Tuesday October 24, 2017

Why Indian universities don’t figure among world’s best

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By Harshmeet Singh

In the recently released Times Higher Education world university rankings, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore managed to get into the top 100 with a 99th place finish. As expected, it was covered extensively by the Indian media. But just a solitary institute in the top 100 is far from ideal for a country like India. Though Indians have managed to reach top positions at some of the biggest companies across the world, Indian Universities have failed to make their mark at the world stage. Who is at fault then?

To begin with, let us stop blaming our institutes blindly. Most of these rankings are designed in such a way that our institutes don’t perform too well on the selected parameters. For instance, the number of undergraduates in the campus is a major parameter due to which Indian institutes such as IIMs and ISB fail to get high scores. Additionally, the diverse nationalities of the students joining the institute are also considered while ranking the institutes. Indian Universities, due to various restraints, do not admit many students from out of India, which further hurts their rankings.

Another parameter used in these rankings is the research funding received by the institute. In this regard too, the Indian institutes don’t fare too well. Ratan Tata himself has donated large amounts to the Cornell University and the Harvard Business School on more than one occasion. Such rituals of giving back to your alma mater are hard to find in India. In the US, even companies such as Google and Fedex are known to donate generously to top Universities to fund their research efforts.

The factor which makes up for the biggest scoring parameter is the volume of research coming out of the institute. Most of the Indian institutes offer restricted courses, which mean lesser number of students and comparatively lesser research. Until recently, IITs only offered courses in Engineering. It is only now that they have also started offering MBA courses, which would increase their worth on the world stage.

A world class institute requires a heavy financial backing for its operations. While the institutes in USA and Europe receive generous donations and grants from their alumni, such culture is non existence in India. Many individuals also put their alma mater as the heir of their property after they die – a scenario which is unthinkable in India.

The total endowments with Harvard are $32 billion! In comparison, India’s budget for the entire education sector for 2015-16 is close to $10.5 billion!

Oxford came into being in the year 1167! While Harvard was formed in the year 1636. On the other hand, the first IIT was formed only in 1951. In all aspects, it would be extremely harsh on the IITs to compete with institutes of such stature at such an early stage. The infrastructure and robust alumni network that these institutions boast of require centuries.

While our institutions may not stand very tall on the parameters used by these rankings, they are doing a fairly good job in churning out talents that are running the best companies in the world. So the next time you see such rankings and don’t find an Indian institute, don’t be disappointed. There is much more to it that what meets the eye.

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US to probe into complaint: Does Harvard University discriminate against Indians, Asians?

Harvard University's alleged biased behavior against students from the India and Asia, US will take a look into this.

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Harvard University
Harvard University. wikimedia

August 4, 2017: US President Donald Trump’s administration is preparing to probe a complaint by four Indian-American organizations and other Asian groups that Harvard University discriminates against students from the communities in its admission process.

Justice Department Spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said on Wednesday the department wants to investigate the “administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved”.

Flores said: “The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian-Americans in a university’s admission policy and practices.”

The Global Organisation of Persons of Indian Origin (Gopio), National Federation of Indian-American Associations, American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin, and BITS Sindri Alumni Association of North India were among the 64 Asian groups that jointly filed the federal complaint.

The complaint said: “Many Asian-American students who have almost perfect SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores, top one per cent GPAs (Grade Point Average), plus significant awards or leadership positions in various extracurricular activities have been rejected by Harvard University and other Ivy League Colleges while similarly situated applicants of other races have been admitted.”

SAT is one of the common entrance exams for college admission.

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Though officially the affirmative action programmes are meant to aid African American and Latino students, in reality, the quota system — similar to reservations in India — has expanded to also helps white students at the expense of Indian and other Asian students.

To ensure diversity, elite universities set academic standards for Asian students that are higher than that for even whites to prevent high-scoring Asians dominating the universities if admissions were based solely on merit.

A study by a Princeton University academic found that Asian-American students had to score 140 points more than whites in the SAT to gain admission to elite universities.

