's an extract from pages 42-43 of the Committee report - what we described as a disappointing "brief commentary on School Education" (this paragraph is about all the report has to say about School Education):

National tests like GRE should be organized round the year and students from all over the India aspiring to enter universities should be allowed to take these tests as many times as they like. Their best test score can then be sent to the universities of their choice which can admit them if they satisfy other criteria set up be the universities. This requires a rethinking on the need to continue with State Boards of Secondary Education and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) which are instruments for normalizing school level competencies – a purpose equally accomplished by the national tests mentioned here – and seriously think of reviving our faith in each school and its teachers to credibly evaluate its own students.
Firstly, the committee talks about so-called State Boards of Secondary Education. If there is anything resembling that in Karnataka, it's the Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board or the KSEEB which conducts the Secondary School Leaving Certificate or SSLC examination, after which (surprise!) students don't go to Universities! They go instead to the Pre-University stage where they spend 2 more years. So what Karnataka calls as Secondary Education is not what Prof. Yash Pal understands. In fact, he's talking about PUC here - but neglecting Karnataka's system. That's disconnect number one for you.

Now to disconnect number two. The body overseeing Pre-University Education in Karnataka is the Department of Pre-University Education - a state department which does a lot more than simply conduct examinations or "normalize school level competencies". It is nonsense to talk about any examination replacing this department. The department, for example, sets the syllabus for PU education in PU colleges (not schools, mind you!). The last time we checked the Oxford Dictionary of English, examinations don't do that.

We also ask whether the Committee has sufficiently analyzed the consequences of having a test like the GRE as the gating examination for university entrance in India. What steps will be taken to ensure that PU colleges in Karnataka don't gear up to become "GRE tuition centres"? What will ensure that PU students don't spend their lives solving Shakuntala Devi's puzzles and mugging up English dictionaries (on the role of language in education, more later) instead of studying Kinematics, Calculus, Demand-Supply theory and Cell-Biology?

What the hell is going on here? Who gave these Yash Pals and Kapil Sibals the authority to mess with Karnataka's schools and colleges? And we haven't even got to the importance of Kannada-medium and the inability of jokers in New Delhi to even recall the names of half the scheduled languages of India (without going to Wikipedia, we mean).

30 comments:

dandapinda said...

@Editor,

For one, I do not like what is happening right now but am curious to know what an ideal setup will be from your point of view.

editor, KARNATIQUE said...

@dandapinda

We will talk about the ideal setup in follow-up posts. But briefly, we call for

(a) Moving Education entirely to the state-list (it's currently in the concurrent-list) and
(b) Slowly ramping up the Kannada-medium in all levels of education.

The changes proposed by Prof. Yash Pal and Mr. Kapil Sibal are against both (a) and (b).

Thennavan said...

@Editor

Will there be English at least as one subject in your ideal setup for the education in Karnataka?

Though the Central Government is trying to push through against Point (a), it will not succeed because even the state governments of Hindi states will not favour this idea because it is not just education but money too.

Ramping up the Kannada-medium education in all levels, especially the higher education, will only make all Kannadigas weaker vis-a-vis competition from other state people because no state in India, including Hindi states, encourages higher education in the state language (mother tongue). Anyway, even Karanataka politicians are also doing the same thing. Unless, higher education is in mother tongue for all Indians, Kannada medium for higher education will be only counter-productive for Kannadigas because you can not move out of your state even within India whereas others can go across the country probably with the exception of Karnataka.

On the whole, your ideal setup is just hypothetical.

editor, KARNATIQUE said...

@ Thennavan

We thank you for your viewpoint. But we beg to differ.

Our aim is to build a Karnataka stronger than that which can be built by a small English-educated workforce. In our view, a Kannadiga workforce educated in Kannada - in an environment of English educated others - is a competitive advantage, not a competitive disadvantage.

The workforce of our dreams will know very good English - sufficient to converse with anybody who doesn't know Kannada.

Thennavan said...

@ Editor,

I agree with your ideal setup of having the education in the state language even for the higher level education provided it is supplemented by a knowledge of good English too. But, it is not a matter for just Karnataka, rather for all states of India. After all, we can study any subject better in our own language and also our languages would also flourish vis-a-vis any other language.

