Monday, September 14, 2009

Snobbery of Elite Educational Institutes in India

Disclaimer: This post is provoked by an anonymous comment at the blog of Nanopolitan. I have no intention to disrespect anyone from any institutes.

If you read regularly the reader's comments on the pay scale related posts at the blogs of "Life at IISc" or "Nanopolitan" (just to clarify, I am talking about comments, not the blogs by itself, both of these blogs are very thoughtful and respectful), you can clearly note that

- In many cases, commentator from IISc or IITs think themselves above and beyond anyone and everyone, and they heavily disrespect other higher education institutes (They call it UGC pay scale faculty) in every form. This form of snobbery goes beyond any normal etiquette.

Female Science Professor has a nice post on Micro-inequities. She writes:

Micro-inequities are ways in which people are ignored, disrespected, undermined, or somehow treated in a different (negative) way because of their gender or race (or some other intrinsic characteristic).

A micro-inequity can be very micro. It can involve an action or words or even a tone of voice or a gesture. The inequity can be a deliberate attempt to harm someone or it can be unintentional, rooted in a person's perceptions about others.

Whatever the source and however minor each separate event, over the years the cumulative effect of these little incidents, words, and gestures on an individual and on various segments of society (academia, business, even within families) is not so micro.

One of the commentator of her post notes:

Has anybody else read "Outliers"? Among many points in Gladwell's book is that the number of small advantages given to Canadian boys with certain birthdays in the hockey league leads to a professional hockey roster almost exclusively made up of men who have birthdays in certain months. He points this phenomenon out over and over again, in many different contexts - consistent small advantages, over time, lead to great advantages, perhaps even to great people, or "outliers". Why, then, would the same not be true for any discriminated against group, in any field? I don't understand why people are not open to this line of thinking, and are not open to asking themselves what they can do to try to help remedy these situations when they arise.

The inequities (actually they are not micro by any standards) has become a norm in the case of central universities, state universities and colleges in India as compared to IITs and IISc. Some of these institutes has much older history and has served as a education centers over the decades/centuries. They also serve much larger population as compared to IITs or IISc.

The purpose of these universities are very different than IITs or IISc. It has to be clearly understood that the purpose of universities or college is to provide basic education to a large amount of population whereas the purpose of IITs or IISc is to provide specialized education to select group of students. Both are equally needed and are important for a society. A society needs everyone. A progressive society needs specialized engineers/scientist (assuming that this is what IIT/IISc graduates do) but more than that it also need doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants etc etc. After independence, the attention and privilege IITs/IISc got over the years, it helped in building up a class of people from these institutes who think themselves superior than everyone else. This is a dangerous attitude for a healthy society. State universities, Colleges, and central universities are at huge disadvantage because of this attitude. This attitude coupled with many other factors (mostly politics), has constantly led to deterioration of Indian university system and the result is devastating. The simple fact that IITs/IISc alone can not serve the need of this vast country is good enough to understand that our university system needs more attention, money, care and most importantly respect for India to progress towards prosperity.


Anonymous said...

As someone who happens to be from one such India 'elite' institution, I cannot agree more with what you say.
It becomes a virtuous cycle for the 'elite', who feel smug about being the best in India instead of competing internationally while a vicious cycle for the rest.

Subrahmanya said...

I too agree with you. However, my agreement need not be taken seriously by the society at large as I am a waste product of IITM (according to a comment on nanopolitan, Ph.Ds from IITs are waste products), and I am a UGC scale professor!

Anonymous said...

Very erudite indeed.

I am wondering if faculty in institutions such as Harvard,Princeton, Caltech and the likes carry this kind of a superior mentality. Compared to regular state institutions, these schools carry the previlege of hosting a large chunk of nobel laureates, field medalists etc.

Have the indian academia (especially the IIXers) become empty vessels?