If a comparison is to be made to the Indian situation, Asians would be classified as “most forward” over the “forward” category.

Gopio International Chairman Thomas Abraham said he welcomed the Trump administration’s move to take up the complaint by the Indian and other Asian organizations.

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He conceded that there was a need for affirmative action programmes to right the historical injustices done to the African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans and, therefore, he supported it for only those communities.

But “in the general quota for all the others there should not be any discrimination against Indians or Asians,” he added.

“A white kid should not get preferred treatment at the expense of Asians and the general quota should be based solely on merit” and this was the central point in the complaint,” he said.

Under former President Barack Obama, the Education Department dismissed a similar complaint by another organization, while the Justice Department did not follow up on the complaint made to its Office of Civil Rights that is now being taken up for review.

When it became known that the Justice Department was seeking lawyers to investigate the Asians discrimination suit, some major, mainstream American media twisted it and put out fake news that the Trump administration was preparing to sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies that were seen as discriminating against whites.

Flores denied the reports and said it was only the Asian complaint that was being taken up and that the department “has not received or issued any directive, memorandum, initiative or policy related to university admissions in general”.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination,” she added.

A former civil rights official, Vanita Gupta, told The New York Times that the person sought for the investigation will be in “the political front office” and this “suggests that this person will be carrying out an agenda aimed at undermining diversity in higher education without needing to say it”.

Gupta was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in President Barack Obama’s administration and led the civil rights division. She is now the President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. (IANS)

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Muslim Women in India Can Become Change Agents With Education

Muslim women would have realised their full potential and they will ensure that India and the world do as well

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Muslim Women
Muslim mother and daughter. Pixabay
  • Narendra Modi called for empowerment and education of Muslim women
  • The literacy rate and the higher education statistics represent a double whammy for Muslim women as it relates to empowerment

June 25, 2017: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently called for empowerment and education of Muslim women. One would have expected this message to receive widespread acceptance and support. It did not.

There was resistance on several fronts for a variety of reasons. Some saw Modi’s move as a political stunt. Some questioned whether Modi was doing anything meaningful in the education and empowerment area. Others came out against it because of a connection to the triple-talaq controversy.

There is no gainsaying that there is an unequivocal and critical need to empower Muslim women through education in order for India to achieve its full potential. The status of education in general was captured by the 2001 census which revealed that the Muslim literacy rate was only 59 per cent.

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In response to these and additional findings regarding Muslims and others in the weaker sections, the Sachar Committee Report of 2006 disclosed a development deficit in a number of areas. The report resulted in the creation of an across-the-board programme for the development of minorities.

This programme and other initiatives have had a beneficial effect. In the 2011 census, the overall literacy rate for Muslims went up substantially to 68.5 per cent against the national literacy rate of 74 percent.

That was good news. But the numbers within the numbers tell a different story. The worst literacy rate for women in India is among those in the Muslim community at less than 52 percent. That is cause for concern.

Even more worrying is the performance of Muslims in terms of higher education. A US India Policy Institute released in 2013, six years after the Sachar Report, showed that only 11 per cent of Muslims in India pursue higher education compared to a national average of approximately 19 per cent. Most significantly, that study revealed that there has been a decline in the general category of Muslims participating in higher education.

The literacy rate and the higher education statistics represent a double whammy for Muslim women as it relates to empowerment. In education, literacy is the starting line and higher education is the finishing line for becoming fully empowered. These statistics indicate that not enough Muslim women even get to the starting line and very few get to the finishing line.

This must change. Muslim women must be able to participate fully along the entire educational continuum. This participation is pivotal for the future of the individual Muslim woman, the Muslim family and India.

For the individual Muslim woman, education itself is empowering. It removes the shackles of ignorance. It develops the knowledge, skills and attitudes to pursue and create one’s own destiny. It builds self-esteem and confidence. Education is the gift that keeps on giving. It is an opportunity creator and bridge to the future.