Let's us hope our leaders also see through the truth instead of being carried away by the plan of Central Government to have a uniform educational system across the country, using which the north indian leaders always try to promote Hindi in the pretext of anything possible.

Srisha said...

The ideal set-up upto secondary and/or High School (12th grade included) would be local control, by which I mean at the district level. The schools are funded by the districts themselves with additional help from the State, administered by an autonomous local bodies with an administrator (selected by the district council) for all schools in the district. This local body should have the authority to set the syllabus, graduation requirements, decide on teacher's and othe school employees salaries. So, doing this way, each school within a district will have uniformity. The State can set up minimum graduation requirements which all schools within a district has to adhere to.

Sreya said...

We are the most confused nation state on this planet.

Avi said...

I thought that the proposal was to have an all-India level entrance examination, of the format of GRE or SAT, instead of the local board examinations. I do not see any problems with this approach. Students still have to study Kinematics, Calculus, Demand-Supply theory and Cell-Biology in order to score in the test! It is just an all India level single exam for entry into professional courses. My personal feeling is that this would be a really good option, rather than having hundred of teachers involved in "correction" of papers leading to discrepancies due to subjective issues as well as incompetencies. SAT/GRE sort of exam will do away with this issue at least!

Jockey said...

Avi, Yash Pal's proposal calls for closing down the State boards - which do not just conduct exams. They do a lot more than that.

Avi said...

Okay... so other than set up syllabus and conduct exams, what else are they involved in? Could those tasks not be taken up by the central body?

Thennavan said...

@All,

In spite of the differences, I hope all would agree that the standard of education in India and its states should be improved and standardized too. As the different governments follow different syllabuses (some states have even many syllabuses within the state itself), the standard of education is different among different groups of people, with some sections claiming to be superior in terms of quality of education. For example, people say the standard of X Std. CBSE is much higher than that of SSLC. So as to prove same, only a very few IITians are from SSLC background.

Therefore, as an acceptable solution that is good for everybody, a single syllabus across the country can be followed, in which the central government can frame the syllabus with committee members from all states and the state boards(government) can implement it. In this setup, students are going to be benefited and even the state governments will not lose their hold(money).

However, there may be a chance for disputes as far as the syllabus of the local language and social studies are concerned. If so, these two subjects can be left to the states whereas a standard syllabus should be followed for Maths, Science and English so that all can be equal in the quality of the education.

However, we have to ensure that no language, especially Hindi, and no particular culture is promoted in the name of standard and quality.

Jockey said...

@ Avi,

They form textbook committees which write textbooks, review them, revise them, distribute them, appoint teachers, train teachers, have inspectors visit schools all over the state, check quality of schools, attendance...etc over and above setting the syllabus and conducting examinations.

Besides, why should any power on earth other than ourselves in this state be entrusted with the job of running our education system? Any quality issues should be fixed locally. If your argument is that the central government can do that better, I believe the US can do it even better. Let's go to the US, tell 'em we're incapabale of running our education systems and ask them to run the show for us. Why stop at New Delhi?

@ Thennavan,

My answer to Avi applies to your comment, too. We don't want any leaks in the system.

Avi said...

@Jockey:

Of the activities you mentioned, write/revise/review textbooks seems to be the main activity performed other than conducting/evaluating exams. Well, I feel that a centralised single exam system with common standards throughout the country would be a better option. Textbooks and syllabus - I believe that the CBSE text books are of much better standard than the state boards (I was a state board student - I know for a fact the advantage that CBSE students have over us)... a common syllabus/exam definitely helps in improving standards, as well as a good objective method of evaluation devoid of human error (that definitely creeps up during "corrections").

And for your comment that why should we stop at New Delhi, we could ask US... come on now, are you serious? We belong to India - is there no sense of "Indian-ness"? We are not identified as people of Karnataka outside of India... we are "Indians"... Of course, we have a sense of identity and love for our language; but still we have a sense of belonging to out country! that's why we stop at New Delhi... and not go to the US... for that matter, I'd say that the elementary school education is better in India than the US.

