Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's wrong?

Having completed three and a half years of study at my college, I have come to my own conclusions about where we go wrong. It's always been a great place to study in, and it will always be a great place to study in, but there are a few essential points where my college went wrong when they began, and a few points where the affiliating university itself went wrong.

I read somewhere (I think it was in the Hindu Education Plus) that our model of affiliation is based on the affiliation system that was adopted by universities in the UK in the 1880s, and abandoned three years later. However, why we insist on following that model even now, remains to be seen.

My college has a no capitation fee policy. They are very strict about this, they absolutely do NOT charge anyone any extra fees regardless of whether they came in through the single window system or by separate application, they have huge boards proclaiming this policy on the campus, have it running on marquees on websites and stuff. Now such a policy is great if you are a parent wanting to admit your child to a "reputed" engineering college and do not want to end up paying through your nose. Therefore, this policy would have been a great attraction to people whose kids did not have too good marks, but needed to get into an engineering college, when the college was started, some thirteen years ago. However, what they did not realize is the consequent cash loss they'd have to incur.

Since they do not charge capitation fees, they cannot boast of the funds that some other engineering colleges can boast of. This lack of funds results in lower salaries to members of the staff compared to other colleges, and especially in departments like computer science, where the man power fight is against software companies, and colleges, frankly are no match against their lures. Now, to bring about the quality education that engineering colleges boast about in their advertising material, there must be an incentive for people who are knowledgeable in required fields to come and teach. Money is the bet incentive, and in not getting capitation fees and making extra money, my college loses out on gaining that edge. And so, "for greater good" colleges should make accepting capitation fees part of their admission criteria. Of course, it shouldn't be exorbitant, and this is where the government could step in set up a regulatory mechanism.

I would now like to dwell on the affiliation system of our beloved university. All though I am no economics/current affairs/whatever expert, I can tell you for sure that it was globalisation of the Indian economy that has led to the current situation of more than 250 engineering colleges in a single state in the country. When India opened her economy to the world in the 1990s, more and more foreign players realized India's worth as a nation with huge human resources, and many foreign corporations decided to let this huge mass of humanity do their dirty work, leading to the phenomenon we all have come to call outsourcing. Now Indian labour was cheap, skillful, and Indians as a rule spoke better English than did their neighbours the Chinese, which too was a huge manpower reservoir. This lead to a huge demand for technically trained staff to actually sit and do the work. Faced with the problem of losing out on foreign investment to other countries, we hit upon a simple solution. Open a large number of institutions that offer technical training.

Now that you've allowed a quadrillion different engineering colleges to spring up like mushrooms, how do you keep control of all of them, and how do you preserve some semblance of sanity? You bring all those colleges under the control of one university. Now where universities all over the world were autonomous, and worked independently towards achieving their aims, here we had 250 replicas of the same system, each churning out a prescribed amount of graduates every year. Once you have managed to bring about a system where 250 different colleges are pitted against each other, each starts to vie with the other for the cream of the student community, and each college tries to achieve better results, and gain better ranks over and above their counterparts. Once results become primary in importance, out goes other factors such as student life. Students are once again forced to mug up and write exams, with no emphasis whatsoever on the actual learning process. The education system now becomes a knowledge based system, where it is desperately imperative that it be inquiry based. Students are not encouraged to indulge in co-curricular or extra-curricular activities because such activities are perceived by college managements to be a diversion from studies. That education comprises co-curricular and extra-curricular activities too seems to be lost on them. To make students study even better, college managements narrow-mindedly choose to impose a variety of other rules that allegedly free the student mind from distractions. These include unreasonable rules like restricting attire to formals, banning the use of mobile phones, disallowing motor-bikes on campus, not allowing students to go out during class hours, and a whole lot of other quixotic rules.

They have done all that with the sole aim of improving student results, but has it really improved? Are the engineers that are turned out really competent? Are they employable? Sadly that leaves much to be desired. Creative human beings cannot be fostered by stamping out their individuality.

This is the state of affairs that has come about from the primary trigger of globalisation. Globalisation of course has its positive effects, but here I have restricted my scope of discussion to the state of engineering colleges in India. It however is my personal opinion that this is only the first wave, and that things will be a lot better in subsequent waves, which maybe in the 2010s and the 2020s. In the second wave people will collectively come to realize the follies of the preceding wave, and things will turn out to be much better than it is now. (Pardon me if I have started sounding a bit like Hari Seldon)

I have addressed (ranted about on) as many issues as I could think of for now. If I do come up with a lot of concurrent ideas/opinions on any of the issues discussed above, which I will, I shall follow them up on another post. To summarize, this is what in my opinion needs to be done.
* Allow colleges to collect capitation fees. They do need the money for development.
* Get rid of the affiliation system. It has too many responsibilities and has become an unwieldy empire.
* Grade students not on their performance in exams, but on their performance in class rooms. Let the course instructor decide.
* Ensure you have quality course instructors in the first place.
* Realize that you cannot bring about a change for the positive by implementing authoritarian rules.

All this has already been said in a lot literature. I just felt the need to post them and thats what I've done. There are a few opinions that are my personal ones. I am also not sure of most of the facts that I've mentioned. Errors are of course not regretted, because I don't give a damn.


bragey said...

Bah.. Capitation? you thought they collect that for development? What's the state of affairs in those colleges that do collect such sums? The problem, in my opinion, is more fundamental.. Stifling creativity et al, happens right from primary education in Tamilnadu. If you recall, when the affiliation changed from Madras U to AU, students and parents complained that the new system was too "hot" to "cope" with.. But, we all know the truth, dont we? This blog post makes perfect sense to me, as I'm currently experiencing the effects of these problems on the student.. I feel really sorry that even students from other Indian states are way ahead of us.

