I was just waiting for the September issue of Seminar to be given public access; it is a special issue called The Elusive Triangle: a symposium on access, equity and excellence in Indian education.

The problems?

… sixty years after independence, our literacy rates remain unforgivably low and the percentage of children in school and actually learning shameful.

The government which invariably advances the argument of fiscal inadequacy in extending quality provision remains simultaneously suspicious of private initiative, tying up all those who want to enter the sector in a complex web of rules and regulations such that honest effort becomes well-nigh impossible.

The current debate over OBC quotas in higher education suffers from a similar infirmity. For a start we mistakenly equate a policy initiative with an issue of principle, as if quotas are the best, if not only, way to enhance social inclusiveness in institutions of higher learning. Worse, any attempt to highlight inadequacies at the school level, without correcting which a regime of quotas will remain inefficacious, is perceived as diverting the demand for social justice. Even more damaging is the proposal to simultaneously increase the overall intake of students and introduce the full complement of quotas, little appreciating the possible impact on quality. Instead of debating concrete ways of enhancing availability and inclusion while retaining quality through a package of schemes, we seem to have trapped ourselves into a politically divisive and fractious discourse such that the social identity is seen as determining one’s position on this question.

It should be a matter of concern for our policy-makers if aspiring medical students seek out institutions in China in the absence of national availability of appropriate price and quality. Or that the market for educational aids from textbooks, audio cassettes, CDs or computer software is primarily controlled by global providers.

These and much more are discussed in the issue; if you are remotely concerned about the Indian education system, this is a must-read! While you are at it, also take alook at the July issue which is about Education and livelihood. Happy weekend reading!