Jockey said...

@ Avi,

Centralization is the enemy of quality. The entire world is moving towards decentralization and power nearer and nearer to the people, and you are advocating for power farther and farther away from the people. Also, you left out lots of other things which the State boards do. They don't just write/revise/review textbooks. If CBSE textbooks are of a better standard, textbooks in other countries may also be of a better standard. Take the best from all and implement locally.

Your argument is like - the US has good technology for increasing per-hectare yield of agricultural crops. Therefore, let them take over all our agricultural universities. Stupid. The non-stupid thing to do is - get their technology and teach it in our universities.

Coming to your "is there no sense of Indian-ness?" question, I have to ask you back - why didn't you stop at New Delhi when it came to opening up markets? Where did your Indian-ness go then? Why did you let Colgate Palmolive sell toothpaste in India? Why did you let (the recent) UniFrutti sell fruit in India? Why did you invite Jaguar to sell cars in India? What happened to your sense of belonging to the country?

Jockey said...

@ Avi,

Also, learn a bit about the country where you're staying (as per your blog). This is what Wikipedia writes about the US education system:

"The United States has an education system decentralized by state. There are no national schools."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_United_States

Now ask why that works in the US. Try to understand the benefits of decentralization. India is far more diverse than the US. And you want to centralize India? Oh come on!

Thennavan said...

@Jockey,

What is wrong in having a standard syllabus for the entire country without prejudice to any language/culture while the implementation still exists with the states? The word 'implementation' includes all the activities listed by you. The Central Government is of all state people and there will be representation for all states (at least by rotation method) in the committee to decide the syllabus. Your are arguing as if Central Government is of just some Indians (probably north Indians in your opinion) and not of all Indians.

After all, all students are going to compete for either higher education or jobs based on the quality of the education given to them. Why should there be different syllabuses for different sections of the society? Only when there is a common syllabus, all will have the equal opportunity at least in terms of quality of the syllabus though the quality of implementation will also affect the overall quality.

Regarding your argument of 'Why stop at Delhi and Why not go to US?', conversely, one can argue like 'Why stop at State? Why not District? then Why not Taluk? ... Why not village?' just for the sake of argument even knowing that it is not possible.

Moreover, Why do you tend to always compare with US? Is it because you feel US is the best for anything and particularly education, the main topic of our education?

Jockey said...

>>> Your are arguing as if Central Government is of just some Indians
>>>(probably north Indians in your opinion) and not of all Indians.

That's what it has been till now. I don't see it changing in the near future, with Kannadigas being 5% of India's population.

>>> Why should there be different syllabuses for different sections
>>> of the society?

Please don't put words into my mouth. I did not talk about different syllabi for different sections of society. All Kannadigas will have the same syllabus.

>>> Regarding your argument of 'Why stop at Delhi and Why not go to
>>> US?', conversely, one can argue like 'Why stop at State? Why not
>>> District? then Why not Taluk? ... Why not village?' just for the
>>> sake of argument even knowing that it is not possible.

You're thinking in the right direction. The education of each Taluk, each village must be locally decided. We need local thinkers and educationists at these levels. Let there be bo doubt about that.

>>> Moreover, Why do you tend to always compare with US? Is it
>>> because you feel US is the best for anything and particularly
>>> education, the main topic of our education?

I don't remember comparing with the US on an earlier occasion. But anyway, the US is a good example of many a thing related to Democracies.

Avi said...

@Jockey:
Of course, we had to get external companies in our economic domain - we did not have the market, nor the technology that they had. In this world, no country can stay on its own - we do need to depend on others for various resources. Imports/exports form an integral part of an economy, and opening up our economy to the world was one of the best things to happen to develop India, in my opinion.

Why we stop at New Delhi? I said we stop there at our high school education. In fact, it would be great if we open up our education system for higher education, so that local universities face competition from foreign universities, and hence improve their standards (From personal experience, I can say that B.E. in Bangalore leaves far much more to be expected). U.S. education system: they have public school and private schools - only 10% of the students go to private school. It will be a long way before we can reach this standard. Also, in America, they have the SAT - one single exam throughout the 50 states for entering professional colleges!

