See Behind the Curtain of QS World University Rankings 2022

I will begin on a lighter note because what follows is serious and may be tough, harsh and unsavoury for quite a few learned people.

There is a joke about a man asking his son about his result in the school, which is narrated nearly in all parts of the country. Rendered in local dilect with local nuances and cultural flavour, the outcome is always hilarious.  This joke goes something like this –

Man (to his son Ramu) – tell me, whether you passed this time or have failed the exams once again

Ramu (replying to his father) – I have stood fourth in the class

Man – very good Ramu, but did you pass

Ramu – Gopal (Head master’s son) has stood sixth in the class, I have done better than Gopal

Man – Poor Gopal, he remained behind you, but did he pass or not

Ramu – only Dheeru and Golu passed, they stood first and second. Don’t get angry with me, I am better than 36 in my class. Only 3 are better than me.

Man (in angry and abusive tone) – Idiot, you failed again

Clearly, the result was only 5% (2 out of 40) pass rate.

Let us now look at the QS World University Rankings 2022. India has celebrated that three of our institutions – IIT Bombay (shared rank 177), IIT Delhi (rank 185) and IISc Bangalore (shared rank 186) continue to remain in the top 200 ranked Universities of the World even in 2022. The Prime Minister (https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1402628065474203650) and the Education Minister (https://twitter.com/DrRPNishank/status/1402559433259962371) also congratulated these institutions, and rightly so, rankings do give us a sense of achievement. We need to be careful however, if our euphoria (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-emerging-a-vishvaguru-says-ramesh-pokhriyal-after-3-indian-institutes-figure-in-top-200-qs-world-university-rankings/articleshow/83373333.cms ) is like that of a Ramu or a Golu?

QS World University Rankings 2022 feature 1,300 universities from around the world. There are 35 Indian Universities in this list of 1300. (https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2022 )

Universities were evaluated according to a weighted average of the six metrics – Academic Reputation (40%), Employer Reputation (10%), Faculty/Student Ratio (20%), Citations per faculty (20%), International Faculty Ratio (5%), and International Student Ratio (5%).

The matrices are reported as measurements on an analogue interval scale (0-100) which are then aggregated into an overall score (weighted average). The overall score is therefore on an analogue interval scale (0-100).

The overall score was then ordered from high to low and discreet ranks awarded as 1, 2, 3, and 4 and so on. Universities tied at same overall score share the same rank and the next rank is then skipped to account for double cases at same rank. In such ranking, among the top 200 ranks, three institutions from India figured.

Let us try to see beneath the veil of these ranks.

  • MIT, which ranks first has an overall score of 100 (rounded up) composed of Academic Reputation (40% of 100), Employer Reputation (10% of 100), Faculty/Student Ratio (20% of 100), Citations per faculty (20% of 100), International Faculty Ratio (5% of 100), and International Student Ratio (5% of 91.4).
  • The overall scores are thus some kind of ratings for the Universities. Interestingly, as we go down the ranking list, the overall score drops very fast – Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh United States scores less than 75% but ranks at 53; Hanyang University, Seoul South Korea scores less than 50% but ranks at 156; Maastricht University, Maastricht Netherlands scores less than 50% but ranks at 156; and University of Missouri, Columbia United States scores less than 25% but ranks at 476.
  • Overall Scores for Universities ranked at 501 or lower are nor reported (they scored 24 or less out of 100)

Let us revert to performance by the institutions from India. There are 35 institutions from India in the list of 1300 ranked institutions, of which 3 are in top-200, 5 more are in the 201-500 group, another 14 are in the next 500 ranks while the remaining 13 are in the last 300 ranks. The top-3 institutions from India are rated and ranked as under:

  • IIT Bombay (Academic Reputation -51.3, Employer Reputation -79.6, Faculty/Student Ratio- 32.5, Citations per faculty -55.5, International Faculty Ratio – 1.5, International Student Ratio – 1.6; Overall score – 46.4; rank-177),
  • IIT Delhi (Academic Reputation -45.8, Employer Reputation -70.8, Faculty/Student Ratio- 30.9, Citations per faculty -70.0, International Faculty Ratio – 1.2, International Student Ratio – 1.7; Overall score – 45.9; rank 185)

and

  • IISc Bangalore (Academic Reputation -34.2, Employer Reputation -19.2, Faculty/Student Ratio- 48.8, Citations per faculty -100.0, International Faculty Ratio – 1.2, International Student Ratio – 1.8; Overall score – 45.7; rank 186)

The next 5 ranked institutions are:

  • IIT Madras (Overall score – 38.1, rank 255),
  • IIT Kanpur (Overall score – 36.4, rank 277),
  • IIT Kharagpur (Overall score – 36.3, rank 280),
  • IIT Guwahati (Overall score – 28.3, rank 395) and
  • IIT Roorkee (Overall score – 28.0, rank 400).