For the Muslim family, education prepares the Muslim woman to be a change agent. Too many Muslim families are trapped in poverty because of a lack of education. With her own education, the woman can educate and equip her children to escape that trap. I firmly believe education is a powerful equaliser, opening doors to Muslim women to lift themselves out of poverty.

For India, education delivers on the promise of the largest representative democracy in the world. Central to that promise are equality, opportunity and inclusive economic mobility. Education levels the playing field and makes that promise a reality. Once that reality exists for Muslim women they will be able to deliver on that promise for India by helping others up the ladder of success. They will have the capacity to change the face of India and the landscape of the world.

In the 21st century, higher education is becoming more important for climbing that ladder. By higher education, I don’t just mean four-year colleges or universities. I include technical, vocational and professional education at the secondary levels.

It might seem that I am a little delusional given the current circumstances in talking about Muslim women and higher education. But that is not the case.

On my last visit to India in February this year, I had the good fortune to give addresses and speak with young Muslim women students at Fatima Girls Inter College in Azamgarh and Abdullah Women’s College at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). I was inspired by them and their commitment to making a positive difference in India.

During that visit, my wife Debbie and I also dedicated the new Management Complex that we had financed at AMU. In my comments at the dedication ceremonies, I predicted that from this Complex “will come the future leaders who will make India and the world a better place.”

Many of those leaders will be educated and empowered Muslim women who will be in the forefront of empowering other Muslim women who will then educate and empower other Muslim women — and the cycle will continue.

When that occurs, those Muslim women would have realised their full potential and they will ensure that India and the world do as well. When they succeed, all of us succeed. India succeeds. The world succeeds. (IANS)

 

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JNU was awarded ‘Best University’ for its good works, not for Hostage Drama, says HRD Minister

"Recently JNU was given best university award. This was not given for making the Vice Chancellor hostage but for the good works done by the university. These good works don't come into the limelight"

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JNU

New Delhi, March 28, 2017: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) got the best university award for its good work and not for the controversy last year during which the Vice Chancellor was taken hostage’. Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar remarked this statement while discussing a bill in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

“Recently JNU was given best university award. This was not given for making the Vice Chancellor hostage but for the good works done by the university. These good works don’t come into the limelight,” Javadekar said in the Lok Sabha while concluding the debate on the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016.

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Javadekar’s comments came after Congress pioneer Mallikarjun Kharge questioned the Minister’s reference of vacancies in JNU.

Pointing out to the vacancies of professors in JNU, Javadekar said: “There are over 100 vacancies for SCs/STs in JNU while around 25 posts of disabled professors are vacant since long ago.”

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Karge objected to it by stating that it’s not only in the JNU, but in many central universities, teaching posts are lying vacant for many years. It’s the duty of the minister to respond to such obligations.

“I know why you are raking up JNU only,” Kharge said.

Last year in October, Students of JNU had staged protests outside the administrative Block, forcing the Vice-Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar and Rectors to remain confined inside the building, over the disappearance of student Najeeb Ahmed.

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Earlier, three of its students were arrested on sedition charges in connection with an event on the campus during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.

Responding to members’ queries, Javadekar said that vacancies in universities are a serious issue and there are many reasons for it.

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“There are vacancies in central universities, state universities and also in private universities. We are trying to constitute a dynamic platform where all vacancies will be exhibited on our website,” he said.

The Minister said that for filling up the vacancies the government needs to create an atmosphere where students prefer to be teachers and professors.

”We need to create interest among students so they could prefer this profession,” he said.

Javadekar said that whenever he visited any university, he always asked students: “Who wants to be a teacher? Who wants to be a professor?”

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“Recently I visited an IIT where I asked the same question to students. I was very happy when majority of students said they want to join the teaching line,” he said.

He also expressed concern over the cases of suicides on campuses.

“Even a single case of suicide in campuses is unfortunate,” the minister said.

-prepared by Ashish Srivastava of NewsGram Twitter @PhulRetard