Anyways, we might argue/discuss a lot over here. Finally we might not even be able to change anyone's minds if we are not open and stick to our opinions. The other facet is how many of us actually implement them in our own life? How many people here would be sending their kids to a kannada medium school, knowing the difficulties they would face later on when they enter professional colleges? Just a few honest opinions I had...

Jockey said...

@ Avi,

>>> opening up our economy to the world was one of the best things
>>> to happen to develop India, in my opinion.

That's my opinion also. Why don't you do the same thing in education? Why stop at New Delhi? Why do you talk of an Indian-ness which comes in the way for Education but not for the market? That was my question. You haven't answered that.

>>> How many people here would be sending their kids to a kannada
>>> medium school, knowing the difficulties they would face later on
>>> when they enter professional colleges? Just a few honest
>>> opinions I had...

Analogy:

My family is very poor. I go wherever it takes to earn money for my family. When I do earn that money, I come back to my family and use my money to help it get a good life. I should not be punished for temporarily staying away from my family.

Coming back to the point:

Kannada medium education is not up to the mark. I go to English medium to get a good education. When I do get that education, I come back to improve the quality of Kannada medium education. I should not be punished for temporarily going away from Kannada medium.

Thennavan said...

@Jockey

>>>That's what it has been till now. I don't see it changing in the near future, with Kannadigas being 5% of India's population.

If the people of Karnataka, one of the major states in India and having important ministers in the Central Government , can not feel like being part of Central Government, what about other smaller states? But, ironically, most of the Kannadigas vote for only national parties even as the so-called cow-belt states UP and Bihar vote for their regional parties.

>>>Please don't put words into my mouth. I did not talk about different syllabi for different sections of society. All Kannadigas will have the same syllabus.

What I meant by 'sections of society' are the people of different states of India.

>>>The education of each Taluk, each village must be locally decided.

If it is to be so much localized, then even the next step of higher education and jobs should also be localized. While the world is trying to shrink into a village, you suggest that Kannadigas shrink themselves into their own villages. Is there any organization (political, social, educational or whatsoever) in Karnataka suggesting a local syllabus for every village or even district?

You seem to be arguing for the sake of just argument, nothing else.

All your arguments aside, you did not say anything about a possible standard national SSLC syllabus for English, Maths and Science with a state syllabus for the local Language and Social Studies and its being implemented by the states.

ravi turuvekere said...

>> Kannada medium education is not up to the mark. I go to English medium to get a good education. When I do get that education, I come back to improve the quality of Kannada medium education. I should not be punished for temporarily going away from Kannada medium. <<

+10

Thennavan said...

@Editor,

My last comment was not published. May I know Why? What is so uncharacteristic or repugnant about it? Even if it is so, you can publish it with suitable remarks on how it deviates from the norms/standard of KARNATIQUE.

editor, KARNATIQUE said...

@ Thennavan

No comment of yours has been rejected till now. Please check if there was a software error on your side. There could also have been an error on Blogger's side.

Thennavan said...

@Editor,

Yes, it was published. Usually, comments would appear in minutes. But, there was a long time lag between the time I posted it around 3.45 PM and the time it was published or it appeared in the blog around 11.00 PM. Otherwise, as you mentioned, it could be a software error too.

Anyway, thanks for your clarification and sorry for my impatience.

Jockey said...

>>> If the people of Karnataka, one of the major states in India and
>>> having important ministers in the Central Government , can not
>>> feel like being part of Central Government, what about other
>>> smaller states?

I don't know. You tell me!

>>> But, ironically, most of the Kannadigas vote for only national
>>> parties even as the so-called cow-belt states UP and Bihar vote
>>> for their regional parties.

That's because Kannadigas are not politically alive and there aren't any real state-parties.

>>> While the world is trying to shrink into a village, you suggest
>>> that Kannadigas shrink themselves into their own villages.

Let me clarify. By "education must be locally decided", I don't mean the syllabus. I mean administration.

