Craze for Foreign Universities: Union Ministers, CMs Set the Trend

Is there any hope for improvement in Indian colleges when the lawmakers send their own kids to foreign universities?

3 min read
Is there any hope for improvement in Indian varsities when the lawmakers send their kids to foreign universities? (Photo: Rhythum Seth/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Craze for Foreign Universities: Union Ministers, CMs Set the Trend

Some two years ago, the Allahabad High Court gave a historic judgement making it mandatory for all public servants to send their children to government schools.

The Court noted that when those responsible for managing schools that cater to 90 percent of the children send their own kids to private institutions, would they be motivated to improve the shabby state of government-run schools? The rationale did not seem very obscure.

It exposed the hypocrisy of our elites – the claim to be working for something that they themselves don’t believe in. Why can’t they subject their children to the dull system they themselves have created?

Trend of Relying on Private Institutions

What the Allahabad High Court said in the context of schools is also true for higher education. Not only has our political gentry managed to send their kids to Doon for Rs 10 lakh a year while the public schools rot, but they’ve also always managed to escape the wrath of an unforgiving Indian university system.

While respecting individuality in a democracy, we must be critical about our choice of leader. This vociferous nationalist government needs to be put under the scanner especially because it’s desperately trying to cleanse India of foreign cultural elements.

We, thus, traced the education history of the children of political biggies to find out how much they rely on domestic institutions.

Indian vs Foreign Universities

A cursory glance at the LinkedIn profiles of kids of some of our lawmakers tells us how the kin of Union Ministers have indeed had a taste of foreign education, with a penchant for elite universities in the UK and US. Similarly, the chief ministers of big states too, largely preferred to send their children abroad.

The difference between Indian institutions and foreign ones is not just of location and composition, but of fundamental character. In the pursuit of ‘rigorousness’, the Indian universities have been standardised, quite dreadfully, in their admission criteria and academic syllabus.

For most universities abroad, standardised tests are only one rubric of admission, and the rest is about who you are and what out-of-school activities you picked up. Academic marks are one component of selection, not the whole – unlike their Indian counterparts.

Escaping the Grind of Competitive Exams

What is unsurprisingly evident is that the children of our leaders, in most cases, haven’t faced the ordeal of JEE, NEET, CLAT, NET! The excruciating race, synonymous with India’s higher education is not endured by the children of those who created this mess.

Political timelines of five years each may betray the argument, but for the larger political class – including those from the former government – there is an inescapable collective moral sin.

Security can be one plausible cause for the trend, the halo effect of an American or British degree the other. For too long, Indians have overtly given undue preference to foreign education.

Harvard and Oxford graduates are almost presumed to be the most credible leaders in politics, media, academia and other spheres. Despite the skyrocketing fees and ordinary content, degrees from abroad have succeeded in creating a new class of intelligentsia altogether.

Questions for Policymakers

Weren’t Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar educated at reputed foreign universities too? That is a smart rebuttal – not a wise one though. Of course, there were not many options available in India. Indians then were not responsible for creating and managing education institutions. Now that we’ve allowed our rulers enough time since our ‘tryst with destiny’, we must hold them to account.

There are questions we will have to ask. If our leaders do indeed understand the failings of Indian institutions, why haven’t they done enough to improve them? Should political servants be allowed to make a discriminating distinction between their children and those of others? Lastly, doesn’t the lack of self-interest de-incentivise the improvement of domestic institutions?

Perhaps there is no sense of real urgency to cure the cancer. So long as our leaders can buy bottled mineral water for themselves, they won’t be motivated enough to clean our rivers.

(Akshat Tyagi is the author of ‘Naked Emperor of Education’. He tweets at @AshAkshat. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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