“We are working on the concept of having navratna universities or an Indian Ivy League. We intend to nurture these select universities, like the public sector navratnas, by generous financial support, freedom in accessing external funding and total autonomy so as to free them from the shackles of government control.”
While the absence of government control in the running of such universities is gratifying, to what extent will it be so? Will it nurture an open-ended educational system where students are not trapped in outdated syllabi? Will there be freedom to explore controversial subjects and books? And will this further create a fractured society?
Recently, an elite school raised objections to students from less privileged backgrounds enrolling as per the requirements of the Right To Education (RTE) Act because they were concerned about the adjustment issues they might have; there have been instances when this hurdle has been crossed, but it is a fact even in regular schools that the social and financial status counts. The disparities are ingrained at an early stage.
Mr Sibal further stated:
“With regard to our existing navratnas —the IITs and IIMs—we are according full powers to their boards to create posts within the approved norms, top up the salaries of the directors and faculty from the funds generated by them, open centres in India and abroad, amend rules within the framework of their Memorandums of Association and Rules, acquire and dispose property and manage funds generated on their own.”
There is no doubt that some of our bright minds are nursed here and grabbed by foreign companies. By opening centres abroad, they will cater to a limited expatriate population or perhaps those from some Asian and African countries. The wealthy Indian diaspora even today chooses the American school franchises available in the countries they reside in.
As for the Ivy League inspiration, again those institutions do have a reputation, but does that translate into brilliance as a matter of course? The affordability factor is extremely important here, and the snob value. Those who are there because they got a quick ticket have no worries; for the others who are being sponsored the stress is immense.
Check the suicide rates and the culture of angst that these institutes give rise to and you will know that where the crucial human element is concerned, they may not be roughed up as in the colleges of some small town but it isn’t all glittering.
The nine jewels – navratna – must not create a parallel world of India Shining to gloss over the reality.