Here is what the rating data displays:

  • Only the public institutions of technology and science are able to find a place in the top-500 club. These are deemed to be universities but not a university in the real sense of the term. A university is multi-disciplinary, spanning across humanities, science, commerce and social sciences rather than being confined to a very narrow focus on technology.
  • There is no real Indian University in the top-500 ranks. South Africa has 4 real universities in the top-500 club.
  • As against 8 institutions from India in the top-500 club, Europe has 212 institutions, United States has 87 institutions while Rest of Asia has 117 institutions (includes 26 from mainland China, 16 from Japan).
  • These 8 institutions do not account for even 1% of the total university enrolment in India.
  • The best of best in India scores only 46% marks as compared to the best in the world score of 100%.
  • There are large variances in the scores for Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation, Faculty/Student Ratio and Citations per faculty within the top 3 whose ranks are spread over only 9 ranks.
  • Employer reputation seems to exceed Academic Reputation for the high ranked institutions in India. IISc turns out to be an exception in reputation as well as in its Citation score.

Makeup is used as a beauty aid to help build up the self-esteem and confidence of an individual. Like NIRF Rankings (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350354434_NIRF%27s_India_Rankings_Are_Ludicrous) QS World University Rankings 2022 are a makeup for educational institutions. This makeup conceals the ugly pockmarks on the face of Universities in India. It is unfortunate that the Education Minister has utilized this makeup to beat the harsh lights and the glare of camera flashes which would expose the rot in education system.

By calling these rankings as a testimony for India’s “leap in the field of Education & Research and is emerging as a VISHVAGURU” Education Minister is only proving his lack of understanding and literateness. Surely, he remembers well – “Parde Mein Rehne Do Parda Na Uthao, Parda Jo Uth Gaya To Bhedh Khul Jayega, Allah Meri Tauba – Allah Meri Tauba” (परदे में रहने दो पर्दा न उठाओ, पर्दा जो उठ गया तो भेद खुल जायेगा, अल्लाह मेरी तौबा – अल्लाह मेरी तौबा) keep the curtain on, don’t lift the curtain, If the curtain is lifted, then the secret will be revealed, Allah is my repentance – Allah is my repentance.

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First published 12 June 2021

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Prime Time TV in India

With more than 400 of the 900 or so TV channels being News and Current Affairs, prime-time entertainment on television in India is provided by the News channels and not the entertainment channels. The format for prime-time programming for a 60-minute slot is uniform (indicating commoditization) across all these channels and comprises of less than 5 minutes of News (mostly obtained from syndication agencies) and 40-50 minutes of “high pitched, abusing and slugging matches between the political adversaries and the balance for commercial breaks depending on the fancy of the illiterate media-planners.

The party-spokespersons of the NDA and the UPA appearing on such TV debates each evening are more similar than they might like to think. All of them exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold India together; and they don’t hesitate to learn lessons from each other. Few of them can become the real show-stealers and then expect to be rewarded with Ministerial berths in the future Governments.

These debates have a brash and burly moderator, who rather than ensuring decorum, sanity or civility keeps fanning the profanity for maintaining the tempo of the show. Some of these moderators look forward to receiving the ‘Padma Awards’ over time. These shows lack substantive-content, depend on TRPs driven by sensationalism of the trivia and consequently lack audience engagement. These shows also fail to attract female audience. They are crass-entertainment with zilch day-after-recall.


 

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Social Justice

There is absolutely no reason to believe that if every class at the Institutions of Higher Education contained fifty percent Hindu students from the erstwhile disadvantaged sections of the society — who are admitted with little reference to other qualifications — the institutions’ standards and reputation would automatically improve. Similarly, there is absolutely no reason to believe that if every public and professional service in the country contained fifty percent public servants and professionals from the erstwhile disadvantaged sections of the society — who are taken on board without any reference to their calibre and capabilities — the standards of public and professional service would automatically improve.

Hindus should not, qua Hindus, ask for special privileges and concessions in educational institutions and job opportunities. I say so because I strongly believe that such demands will not solve the problems faced by the weaker elements among the Hindus, i.e. those who do not now possess essential educational, financial, and social resources. Experience tells us that “concessions” mostly benefit those who already are in better circumstances. We should also bear in mind that any institution readily giving “concessions” soon begins to decline in status and standards.

If the so called advantaged sections of the Hindu society were guilty of not letting the disadvantaged sections progress in the past, the disadvantaged sections cannot take away the opportunities from the so called advantaged sections in future through a constitutional arrangement. This is like making the future generations pay for the crimes of the previous by denying them their future. Such a system of social justice cannot reduce but only increase the social divide.

