“Higher education in India has lost its sense of direction”

By: Staff Reporter


New Delhi, Jan 8: Political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh – of United Kingdom’s House of Lords – was recently in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi for a lecture on the ‘Public sphere of morality in India’. G’nY correspondent Gaurav Sikka caught up with the professor of the University of Westminster for an interview in the lush green JNU campus. Without mincing words the Padma Bhushan awardee laid bare the state of education in India, drew a comparison between Gandhi and Tagore, and put the attacks on Indian migrants into perspective.

In the light of migration from Asian countries to developed nations like the United Kingdom and Australia, please share some thoughts on racial discrimination in the light of racial attacks in the developed world.

Racial attacks on migrants are not limited to us (Indians), it also applies to the whites coming from Romania and Bulgaria. This happens because migration is not handled correctly by the governments. They open the gates to migrants without realizing that the people coming in are going to make demands – jobs, houses, schools for children. The locals feel they have to compete with outsiders for ‘their’ resources. Therefore the fault does not lie with migration, it lies with not doing anything to take care of the problem. To ease the migration problem, you have to reduce the pressure on local resources.
How were Gandhi’s ideas limited? In one of your works you say “Gandhi’s view of man as an ascetic allows no room for expressions of the cultural, artistic or intellectual”

Each one of us looks at life in a certain way. Gandhi viewed life in an ascetic, self disciplined way. He wanted to reduce his desires to the minimum. For example, why eat puri, when one can have roti, without depleting nature’s resources. Gandhi believed that one should eat to live, and not live to eat. But food has various expressions, and in that reference Gandhi has ignored the artistic, cultural and intellectual contribution of a society. Tagore on the other hand has a different take on life. He believes in enjoying life as life is beautiful – the grandeurs of rivers, mountains, thunder, flowers; he is mesmerised by it all and salutes creation through its beautiful manifestations.
If Gandhi and Tagore were given a piece of land each, Gandhi would grow cabbage, important for sustenance, but Tagore would grow flowers.
Higher education in India is undergoing a total make-over – universities are increasingly at the mercy of market forces. They feel compelled to offer courses that will get jobs for the students rather than satisfy the research needs of the nation. Social sciences are taking a back seat. What should the aims of a university be?

Higher education in India has lost its sense of direction. There are no Indian universities in the top 200 rankings globally. On the other hand there are three Chinese universities among the top 25. Secondly, the quality of research is dismal. Even Israel has more innovations and discoveries. For example, as the cancer epidemic is spreading in India, why can’t the causes be detected – whether seeds are wrong or breast feeding is wrong. Why are such areas not researched? Basic research is missing. Thirdly, the trend of ‘rote learning’ needs to be shed. Teachers should be updated with current happenings. The minds of students are not trained; instead it is stuffed with facts through lectures. Even primary and secondary education is pathetic. Forty per cent of schools in India don’t have teachers.
What is the relevance of social sciences and the skills of social scientists?

The solution of societal problems comes from social science. Social trends can be best analysed by social scientists. An economist can offer solution for economic problems and poverty alleviation. An anthropologist can work on housing. Political problems of migration can be the topic for politics and public administration students. Ending from where we started, a student of politics can study rural-urban migration. For instance consider the Surat riot case which was caused due to heavy number of migrants from Orissa. Such was the scenario that 1/3rd of the population could not speak Gujarat and had conflicts with the locals.

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