>>> All your arguments aside, you did not say anything about a
>>> possible standard national SSLC syllabus for English, Maths and
>>> Science with a state syllabus for the local Language and Social
>>> Studies and its being implemented by the states.

Kannadigas should choose the English poetry and prose Kannadiga children read - so a common syllabus for English is ruled out. But it's okay to try to achieve a Maths and Science syllabus common all over India - as long as the Kannada textbooks are not translated from English (or another language) but written indigenously by a Kannadiga text-book board. Not just that - teacher training, inspection, calibration of the syllabus - all of it - and all the administration should completely lie with Karnataka.

(Note: I'm saying "try to achieve" a common syllabus for Science and Maths because the decision should finally lie with Karnataka - we know what our children need. Maybe our children can take in a higher level of syllabus than the rest of India. Then we want to go higher. Maybe our children cannot take in a higher level of syllabus. Then we need time to get on par.)

No central "board" is necessary. It can only put together a set of guidelines and claim no powers over the Karnataka education system. Let it make good suggestions. Suggestions are welcome. Not an exercise of power.

Thennavan said...

@Jockey,

>> No central "board" is necessary.

Very true. Otherwise, what is the use of state educational boards? It could be a committee or a council with the leading educationists from all the states of India, spcifying a Maths and Science syllabus for the whole country without any prejudice. The whole implementation including the administration should lie with the state only.

>>>Note: I'm saying "try to achieve" a common syllabus for Science and Maths because the decision should finally lie with Karnataka

However, You only purport to agree with a common syllabus even for Maths and Science while still maintaining almost the same posture of your ealier stand. You seem not at all to believe in Central Government of which all of us including you are equal members.

>>>I don't know. You tell me!

The answer is 'Even smaller states believe in Central Government. But, you don't whereas you should too.' Otherwise, you tell me a few examples of any prejudice by the Central Government particulary to Karnataka.

editor, KARNATIQUE said...

@ Thennavan

Please note that we cannot promise that posts get approved in a certain time. It depends on the workload of our moderators.

Subrata said...

If all of us are so deep rooted in only our local culture, language and survival of provincial feelings, soon there will be a time when this country will fall apart. I feel its really a shame that in 2009, when the whole country is moving ahead at a pace which far outscores the developed nations, we cannot think beyond 'my language' and 'my state'. I am not from the Hindi belt, but I am proud to say that I am an Indian. I am also proud to see that time has come when we are thinking of reforms in our education and bring in a common standard country-wide. I think this is a wake-up call for many.

Jockey said...

@ Subrata,

You need to think beyond the definition of an Indian limited to the cosmopolitan English speaking anti-local element.

That India in which any Indian language or state (in isolation) falls short of the definition of full-fledged Indianness - is bound to fall apart. That India in which every Indian language and state (in isolation) fully describes full-fledged Indianness - is bound to live and prosper.

This is a wake-up call for many.

Jai Veerupaksha said...

At a very fundamental level, there has to be a redefinition of the Union , State and Concurrent lists.But some observations :

1.While the composition of the lists have not significantly changed in the last 2-3 decades, India had a better feedral system till the 80's ,90's. Of course the focus was more socialistic till 1991.

2. Subsequent to 1991, while a section of India has prospered immensely, this same section with its windfall success have begun to espouse thoughts and philosophies where they believe hat the sequence of goodness of policies is Western world, Centre, state in that order even though historically a lot of groundwork done by the state was the reason for the success of many of these people/entities after India opened up to the world.

The Centre also started having significantly more money to act not just on items in its list but to influence states on items that were part of the state/concurrent list. The money with the state's didn't go up signficantly except the ones that could be influenced through increased local consumerism since aspects of saving/spending were again governed by central fiscal policies. This is an area where neither of the National parties want a change for obvious reasons as this is the one area through which increased centralised influence and hence physical presence is possible.

With media also having lost the big picture and focusing more on fallacies of state level governance, slowly the role of the state has been marginalised ( has been made out to be second rung).This has been supported by the guys who made the most in the last few years as well, because as the markets for these folks started increasing and their interests increasing required Centre's blessings.

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