Bringing up the educational, financial, and social resources of the disadvantaged is both a national and a social imperative. But bringing them up by keeping the advantaged down is possibly not the right approach. Nor would it solve the economic problems faced by the disadvantaged Hindus. Blindly granting privileges to all the disadvantaged would only cast a shadow over the achievements of the worthier and more talented among them.

The ‘socially disadvantaged’ class should not be converted to a ‘constitutionally advantaged’ class in a way which creates a new class of ‘socially-advantaged-constitutionally disadvantaged.’

 


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Bharat, which is India and Hindustan

Since Islamic terror or Muslim terror has been so much in news, the term ‘Saffron Terror’ was coined by some so-called secular people and brought into political and media discussions to bring in an “equal-equal” balancing act to emphasise their own secular credentials.

In 1966, Chief Justice of India, PB Gajendragadkar, writing on behalf of a five-member Constitution Bench, had observed, “We find it difficult, if not impossible, to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe it.” Continuing in the same vein, 10 years later in 1976, the Supreme Court, disposing of another case, noted, “It is a matter of common knowledge that Hinduism embraces within itself so many diverse forms of beliefs, faiths, practices and worships that it is difficult to define the term ‘Hindu’ with precision.”

Does this mean that no Hindu can be a terrorist? No. But given the nature of Hinduism, to brainwash and programme large numbers of its adherents to attack others will not be easy. As Justice Gajendragadkar had observed in his judgment, “Unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet, it does not worship any one god, it does not subscribe to any one dogma, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances, in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed.” Yet, when it comes to branding Hindus as “terrorists”, everyone seems instantly to know and agree upon who a Hindu is. The branding, it would seem, is more important than any evidence to support it.

Of course, there are criminals, rapists, murderers and much worse people who happen to be from practicing Hindu family or just have a Hindu name.  But ‘Hindutva terror’ or ‘Hindu terror’ is mostly meaningless as hardly any Hindu would go out and commit terrorism for the glory of the  ‘Bhagavad Gita’ or for attaining heaven,  or chant a ‘Vedic Mantra’ before blowing up a group of people. Hindu criminals surely exist, but ‘Hindu terror’ is mostly imaginary.

The word “Hindu” does not exist in any of the four “Vedas,” the fountainhead of the so called “Hinduism.” The reference to the land mass of so called “Hindus” which was also referred to as “Hindustan” on some later date, is to be found in Hymn 24 of the 8th Mandala of the Rig Veda.

(Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation)

य रक्षादंहसो मुचद यो वार्यात सप्त सिन्धुषु | वधर्दासस्य तुविन्र्म्ण नीनमः ||

ya ṛkṣādaṃhaso mucad yo vāryāt sapta sindhuṣu | vadhardāsasya tuvinṛmṇa nīnamaḥ ||

Who will set free from ruinous woe, or Arya on the Seven Streams: O valiant Hero, bend the Dasa’s weapon down.

Mandala 8 is a prayer to God Indra and in this hymn the prayer invokes God Indra to protect the Aryas and the land of the Sapta-Sindhu (meaning 7-rivers) by blunting the weapons of fate. Sapta-Sindhu was referred to as Hapta-Hindu by Persians. The people of this region and their culture, the Sapta-Saindhavas were referred to as hapta-Haindavas by Persians. The term is found in ‘Avesta’ of Zoroastrians. “Hindu” is thus a geo-demographic descriptor for the people from the Sapta-Sindhu region without religious connotation. The language of these people was ‘Sanskrit’ and the script was ‘Devnagari.’ The language and the script also do not have any religious connotations.

The ‘dharma’ (poorly translated as religion) of these people was Sanātana dharma (Devanagari: सनातन धर्म meaning “eternal dharma” or “eternal order”). The root of the word dharma comes from ‘dhri’ in Sanskrit, which means to uphold or maintain. The Sanskrit says ‘dharayati iti dharmaha’ which translates as dharma is that which upholds. However, not only what is supported is ‘dharma,’ but that which does the supporting is also ‘dharma.’ So ‘dharma’ is the means as well as the goal. When the word ‘Sanatana’ is added to ‘dharma’ it expands the meaning and purpose. ‘Sanatana’ means eternal. So Sanatana-dharma can mean the ancient path that has existed from time immemorial. It is the eternal path which has been given to humanity and comes from beyond the material dimension. Thus, Sanatana-dharma is the inter-dimensional path of progress for all living beings.

With the passage of time and the onslaught of invasions from the Persia, the expression in Persian, ‘Hindu’ got currency.  Their religion – Sanātana dharma became “Hinduism” – an alien and a restrictive and also a limited expression.  Europeans were happy to follow and propagate this expression “Hinduism” unfortunately and ignorantly treating it as a synonym, which has resulted in an interesting ambiguity – is it Bharat or Hindustan or India,  what is the proper name, isn’t name a proper noun and are proper nouns to be translated?

