Tuesday, March 27, 2007

American universities train their sights on India

[Well, everyone is doing it these days!] ... a piece in Der Spiegel about US universities entering into partnerships with Indian institutions to offer accredited degrees. Without the mind-numbing learn-by-rote education (which, I have to say, does have some benefits), but also circumventing quotas (affirmative action), and, of course, ending up being a lot more expensive.

Interesting how attitudes are changing as this exchange illustrates:
Mr. Muddana, who had a bachelor's degree in information technology and had spent the past eight months as a software developer for an Indian firm, said he saw the program as a cost-effective ticket to an American degree and a chance to work for a few years in the United States.

His father, he said, failed to grasp his ambitions. Why would he quit a secure, well-paying job to go back to school, his father wanted to know. Mr. Muddana said his father taught at a government school in a rural district in neighboring Andhra Pradesh State. He earns today roughly what his son makes fresh out of college. Mr. Muddana said his father was bewildered by his dreams and by how much it would cost to get a master's degree.

"He's presently thinking only of the investment," Mr. Muddana said, "not the outcome."
The days of the secure, life-long job with a definite rise up some hierarchy are limited, at least for some among the middle class. (For the poor, that -- especially a government job -- is the only destination guaranteed to provide some sense of financial security.)


Mac said...

What quotas?

British and Australian universities do a roaring trade in running branch campuses in Malaysia, where ethnic Indians, Chinese and Eurasians have difficulty getting into public universities regardless of academic merit. (A British or Australian degree then gives enormous advantage to would-be emigrants and this may be the ulterior motive of the government beyond the express purpose of raising the qualifications of Malays.)

Are there similar quotas in India? Who is disadvantaged by them?

Gashwin said...

"Reservations" or quotas in India refers to a constitutionally mandated system of quotas in all government sectors, for members of backward castes and tribes, including the so called "untouchables" who have faced centuries if not millenia of horrific social discrimination. In some places, nearly 2/3 of available seats/positions are so reserved. The issue is thorny, inflammatory and highly politicised (especially with the rise of regional caste-based political parties which have significant leverage in the coalition governments at the Center) -- most upper-castes find the practice to be abhorrent, and it certainly compromises any sense of meritocracy.

Mac said...

I realised that the Dalits had reserved places; I had no idea it was quite as extensive as 2/3. I wonder if that sort of thing and caste-consciousness generally is a reason that ethnic Indians in Malaysia are as complacent as they are about the Bumiputra Policy. The realities of living in a country that is 50% Malay and Muslim are what they are, of course, but it is always startling that Indians, of all people, don't seem to grumble. For that matter, the mildly droll insistence of professional class ethnic "Indians" there that they are nothing of the kind, but Ceylon Tamils....It makes the rather boring inclination of various ethnicities in western countries -- the Irish, the Scots, the Italians (well, some of them, and of others as well) -- to carry on about their ethnic pride seem downright quaint.