Sunday, June 25, 2006


A K-PhD education proposal sent to the Knowledge Commission

Dear Knowledge Commission of India:

1. Primary Education: The Right to education bill (draft) is a step
in the right direction. However, India needs to move quickly from
Right to Education to Right to choice of education. It is not enough
that every kid can go to some school. Since our (yours and mine)
kids have a choice of what school to go to, similarly every kid and
parents should have a choice. The choice of kids from economically
disadvantage families or kids in remote villages should not be
limited to a (state) school which may or may not be functioning. In
the US two related ideas are being implemented in various states:
vouchers and charter schools.

Vouchers: It is implemented in Ohio where economically disadvantage
families are given vouchers from the state (close to an amount the
state spends per pupil) and they can use that money to go to
whichever school (even private) they chose to.

Charter schools: It is implemented in Arizona and many other states.
Charter schools are privately managed schools, but they get funding
from the government based on the number of students they have at a
rate close to the amount the state spends per pupil.

The current draft of the right to education bill (of India) requires
private schools to set aside 25% seats for economically advantage students and the government promises to pay at the rate spent per pupil otherwise.
However it is not clear what happens if a school
has 100% or 80% students from an economically advantage background.

I think the charter school idea should be explored in the Indian
context. Being assured of funding at a per pupil basis, various
private organizations will be motivated to open charter schools in
remote areas, and thus provide school choice to families living
there. Similar to the overseeing of private engineering colleges by
AICTE, a body can be created that would look after some aspects of
the charter school, but would otherwise leave the management to
private bodies.

Pointers to Charter Schools in AZ:

More on charter schools:

Vouchers and Ohio's implementation:

Right to Education bill (draft) of India:

(2) Higher education: Despite the brand name of IITs, and IIMs,
India is falling behind in research; and its national institutes and
central universities have a skewed distribution across various
states of India. (The poorest states like Bihar, Orissa and
Rajasthan have none beyond the NITs.) There is now a political will
as well as available funds to correct both and several committees
are working on it. Following are some of my thoughts.

more IITs: Since the idea of establishing a few more IITs was
proposed few years back, several institutions were evaluated and 7
were shortlisted. However the evaluation process excluded the NITs,
several of which are better ranked (see ) than 6 of the 7
initially shortlisted. Now a news report (see,0035.htm ) says that
the shortlist is further reduced to 5 and the plan is to make them
IIEST (Indian Inst of Engg Sc and Tech) instead of IITs.

Following are my suggestions:

(i) IT BHU should be upgraded to an IIT, as it is already ranked
higher than two of the IITs and it is better than all the NITs. However this will further skew the distribution of national institutes across India
(see ).
It is taken care of by implementing the suggestions below.

(ii) IIEST: 5-1 = 4 of the shortlisted institutes (Bengal engg
coll, CUSAT, Osmania, Andhra) are ranked lower than many NITs. (see )
Hence it does not make sense for these schools to have a higher
standing and funding than NITs. It is also unfair to the NITs. Thus besides the 5-1 = 4 shortlisted institutes to be made IIEST, 5-6 NITs that are as good or better than these 4 shortlisted institutes should also be made into IIESTs. Over the years efforts should be made to have an IIEST in every state through upgrading. Also, when an NIT is upgraded to an IIEST in a state, another engineering college in that state should be upgraded to an NIT. Thus in 10 years every major state (for example all states that have
an NIT now) should have an NIT and an IIEST.

(iii) new IITs: There will still be a need for the top branded IITs.
However, to protect the brand name, new IITs should be made with utmost care. But the issue of finding top faculty as well as the issue of funding remains. To counter that, as well as for regional balance the following strategy should be used.

Mini-IITs should be established in five to six states (such as
Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan) that are way behind (see ) in terms of national level institutes like IITs and IIMs, with a plan to make them into a full-fledged IIT in 10 years. Each of these mini-IITs would have a mentor from among the existing IITs whose mandate would be to make the new IIT. For example, IIT Kharagpur has an extension center ( )
in Bhubaneswar (in Orissa which does not have an IIT or IIM)
that currently offers PGDIT ( )
This can be declared as a mini-IIT and IIT Kharagpur
can be given responsibility to turn it into a full-fledged IIT in 10
years. They can start with graduate programs, and add one department every year, introduce undergraduate programs in 3-4 years, and so on, until it becomes a full-fledged IIT in 10 years.

(iv) Central universities in backward district + KBK clusters +
extremist affected districts:

Similar to the central universities in the north east, comprehensive
central universities should be established in backward district clusters (plus the super backward region of KBK districts in Orissa) of India. This will lead to more educated people moving to those districts; more opportunities for students there to pursue high quality higher education; and most importantly this will lead to the districts producing more local teachers (etc.) who have a higher chance of staying there.

I hope the above thoughts are useful to your commission. I would be
happy to elaborate on them further.

best regards

Chitta Baral
Professor, Arizona State University

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