Obviously, the word ‘Hindutva’ comes from the words Hindu and Hindustan (Bhaarat and not just the land of the Hinduism).  It is “Bharatiyataa” or Indian-ness or Indian-ism, the social and cultural ethos and the way of life of citizens of Bhaarat or India. It is the essence of India. Hindutva, to serve as a word, must appeal to the geographic source of India’s cohesion. This word is understood as Americans understand the word “India,” without religious connotation. But what of the Hindu derivation of the word “Hindutva” Well it goes back to the word Sindhu meaning a citizen of Hindustan. Thus it has no more religious connotation than the word “Hindi.”

Many of my Hindus friends seem wary to be associated with Hindutva, in spite of the fact that Hindutva simply means Hindu-ness or being Hindu. They tend to accept the view which mainstream media has peddled for long – ‘Hindutva’ is intolerant and stands for the ‘communal’ agenda of a political party that wants to force uniform Hinduism on this vast country which is fully against the true Hindu ethos. Several of my friends with Hindu names keep ridiculing Hinduism without knowing anything about it. They have not even read the Bhagavad-Gita.

Some other friends claim that Hinduism is the most immoral of all religions and responsible for the ills India is facing. They refer to caste system and ‘ManuSmriti’ as proof. ‘ManuSmriti’ has become the favourite pasture for scavengers keen on bashing Hinduism and Vedas. This becomes among the most potent tools for promoting conversion away from Hinduism. And interestingly most of these Manu bashers perhaps never ever gave ‘ManuSmriti’ a serious reading! Let us examine the truth behind just one such unfortunate tendency in modern society, which is to project Manu as ‘anti-woman’. In fact, Manu holds women in high esteem. One may refer to Verse 3.56,

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and contextual English translation (the verse is from the chapter titled “Duties of the Householder”) –

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः। यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥ ५६ ॥

yatra nāryastu pūjyante ramante tatra devatāḥ | yatraitāstu na pūjyante sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ || 56 ||

Where women are honoured, there the gods rejoice; where, on the other hand, they are not honoured, there all rites are fruitless.—(56).

The statement “Na stree svaatantryam arhati” from verse 3 in Chapter IX is often provided as an example for Manu’s anti-woman stance. It is important to refer to this complete verse here – Verse 9.3,

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and contextual English translation (the verse is from the chapter titled “Duties of the Husband and Wife”) –

पिता रक्षति कौमारे भर्ता रक्षति यौवने । रक्षन्ति स्थविरे पुत्रा न स्त्री स्वातन्त्र्यमर्हति ॥ ३ ॥  

pitā rakṣati kaumāre bhartā rakṣati yauvane | rakṣanti sthavire putrā na strī svātantryamarhati ॥ 3 ॥

The father looks after her during virginity, the husband looks after her in youth, the sons look after her in old age; the woman should never be depending on one’s own self for sustenance.—(3)

In Manu’s perception, a woman is, by her very nature, so divine and unique that she should never be left to fend for herself. It is the duty of society to protect and take good care of her — by her father during childhood, husband in her youth, and son in her old age. Interpretations stemming from inadequate or improper understanding of the original Sanskrit text often lead to distortions and generate hard feelings in a cosmopolitan society like ours. Unfortunately the Sanskrit verse is wrongly translated as if woman does not deserve independence. If Manu had intended such a meaning, there would never be verses like 9.31 – Child belongs to mother, 9.33 – Woman is akin to the soil of the mother earth, 9.88 – man will marry his daughter to a bridegroom who is of exceptionally distinguished appearance, and her equal, 9.118 – sons inherit the father’s property as equal shares but each son needs to give away a quarter of his share to his sister; and so on.

The caste system as propounded by the ‘ManuSmriti’ is the least understood and the most abused. Let us refer to Verse 10.4,

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and contextual English translation –

ब्राह्मणः क्षत्रियो वैश्यस्त्रयो वर्णा द्विजातयः। चतुर्थ एकजातिस्तु शूद्रो नास्ति तु पञ्चमः ॥ ४ ॥

brāhmaṇaḥ kṣatriyo vaiśyastrayo varṇā dvijātayaḥ| chaturtha ekajātistu śūdro nāsti tu pañcamaḥ ॥ 4 ॥

The Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya are the three twice-born castes; the fourth is the one caste, Śūdra; there is no fifth.—(4).

