New India is giving foreign education the third degree. The erudite Arun Jaitley dissed Rahul Gandhi’s MPhil degree from Cambridge minus an MA last week. In fact, an MA is not needed. PM Narendra Modi’s previous statement that hard work is better than Harvard is now a quotable quote.
In the post-Independence years after the Harrow- and Trinity College-educated Jawaharlal Nehru opted for a Leftist curriculum, two generations of Indians were forced to study propaganda that victimised individuality, free thought and curiosity, thereby inaugurating rote-based study in India. Many Indians are even now horrified by people sending their kids abroad to study, student loans notwithstanding. Poverty and austerity is our moral code, in spite of Mukesh Ambani, Cyberabad and Bangalore.
IITs and ISBs are considered elitist and therefore anti-national. Never mind that it takes hard work, discipline and intellectual talent to get into one of these, unless caste reservations help.As the Indian psyche discards the psychological shackles of colonialism, leaders seek cultural self-confidence in the past when Nalanda and Taxila flourished.
They were great indeed, but for their rimes. India’s academic system is still trapped between Leftist perversion of history and nationalist concoctions. Nations that have founded civilisations are proud of their universities and scholars, irrespective of their birthplace. European medicine evolved from Arab physicians. But in India, which produces unemployable graduates who studied obsolete curriculums by rote, antipathy towards foreign languages, especially English, is predominant. The only knowledge system that has brought jobs is IT, a Western export that globalised India.
The advantage of an Ivy League or Oxbridge education is global academic exposure. A small student-teacher ratio makes personal instruction fulfilling and extensive. Eleven lakh teachers in Indian schools are untrained. Harvard has 48 Nobel Laureates as faculty or alumni. Oxford has 50. Trinity College alone has 33 Nobel Laureates. Eight US Presidents graduated from Harvard and five from Yale; 41 British Prime Ministers were from Oxbridge. Oxford offers 100 major academic departments and over 1,000 undergraduate and graduate programmes.
With this kind of firepower, the mid-career salary of a Yale grad is $105,000. Critics ignore or are ignorant of the fact that students in such elite institutions are not all from rich families. And only 40 percent of the top 100 CEOs are MBAs. In place of the caste reservations in Indian institutions, generous scholarships, sometimes even 100 percent, are awarded to meritorious students in top foreign colleges.
Envy, ignorance and self-defence have much to do with our traditional hostility towards foreign institutions. To become an evolved society, Indian education must be competitively equal, or better than in Oxbridge or Ivy League. Knowledge has no country. It belongs to the whole world.