Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Case for Consideration

"Internet is provided from taxpayers’ money, from government’s money. My challenge is that the student should reach the classroom at 8:30 in the morning and I have been teaching for almost 30 years now. I have seen sleepy eyed students in the class. I don’t want that to happen. I want them to learn in the classroom"

IIT Bombay Director Prof. Ashok Misra

The recent decision of the IIT Bombay Administration to curb the Internet access to students between 2300 hours - 0800 hours IST is a very interesting development. In relation to that, CNN-IBN show India 360 raised the question where Prof. Ashok Misra is quoted as saying above, which I feel requires serious consideration.

Forget the internet access part for a while, which I shall certainly comment about at a later stage, there is something much more fundamental to that quote.

The reference to taxpayers' money, Government's money!

Prof. Misra's worry about the failing standards of discipline in the IIT is going much beyond the case of Internet alone. By raising the point of taxpayers' money - he has reflected on a collective duty of the institutions such as the IITs - whose essential role is to impart education to the so-called brightest minds of the country , towards an end that results in positive empowerment of the country - as they are funded by the taxpayers' money to do good to the country. This scenario expects the students to be aware of what and who is funding their education, and at the same time puts an onus on the Professors at such Institutes, to ensure that they make the students realize the responsibility that they ought to take for the education they receive. The desperation that seems to sound in what Prof. Ashok Misra says is: Inculcating the responsibility talked above can happen only if they could impart some education - but the student is not ready to accept the education itself! In turn, the Professor is sad at not being able to fulfill his duty towards the country, towards the taxpayer's money, which even he is getting to enjoy. Such strong sense of repaying one's gratitude towards the taxpayers' money speaks of the highest sense of public morality that the IIT Director is upholding. If I were to think more, speaking the language of CNN-IBN, I would think that the IIT Director would be doing "whatever-it-takes" to enforce what he thinks is disciplined student behavior. That would mean, it should be very interesting to see the developments at the IIT Bombay from now on. From my own experience at a college of similar kind but for the Government funding, it would require a great deal of structural changes required in the IIT if Prof. Ashok Misra has to inculcate the standard of public morality that he talks of to his students. Whether Prof. Ashok Misra goes the distance or not - he certainly has a made a beginning. Or so I hope, hoping that I read Prof. Misra correctly.

A reflective account of Atanu Dey, who is an IIT Kanpur alumnus, on Who Actually Paid for my Education is a must read, in this context. A brief gist of the article would be: Education at the IITs is highly subsidized, thanks to the Government support and it is subsidized by the Government, in order to educate the best of the best so as to help create human resources for the future. Henceforth, one who studies at such institutes where Government supports them has to have a sense of gratitude towards the country which unfortunately seems missing.

Next two posts - curbing Internet access, on attending classes, and more. Stay tuned.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Post Budget Satisfaction

Sometimes, I think one should pat one's own back. In a way, I tried my bit towards understanding the state of mind of Manmohan Singh on the Quota issue, I remarked that he was making way for a larger allocation from the Budget towards Education Sector which generally becomes a difficult thing - given immense pressure from Corporates who always seem to like to have a pie from the Government. I am glad that the FM has done precisely what I was expecting. A 34% increase in the Education Sector. Be it OBC Quota or whatever - almost one lakh scholarships offered to students (who cares from which section they belong!) - that's a good sign indeed.

One interesting announcement was the 30 crore special allocation for Gandhian Studies which surprised me. Read this report. Apart from this there is about a 700 crore+ announcement for e-Governance Initiative. All these allocations, I believe must be of interest to students - since, given that we talk of Citizen Initiatives of late, these are places where they may focus on ensuring a better manner of spending it. How? , you may ask. Very well, I suppose, RTI might be a help, but your own coursework might help! For instance, e-Governance projects in India still do not use Open Source Software and Free Softwares. With the help of your interest in Open Source Softwares - you might as well get to learn what happens with the implementation of such projects - if you are interested. Some food for thought?