Everyone is casteless by birth. They need to be born again – to become a Brāhmaṇa, or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya by choosing to be so no later than the age of 8 years, 11 years and 12 years respectively. Not choosing to be born again by the stated age would by default assign them to be Śūdra. (One can also begin with the position and argue that everyone is Śūdra by birth). The second birth is marked by taking a vow to be so at an event referred to as the ‘Yajñopavītam’ and ‘Upnayana’ (start of formal education) ‘Samskar.’ It is mandated for each of the three – twice-born to read and study the Vedas but the right to teach and interpret the Vedas would remain with the Brāhmaṇa. Those who do not make a choice through the ‘Upnayana’ are not deprived of making such a choice any time later. However, the entry to the professional caste of a Brāhmaṇa, or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya is not allowed. ‘Upnayana’ is not restricted by gender or by ancestry. It is a choice. There is a clear recognition of differences in individual calibre and capabilities, and the  ‘ManuSmriti’ is only making it mandatory to exercise the choice to be a Brāhmaṇa, or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya by a particular age and then devote the balance of time for preparation for the profession. Nowhere does it prevent Śūdra from reading and studying the Vedas. In present day systems, Judiciary alone can interpret the Constitution and the law, and entry into different public services require prior commitment and have an age limit hurdle. Clearly ‘ManuSmriti’ was a much advanced system of social order and not a tool for social discrimination. Quite possibly, like most constitutional provisions and laws, this was also abused by the unscrupulous.

Dominant majority has a vested interest in remaining ignorant of the real ‘ManuSmriti’ because they wish to remain oblivious to their complicity in ongoing social injustice in the name of ‘ManuSmriti.’ They resist every chance of becoming knowledgeable about what they do not know and continue to live blissfully in a fool’s paradise of believing that they know. Denial of complicity through culpable ignorance and becoming an apologist is a great escape from getting morally implicated in any crime.

Some of my childhood friends indict me for ‘standing up’ for Hindu Dharma as belonging to the ‘Hindutva brigade’ that is shunned by their sense of political correctness. They obviously don’t doubt that their own perception and views about ‘Hindutva brigade’ and also their perception of my allegiance to the ‘brigade’ to be incorrect. My secular friends can’t really be blamed for their faulty understanding. They were taught that Hinduism is just another religion. Children usually don’t doubt what they learn. They are becoming Hindu apologists- apologist for radical Hindutva- and presenting themselves as a ‘moderate’ Hindu. I urge my friends to pay attention to Voltaire, who rightly said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Hindu Dharma was never based on unreasonable dogmas and did not need blasphemy laws to keep its followers in check. It is helpful to society as it imparts wisdom and gives guidelines for an ideal life. It does not strait-jacket people into an unbelievable belief system. It allows freedom of thought and many parallel streams with different ways to connect and co-exist harmoniously. The Supreme Court ruling of 1995 declares, “… Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. … Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning. …” Hindu nationalism, whether dubbed as Hindutva or political Hinduism, should neither lose sight of nor tamper too much with this aspect of our way of life. Hindus must see through various conspiracies to divide and discredit them, including the largely false and fabricated narrative called “Hindu terror”. British colonial authorities, by introducing religious and caste tags in their 1871 Census unleashed a monster which we have not yet learned to tame.

The so-called secularists fight for the rights of religious minorities. India has already seen one partition on religious lines. There is no point in escalating the confusion by asking what was partitioned, Bharat or Hindustan or India, and what were the parts which emerged after the partition – Bharat or Hindustan or India and Pakistan? How can educated Indians be blind to the danger and risk having in future more partitions on the basis of religion, including the risk of more terrible bloodshed? Strangely, the minority religions are not accused of being divisive and communal, but Hinduism is. True secularism will neither favour minorities nor distort the traditions of the majority to demonise the latter. Hindus must see through such ploys while resisting the urge to go to the other extreme in becoming anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, or against any other tradition. To be pro-dharma is more important than to be anti-anything or anybody.

My stand is neither communal nor dangerous for India. Hindu Dharma is indeed not only inclusive, but also most beneficial for the individual and for society and yes, politicians, too, need to base their lives on Hindu Dharma if they want to be efficient in serving the society. I am not advocating any change in their faith in any –ism of their choice.  In recent weeks some staunch ‘secular’ Indian politicians declared themselves suddenly as Hindus. Maybe they pave the way for others to follow.

In the national flag of India the top band is of Saffron colour, indicating the strength and courage of the country. The white middle band indicates peace and truth with Dharma Chakra. The last band is green in colour shows the fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land.  Saffron is a colour most associated with ‘Sanaatan’ or Hindu Dharma. The colour Green has a number of traditional associations in Islam.

Being Hindu means to know and value the profound insights of the ‘Rishis’ and to follow their recommendations in one’s life. Being Hindu also means having the welfare of all at heart, including animals and plants. Being Hindu means following one’s conscience and using one’s intelligence well. Fanaticism hurts Hindus as much as it does others. Being Hindu means being wise – not deluded or gullible or foolish.

I think it was Voltaire who said, “God gave me intelligence. I think HE wants me to use it…

 


Om (also written as Aum) is an ancient mantra and mystical sound of Hindu origin (India and Nepal), which is considered sacred in religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Hindus believe that all the divine and other creation form of consciousness originated from the vibration manifesting as sound “OM”. In Vedas and other Hindu scriptures, AUM is the ‘Sound of the Sun’ and the ‘Sound of Light’.


