After my return from the US, my relatives have been persuading me to attend social functions. Since I am not so active in teaching anymore, I take it as an opportunity not to miss any social functions.
It helps that Venkat (my better half) believes in enjoying a peaceful retired life and is only too happy to accompany me.
Be it in Pune, Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore, conversations with my relatives invariably hover around educational institutions. I was in Chennai and Bangalore last week for two weddings.
A sizeable number of my relatives are in the education sector, so when we sit and chat, many interesting things crop up. It also makes me sad that the standards in the Indian education sector have fallen so low.
The Government is merrily scrapping one statutory body and creating another. The rules are more of a joke! God knows who the rules and regulations are meant for! No educational institution ever follows any pay commission diktats and job security in educational institutions is more of a mirage.
The doctorate degree and research in social sciences have become a sham. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) talks big about the performance of educational institutions and accountability, but what about its own performance?
Smriti Irani made lots of noise when she was in the Ministry of Education but nothing of material significance actually happened, except for one controversy after another.
That Ms Irani is resilient was never in doubt. However, she really made no real difference to the sector when she was at the helm of the Ministry.
Prakash Javdekar has much less of public rhetoric as compared to Ms Irani, but he has not done anything worth mentioning either. Now that elections are around the corner next year, it is fairly certain that no major decision will be taken by this government.
Engineering colleges in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu (TN) are shutting shop. Students of the Master in Business Administration (MBA) classes are not having any great placements this year. Bengaluru is supposedly a hot market for jobs, but this job market has also been stagnating for a while.
Let us not base our judgement on statistics of what students at elite institutions such as Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) have got in terms of job offers.
Let us look at middle rung business schools where students pay anywhere between Rs6 to Rs12 lakh as fees, only to struggle for a job after completing the course.
Colleges that proclaim 100% placements are only hiding true facts. Placement statistics have, at best, become a red herring to cheat students into enrolling for fast-dying MBA courses.
If Universities are still going to teach 1988's Porter's Five Forces Framework and CK Prahlad's done-to-death bottom-of-the-pyramid theory and if they cannot see beyond Maslow's need hierarchy theory, then you really cannot blame the industry. (Michael E Porter’s work was published in 1979 by Harvard Business Review; C K Prahalad’s book Fortune At the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits was published in 2004).
Unfortunately, the MBA course has become another postgraduate program like MA, or M Com.
A private university in Bengaluru that was in the news for a never-ending fight between two brothers now has a politician from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on board. This year there were only four students enrolled in their MBA program.
One brother has supposedly won a litigation with his sibling, while the other is waiting to fight yet another battle. While Vali and Sugreeva the warring brothers in Ramayana had Lord Ram to solve their problems, in this battle between the brothers, there is supposedly no scope for reconciliation.
One of my relatives living in Lingarajapuram was associated with this University for a while. He says that the campus looks like a ghost town now. Most teachers have left for greener pastures and the University was unable to pay salaries to their employees for many months.
They also have some 400 odd doctoral research students from whom they collected hefty fees and are now demanding more fees. This is strange, because they do not have many qualified doctoral program guides anymore.
The University once prided itself as being "A US-style university in India". It is now paying the price for various management atrocities it committed that left gullible students in the lurch.
But the moot question is, was there any action from the state or central governments? None.
There was a rumour that the state government would take over the University but the matter rested there. Once politics enters University campuses, it is the beginning of the end.
Let me touch on one more controversial issue.
We are so used to hearing about secularism in India but what about Christian Institutions that overtly prefer teachers and students from their own community? Their selection procedures are anything but transparent.
My niece's daughter secured 92% in the pre-university course (PUC) exams last year and she failed to secure admission to this supposedly famous commerce college near Brigade road.
However, her classmate who secured 86% got admission for the same course. How? No answers are available.
Some of these institutions still bank on their brand name but the reality is that their standards have whittled down to abysmal levels. Christian students with substantially lower marks than others get admission. Some of these institutions receive aid from Government but no questions are asked. Why?
Venkat often chides me that I am just being pessimistic. But when facts are on the table in front of you, how can one be in a self-denial mode?
The truth is that the education sector has become an attractive sector for making money. If you can pull the strings and manage to get a few affiliations or get a private university tag and if you have an agent who will fill the seats for you, then you just walk on the road to limitless prosperity and easy access to money.