Monday, October 12, 2009

Various articles on India

The New York Times Magazine had a good but depressing piece on "India's Malnutrition Dilemma" contrasting India with China (and even Brazil) in its lack of progress confronting its huge malnutrition challenge:
While India’s per capita gross domestic product grew fourfold between 1992 and 2006 (the last period for which there are accurate statistics), the percentage of children age 3 and under who are underweight declined only to 46 percent from 52 nationally, and actually increased in some states.
This is clearly an area where India will need to make huge strides if it wants to grown into the economic powerhouse it has the potential to be. And then, of course, this needs to be accompanied by attention to primary education. Until then ....

Another disturbing article, "Riches to Rags: Ten Rich Brats Become Slum Dwellers for a New Reality Show" from October 11's Business Standard is equally disturbing, explaining about a new reality TV show taking some rich kids and plopping them into a Mumbai slum to watch them try to survive. Half of the budget for the show (supposedly 5 crore rupees, which is a little above a million dollars) will go for marketing it!

On a completely different front, an ongoing controversy in the academic front here concerns the pay for IIT and IIM faculty. These are the state-run gems in the higher education system here. Many articles in the newspapers have covered various efforts, including hunger strikes, by some faculty members to increase salaries. One recent article in the Business Standard on October 10 (right next to a great piece by Paul Krugman (reprinted from the NYT) called "Educating America" talking about how America's success stemmed from mass public education, and that the current Great Recession induced cuts threaten to weaken it even further than insufficient attention) entitled "He who pays: The recent controversy over faculty pay at the IITs and IIMs suggests that they need to radically reorient themselves as academic institutions" -- despite an overall point that I don't think is valid -- mentions some useful pieces of data:
“You can’t charge young people full fees,” explains Ajit Rangnekar, dean of Indian School of Business, the Hyderabad-based B-school promoted by Wharton, Kellogg and London Business School. At the IITs, for instance, the government pays a subsidy of about Rs 200,000 per student per year. ...

For the most part, the IITs and IIMs have stuck to their original mandate of creating a highly qualified technical and managerial manpower base in India. As a result, they continue to admit the cream of India’s high school system through highly competitive entrance exam and turn out highly qualified graduates who break new records in starting salaries each year.

The question, though, is whether fulfilling this function alone is sufficient to meet the requirements of Indian corporations that now compete on a global scale.
So now, let's talk about this a little. While most students can't pay the whole fees when they start, doesn't there seem to be a problem when the students' salaries are astronomical after they receive a highly subsidized education with no quid pro quo. Why not provide loans to students to pay for school that get repaid once they earn their mega-rupees or mega-dollars, but write off the loans for those who work in needed professions (school-teachers, even professors of IITs!) that earn less but provide some sort of social service. A wild idea, I know, but something will need to dramatically restructure the financing of the education sector here given the huge demand and woefully inadequate supply. Okay, a topic for a different day (or week!).

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