 

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No More the Quality of Education, It’s the Calibre of Students that is Making the Institutions Premier

What is the probability of an aspirant getting admitted in to a top IIM or a top IIT? No marks for guessing – it is less than one percent. Stated in other words, assuming (suspiciously) that the entrance exams JEE and CAT are capable of evaluating what is being sought to be evaluated, the probability that one who has been admitted to a top IIM or a top IIT belongs to the positive outlier zone of the mean calibre of the applicants.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for the calibre of the faculty who teaches at a top IIM or a top IIT. The education and teaching imparted is nearly as good or as bad as it is at the other top-ranked peer institutions. [this ranking of institutions as premier, tier-I, tier-II etc., is a caste system leading to an interesting aberration in the job market where employers end up hiring institutions rather than individuals; but more on this institutional caste-system some other time]. Not many would have the courage to acknowledge it in public, but many stakeholders associated with these so called top-rung institutions do acknowledge in private about quality-problems with the process of imparting education at their institutions.

Part of the quality problem is due to a low level of requirements in many subjects and the below average capability of the faculty engaged in such delivery. For the most part, the only, crucial, form of evaluation is assessments of student, which are more an expression of student satisfaction rather than a reflection of the quality of the education provided. There is an in-built incentive for mediocre teachers to use less-demanding course content or not be strict or demanding in assessments of performances of student. If the students are paying substantial fees there is an additional pressure to ensure that “the customers” are satisfied and to avoid reducing the market by failing students with weak results.

Institutions, programmes and courses that have low standards achieve a high student completion rate and are rewarded accordingly. Courses, specially the electives, that have a reputation for being demanding may also be less appealing to students and lead to fewer applicants.

It might be supposed that many institutions want to maintain high standards in order to improve their reputation with employers and ambitious students. But “student satisfaction” is not the same as high standards in terms of qualification output. A study of students’ ratings of lecturers’ show that people on courses assessed to be easy rather than difficult gave higher scores to their lecturers.

Another problem is lack of motivation amongst student to acquire knowledge. Their motivation for hard work at the pre-admission stage is in seeking the admission. Once admitted, failing in the programme of study need more delinquencies than the inadvertent effort put in here and there that suffices to succeed. The students in the institution are motivated only to grab the crème of job-offers that flow in quite unaffected by a limited study-input of many students but by the momentum of ranking and reputation.


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Conversion of B-schools into Businesses

Business Schools were set up in late 19th century as vocational trade schools. The studies of the Ford Foundation and Carnegie foundation had provided 64% of all grants to US universities both for new initiatives and for existing institutions and thus their money has had tremendous influence over the direction of education.

After the Second World War, both the Carnegie and Ford Foundations felt that business schools needed to professionalise and grow beyond their origins. Importantly, in the midst of the Cold War poor-quality business education was seen to threaten the health of the economy, democracy and the American way of life. The studies of the Ford Foundation and Carnegie foundation of 1959 led to their transformation from practical institutions into academic behemoths.

Schools were to professionalise, with faculty holding doctorates and producing graduate-level academic publications; students were to be taught quantitative methods and behavioural sciences – and only those academically qualified were to be admitted. Business schools all over the world started reinventing themselves to comply with such new expectations and the strings attached by the donors. And, while not obviously stated but clearly understood, schools were to have an anticommunist, pro-business and clearly capitalist orientation. This is the b-school model that India emulated.

The “storm” of rankings changed everything. In simple terms and for better or worse, the advent of rankings in 1987 marked the dawn of the era of business schools as businesses with the rules of the game laid down by the Foundation Studies. The U.S. News & World Report published a reputation survey of b-schools. Business Week published the first full business school assessment in 1998. Today there are other rankings provided by – Bloomberg BusinessWeek; Forbes, Financial Times, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal.

India would not lag behind and there are now a plethora of rankings including those by Business-Today, Business India, Business World, ET, Business Standard, AIMA, MBAUniverse, Outlook, Careers360, and so on. Few people may remember what it was like before the rankings. It was a time when business schools could actually focus on improving the quality of their schools’ educational offerings. Discussions about strategic marketing were confined mostly to the marketing curriculum. PR firms were hired by businesses, not business schools. Most business schools had sufficient facilities, but few buildings had marble floors, soaring atriums, or plush carpeting. IIMs were affordable for most students, and even top MBA programs were accessible to students with high potential but low CAT/MAT scores.