Anonymous said...

I did not want to use my ruddy blogger account to comment. u can find me at

well nice long post.

I do not agree with capitation fees. let me show you why. we are charged 50,000 for fees. so now lets assume we have 60 people in the class. that's 30 lacs. this is for a tenor of 6 months or one semester. One class needs only 2 staff members every sem (I am leaving out lab) because every staff is expected to handle 3 subjects. So lets say i pay 30,000 to both the staff for 6 months. That's still only 3 lacs and 60 thousand. hey!! u have 24 lacs, to build ur buildings, install labs. Isn't that enough money ? The colleges offering sad salaries has nothing to do with how much money they have.

as for the college culture, sad really. we are all expected to be software engineers!! all other avenues pay a lot lesser, so its difficult for people to go against the tide. software engineers of today are like bankers of some 20 years back. nice pay...but in 20 years' time we will learn that we made the wrong choice....

Visu said...

ahem., good post.. I have a few things to say on my opinion da..

1.Colleges WONT spend their capitation towards students` favor.(Good that ur coll is not getting any capitation ), To my knowledge X engg coll canceled its campus recruitment jus bcoz they refused to offer a Non Vegetarian dinner for the HR team in a star hotel!! U say the coll can`t afford it! The fact is they don`t want to spend money.

2.If all the 250 engg coll have same academic syllabus, y do companies prioritize students by their coll? The top Colls are not going to feed u with any extra tech savvy, right?

3.And if the course instructor is going to grade u, there is a possibility for loss of freedom of speech and thought. Of course u ll feign for ur reputation.( think of us, namma ennikavadhu staffa madhichirukoma, illa class dhaan attend pannirukoma?)

and thats all for now., vera edhavaadhu thonithunaa solren... :D

TD5M4PP3R said...

Intelligent post. Lots of good conclusions.

I have one point to add: How many of the 250 colleges were started for the purpose of education ? They are all for money spinning (especially for black money recycling), save a few like SSN, IISc. These are true institutes and these can demand capitation.

Most colleges are run by politicians or filmstars.. what quality can you expect ?

Also, I strongly recommend the Govt set up more Universities. We just have 3 Govt run univs for the entire TN - A population larger than the entire US. How about 30 Govt funded univs ? That will make these useless colleges less wanted.

TD5M4PP3R said...

Indian quality education is just too competitive. You want quality stuff, you need to crack the JEE. Thats for 2000 people round India. What about the rest (1 billion - 2000) ? Let the Govt invest more on education, or atleast encourage honest private. Let these colleges be honest and demand capitation.

who wont pay 5 lakh to study at a good quality place ?

Anonymous said...

Capitation good? ha ha. the whole post is total bullshit and nothing less.

Sundar said...

I have my detractors.

Kanmams said...

Hmmmm... A looong, but extremely well written piece, and thought provoking. I agree with some of the points like standardizing the policy, process and outcome of professional education among all the colleges in the state, preferably the nation. But collection of capitation fees is not likely to solve the problem of funds because a large number of students with great potential will just lose out already, even before securing admission! While Karthik is way off the mark in suggesting only two staff are required for a semester, forgetting clerks, cleaners, power supply, water supply, aircondioning, computer and network maintenance, etc, I suppose the fee collected should be adequate. Another source could be from old-boys who have graduated and are well-to-do (as you are going to be, soon!!)

Sundar said...

I agree with you, except for the old boys routine.

Mahesh said...

capitation vaangadhadhunala ivlo ezhaiya va aavanga.. idea less college da... see our college one day no id card means 50 rupees.. idhuleye sema collection vandhurum.

A great research work and good write up da...u said u r not any expert but u r currently studyin there so u can better analyze.
P.S: Judge students from class room performance a?? vendamada en selvame!

krish said...

I am serious about the old-boys' bit... You might have read in the papers about two alumni of IIT Kanpur contributing Rs. 9 Crore towards starting a Management course...!

Anonymous said...

Good one.. second only to the ear-worm piece.

On a serious note, get businesses (that could include old boys) to pay up. They are the ones reaping huge profits in all this. But again, if politicians and bureaucrats are involved, only a fraction of what business pays will reach the collge. So, that is the catch-22 in any democractic society. There is corruption in Supreme Court and Tirumala temple admin.. so politians have a lot more time to clean up.. Will eventually get there.. how quickly ? Well, certainly does not seem like at the required exponential speed.. not sure what I mean ? Check this out...

PS: I must tell you, I love the way you write and more importantly your passion on the subject.. bravo.

navneeth said...

blah blah blah

Sundar said...

You dawg.

Narain said...

Nice long post and some serious thinking by you... i come to the following conclusions

1)As Arun pointed out, there need to be more govt funded universities of high quality.

2)Even if private universities and colleges are started, they should be done with a real intent of providing quality education.

3)In India, quality education = IIT
We have to change it. Quality education should be provided to those who want it

4)This will sound stupid. Politicians/filmstars/henchmen(u know who i am talking about!) should not be given licenses to open colleges!


Raja Deepak A said...

hi.. I think u have lost it.. Collectin capitation is gud huh?.. its gud if it used for the development but mostly it is used for the luxury of the ppl runnin the college.. Nobody is going to see where the capiatation money is going to, it will al be blcak money.. Anyaways the rest of ur post on affiliation, standardisation is al gud.. keep it up n stop writing crap reviews

Vinod Kumar said...

@ Karthik
I think the ratio of the staff and student is 1:15 and only 2 staff is not enough for a class having 60 students.
@ Sundar
Nice post da. I think no one will spend the capitation fee for the welfare of the students.