Archive for November, 2006

Education is “software”

November 16, 2006

It is time the “powers that be” realize education has all the advantages of software; it is “people-centric” (as Infosys Chairman NR Narayana Murthy says “when Infosys employees go home the “assets” of the company also go out; when they enter their offices the assets are back!”).

Just as software export of $ 25 billion is welcomed with tax concessions and STPI / SEZ benefits, education particularly higher education must be welcomed. By not allowing higher education to grow, we are letting nearly $ 5 billion to go out of India (the money that Indian students studying abroad take away every year). We can not only hold that money within India, we can “educate the world” with huge benefits for our students. The best of the universities from around the world should be welcomed so that we can have a large student population in India. Luckily, even million foreign students would constitute a mere 0.1% of our population! One should not forget the fact that foreign students who get education are the “best ambassadors” for any country (it applies to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh as well to the thousands like me who did higher education in countries like USA & UK)

It is time that political leadership realizes the importance of higher education and increase investment in higher education and make policies that are conducive to private sector investment in higher education. While we have world-class institutes (IIT’s, IIIT’s and IIM’s), we need world-scale institutes too; while enrolment in our IIT’s and IIM’s is in thousands, many American, Australian and German universities have enrolments of tens of thousands. This is an area where industry can help academia to focus.

Being a quality summit of CII, we need to address the quality issues too. While we have IIT & IIIT’s producing 3,000+ high quality students we have other institutes producing 300,000 of varying quality; if we can enable IIT’s and IIIT’s to scale (quantity improvement) and other institutes to focus on excellence (quality improvement), Indian higher education can be world-class AND world-scale

(Remarks made during the Session on “Indian Higher Education: An Overview” at the “CII National Summit on Quality Education” held in Bangalore during November 16-18, 2006)