What they teach and how they teach has lost focus for the leadership at b-schools. Instead, they are chasing the new indicators of quality and success for b-schools as being determined by the rankings –

  1. applicant rejection rates (how difficult is it to get admission),
  2. placements (how quickly, how early, how many aspiring recruiters, number of job offers per available student and at what emoluments),
  3. rankings (playing upon the better ones out of so many available and suppressing the inferior ones as biased),
  4. Infrastructure (marble floorings, air-conditioning, cafeteria, LCD projectors, books in the library,
  5. Advisory councils (reflecting affiliations rather than the capability of the constituent members)
  6. faculty (their credentials rather than ability and availability to teach).

B-schools are now businesses with business-to-customer marketing practices in chasing students and business-to-business marketing in chasing potential recruiters. Executive education and consulting was always about business-to-business marketing.

B-schools are on the path of evolving into trading exchanges for the managerial-talent.


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Take a PAUSE ! THINK !!

Profitability of business is associated with the efficiency of deployment of an input-mix comprising of – Machines, Manpower, Materials, Methods, and Money.  The era of increasing the component of Manpower in this heady mix is long gone and the emphasis has been on reducing the Manpower to a LEAN extent possible. Technology (Methods) makes labour a commodity-input that can be contracted as easily as any other. The shifts from outsourcing to ‘Uber’isation have been largely driven by the corporate imperative to create shareholder value, and under our current conditions, creating shareholder value and creating good jobs are largely incompatible. Corporations are “job creators” only as a last resort.

Out there is a sea of humanity, which more than anything in the world, wants a regular job with a wage. Jobs provide income, inclusion, confidence, comfort, security, a meaning to life and are a source of engagement that keeps people busy. Good jobs are essential to the good life. Yet good jobs are a minority and India needs lots of them.

Jobs and wages have to be at the heart of all economic growth. Growth without increase in jobs could trigger the rise of anti-nationalism, populism, crime, fanaticism or civil-unrest. Neither a Socialist nor a Capitalist approach to economic management can overcome the threats and consequences of job-less growth.

Technology is not destiny; nor is globalisation. Their direction is not random but shaped by decisions made by firms, governments and individuals. In other words, there is a choice, and it is up to leaders of governments, corporations and civil institutions to shape it in ways that will benefit ordinary citizens as well as themselves – or, as we have seen, ordinary citizens will do it for them.

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PARADIGM

‘Paradigm’ is set of accepted fundamental laws, assumptions, and standard ways of working (instrumentation and techniques).

A new and original social paradigm is recognizable only if it accedes to the world stage of the global scientific system constituted and structured by networks of scientific scholars, scientific contributions published in scientific journals, books, internet sites, etc., fueled by a vast array of international meetings, seminars, conferences, and so on. It is only at this global level that we can decide if a new paradigm is gaining a global stage or not. Put in other words: are we really witnessing a new and emergent sociological ‘school’, or are we observing only a sort of ‘esprit du temp’ which is able to catalyse similar intuitions and sociological insights? (As in Prandini, R. Relational sociology: A well-defined sociological paradigm or a challenging ‘relational turn’ in sociology? International Review of Sociology: Revue Internationale de Sociologie, 25(1), 2015, 1–14.)

paradigm

The term ‘Paradigm’ was first used by Thomas S. Kuhn in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (First Published in 1962). Manny Rayner (a famous and popular Goodreads Author) on 24 January 2013, reviewing the 50th anniversary edition of the book wrote:

Scientists are so passionate about their work, and even if you’re a scientist yourself it can sometimes take you by surprise to see just how passionate they are. A few years ago, when I was working at NASA, we made up a game called If Research Were Romance. Here, let me show you how to play.

Kuhn

In real life, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book about paradigm changes in science. But if research were romance, he might have written a book about relationships instead. It might have been quite similar in many ways. Scientists care so much about their theories that you won’t go far wrong if you think about the feelings they have for those theories as being similar to the feelings that normal people have for their significant others.

If research were romance, Thomas Kuhn might have said that, when you’re in a committed relationship, that relationship colors all your life. A lot of what you do and think only makes sense in terms of the relationship. And everyone over, say, 20, knows that relationships are not always easy. You’re continually having problems, some of them little, some of them not so little. But if you’re prepared to work on them, you can usually solve those problems, and when you’ve done so you usually feel that the relationship is stronger, not weaker. The fact that you’ve surmounted the problem gives you more faith in the relationship.

If research were romance, Thomas Kuhn might have gone on to say that sometimes you get another feeling. The problems won’t disappear, or they go away in one form and immediately return in another. You start to feel that the relationship is undergoing a real crisis. But you’ll probably still continue to work on it, unless you meet another person who offers you a chance of something different. If you’ve been in your relationship a long time, it will feel difficult to consider seriously the idea of abandoning it and starting a new one. Sometimes, though, people do this. They won’t really know why they’re taking this drastic step, and they won’t be able to justify it clearly in their minds. It will just seem like the right thing to do.

If research were romance, Thomas Kuhn might have added that, after the old relationship has ended and the new one has started, it will be hard to see your old life in the same terms. Your view of it will now be colored by your new relationship. Now, you will probably only be able to see the old relationship as containing faults which you never noticed at the time. You will not really be able to remember what it was like.

If research were romance, Thomas Kuhn might have said that some people believe that they have a true soulmate out there, and it’s just a question of finding that special person they are fated to be with. But he wouldn’t have believed that. He’d have said that people sometimes change their partner, and often they may do it for a good reason. But there is no absolute sense in which the new partner is better suited to them than the old one. They are better in some ways and worse in others.

If research were romance, Thomas Kuhn would have been a rock star. Security staff would have been needed to stop groupies getting into his hotel room and he’d have been unsure about how many children he’d fathered. He’d have played it down in interviews, but everyone would have known what the deal was.

If you also work in science, I encourage you to experiment with this game. You’ll be amazed how much insight it gives you into what’s really going on.

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In Modi, We Trust! Why?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, nearly four years after coming to power remains “by far the most popular national figure in Indian politics.” Multiple Opinion surveys (latest being survey by ABP News-Lokniti-CSDS and India Today-Karvy survey, both conducted in January 2018) say people are satisfied with the direction in which the country is being steered and the state of the economy under Modi despite the controversial decision to ban high currency notes, shoddy implementation of GST, Cow vigilantism, Doklam, Dalit agitation and a bleak employment situation.  Why are we in love with Narendra Modi?

A very simple, intuitive and rational answer to the question is because we, the citizens, believe that his ideas work or promise to do so. In the latter case, his ideas can still be evaluated subsequently and adopted more widely or discarded as inappropriate. We, the citizens, believe that Modi is working towards a purpose, is methodical in his approach and has the cognitive capabilities to understand the problems of the people. This is in spite of the ground reality that specifying the nature of the problems and objectives is difficult and the impact/success of practices or interventions by Modi are notoriously difficult to isolate.

A completely different point of view also offers an equally plausible explanation for the triumph of Modi’s discourse. Modi and his ideas epitomise the underlying anxieties and yearnings and a corresponding ‘need’ for a potentially comforting sense of order and identity and/or control of the citizens. This notwithstanding the fact that Modi’s perspective is typically associated with emotionally charged, sometimes impulsive, decisions to adopt, often simplistic and rational ideas without serious attention being given to their likely effectiveness for such a complex country.

None from his party or from any other political party is challenging Modi to be the Prime Minister of India save and except a feeble claim by Rahul Gandhi. All political parties are adopting similar practices to catch the fancy of the voters.  Practices like — dressing up, head-gears, temple-visits are being adopted for symbolic reasons — seeking electorate legitimacy— rather than, or even regardless of, efficiency or control outcomes.

Cultural (social identity) plurality and fluidity across such large and spread out country like India are both an advantage and a challenge.  In giving primacy to social context, such approaches are concerned with variety as well as homogeneity in being shaped by factors such as the ‘mentality’ of local political elites; role of local media and professional groups and religious networks. There is a distinction between the ideologies and techniques associated with individual approaches and either is adopted independently. For example, Rahul claimed being a ‘Janeu-Dhari-Shiv-Bhakt’ (technique) in Gujarat without overtly supporting Hinduism (ideology), something which did not resonate culturally with the electorate.

Modi exudes the persuasive powers of a political guru through his charisma and verbal and nonverbal presentation techniques thereby connecting with the citizens who have been starving for such relationship over the long years of UPA government. He has the key of impression management, not content, although ‘the content (i.e. packaging) is itself part of the performance.’

Modi is often active and tactical in the production and transformation of ideas into rhetoric. ‘Rhetoric’ is rarely appropriate or necessary in governance though it is an essential ingredient to politicking and politics. ‘Mere rhetoric’ should be typically contrasted with reality or truth. The underlying problem with such narratives is in ‘fight/ flight’ where survival rests on destroying or evading the ‘enemy’ (“Congress Mukt Bharat”) and ‘dependency’ on an all-powerful leader (Modi himself) who is beyond criticism.

Demand for new ideas in political discourse is shaped by a competition between ‘techno-economic forces’ and ‘socio-psychological vulnerabilities.’ Modi is successful in supplying ideas to fuel Current Political Discourse, some of which are faddish, others fashionable and few substantive.

At the risk of simplification, different factors that are making Modi successful with the citizens are — his effectiveness in the party and in the government; his relieving anxiety and securing identity for an ordinary person cutting across age, gender and religion;  his successful rhetoric; his cultural resonance or meaning; and securing legitimacy to his ideas through electoral victories.

A lesson that Modi has scripted for all – be they journalists, opinion-makers, intellectuals, drawing-room debaters, civil-society activists, tv-hosts or the so called ‘Architects of Networked Disinformation’- rationality is necessarily political, emotional, cultural, institutional and rhetorical, but not reducible to any of them.

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