Wednesday, March 20, 2013


The recent notification dated 5/3/2013 of UPSC, withdrawing the hard fought privilege of writing the civil services examinations in regional languages has jolted the candidates preparing for IAS, IFS, IPS exams, which are to commence in May 2013.

This sudden decision has rudely disappointed the candidates and drawn protests from opposition parties like BJP, SHIV SENA, DMK etc.

UPSC is an autonomous body established under the Constitution of India, to recruit from stenographers to the chief administrators for central government. Since 1968, the candidates have got the right to write the exams in their regional languages. But for the IAS, IFS, IPS candidates, this privilege has been granted from 1993.

What the new notification says?

For the IAS, IPS, IFS exams, candidates cannot write the examinations in their regional languages unless they have studied and secured the degree in such languages.

Earlier, irrespective of the medium of instructions for his degree, a candidate can take up the exams in his regional language. But this is not possible from 2013 exams.

Secondly, even if a candidate has secured his basic degree in a regional language, he cannot write the Civil services examinations, unless the number of such candidates is 25 and above.

Thirdly, one of the optional subjects was the literature in the regional language. For instance, a Tamil candidate who secured his engineering degree through English medium can opt for Tamil literature as an optional subject. But now it is not possible. Only the Tamil literature graduate can exercise such option.

Thus, when the application has to be submitted on 4thApril 2013 and the preliminary exams are to begin from May 2013, suddenly the UPSC notification has come into effect as a bolt from the blue, despite the fact that the Tamilian Mr. V. Narayanasami, Hon’ble Union Minister for state for ministry of personnel is in charge of UPSC.

In a year, over 5 ½ lac candidates (2010 data) appear for these examinations and only about 1000 candidates become successful. Thus the competition is extremely intense.

What other changes?

In 2011, the new pattern for Civil service preliminary exams (Civil Services Aptitude Test – CSAT) has been introduced.

This has two compulsory papers of 200 marks each.

All are objective type answers Paper – I – General awareness (2 hours) which includes various topics like current events of national and international importance, Indian and world geography, Indian national movement, Indian polity, constitution, panchayat raj, public policy, economic and social development, environment etc.

Paper – II – testing the logical reasoning skills, decision making skills, problem solving, communication skills, mental ability, comprehension, numerical aptitude (x standard level) data interpretation and a section to test the candidates ability to understand English (x standard level)

The English skill test is considered to be tough for students who studied in regional languages including Hindi.

In 2010, out of 980 candidates, 122 cleared the preliminary test in Tamilnadu. This was 68 out of 910 candidates in 2011. The main reason for fall in number of successful candidates was English test.

Yoginder Alagh Committee and others:

To improve the standard of exams, avoid rote learning and coaching classes, the above committee was set-up.   In fact the first set of recommendations were made by Kothari Committee, based on the recommendation the objective type preliminary examination of one optional subject and general studies, a main examination that included a series of written papers and also a personality test were introduced. In 1989, based on the recommendation of Sathish Chandra Committe essay papers were re introduced and interview marks increased. This is in vogue till now. Yoginder Alg Committee made some suggestions which, interalia, included, selection of candidates with sharp intellect, objective analysis and excellent communication skills.

S. Nigavekar, Prof. Arun (Former UGC Chairman) Committee, submitted its report in August 2012, which emphasised on higher level of general knowledge and testing communication skills.

But it should be admitted that UPSC has been informing the public about the impending changes, objectives etc, for quiet sometime, though in bits and pieces.

Nobody bothered to know about those changes including top politicians till the notification was issued.

Main Exam:

Earlier, paper I was an essay type question which can be answered in the regional language and secondly there was an English comprehension and English précis writing paper carrying a total of 600 marks for both. It was sufficient to pass this paper but marks would not be counted for ranking.

But now the change is essay writing carries 200 marks and English comprehension carries 100 marks. This will be taken into consideration for ranking.

Since English paper has become a subject for ranking even Mr.Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, has taken strong objection and written to the Prime Minister that their candidates, who studied in Hindi medium would not be able to score good marks and hence the status quo ante has to be restored.

Earlier, there were two general papers carrying 300 marks each and four optional papers carrying 300 marks each.

General papers require very high level of general knowledge. Out of Four optional subjects, one could be the regional literature.  These four subjects were given complete focus by candidates to secure maximum marks (1200 marks) neglecting the general papers – (600 marks)

But now there are four general papers which include science and technology, bio-diversity, environment, Indian economy, ethics, integrity, social justice, international relations etc. Which are very important topics, each paper carrying 250 marks.

The sixth and seventh papers are optional subjects, viz the subjects in which they have specialised like commerce and accountancy, public administration, economics etc. The optional literature paper can be taken only by those who studied literature in graduation. These papers carry 250 marks each.

Personality test carries 275 marks and the total marks would be 2075.

Thus the weightage for optional paper has been reduced to 24% from 52% (500/2075) and the general studies weightage has gone up to 48% from 26% (1000/2075). This is quiet in order and would improve the standard of exams.

While these changes are well intentioned, the opposition is that the candidates can’t write the main exams in the regional language unless they have the degree in such language. Other objection points have already been highlighted,including compulsory English paper for ranking.

Legal side:

All the 22 regional languages have been brought under Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and are also brought under Official Languages Act, 1963 and the rules made thereunder.

Hence, these are actually national languages of India and are not to be branded as regional languages.

Secondly under Article 14 of the Constitution, there should be Equality Before Law, as fundamental right. Likewise, this is also a violation of Right to Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution.

Forcing people to write the exams only in English or in Hindi is against the Constitutional Rights.  Candidates, thus cannot be forced to take up the competitive exams only in English or Hindi.

Hence, the right already granted to write the examination in regional language can’t be taken away.

A candidate may not be proficient in English initially but the intensive training he gets after clearing the main examination and interview will certainly make him proficient in English and even in Hindi.

This new notification is likely to be opposed by a spate of writ petitions by affected candidates.

Thus, it remains to be seen whether the preliminary exams will commence in May 2013 or a stay obtained and direction by the court to conduct the exams in 2013 as per the old system.

 P.S: After writing this article, an announcement came from the Government of India that the new UPSC rules have been put on hold and the old system would be continued for the time being.
Changes are necessary especially to make top administers of the country to have the highest level of general knowledge and communication skills. But as far as language is concerned, a level playing ground has to be there for candidates with Hindi as the mother tongue and also other languages. As Prof. Nigavekar said after the UPSC tests were put on hold, English is a global language required for effective muilti-level communication and some changes are imperative for working in a global environment.

His comments as under are noteworthy. “By no means am I underestimating any regional language. But in the present-day scenario, global boundaries have disappeared and language has become the unit of currency. It is the light and sound of communication. We cannot close our windows to the winds of change and at the same time, we should not get swept off our feet.”

He regretted that “these days, if you ask students to express themselves in a concise manner – be it any language – most of them will fail. A civil servant’s job is becoming increasingly demanding and a prospective bureaucrat would now be introduced to a comparatively more challenging work environment and hence an examination pattern is suggested that tested the candidate’s ability to employ his knowledge at the operative level.”

Now is the cooling time. Let all stake holders sit together, discuss and finalise a new pattern of tests which will be in tune with the sweeping changes within the country and the world.


Friday, January 29, 2010


What you see above is the review of Business Standard, on my three books, GLOBALIZATION - AN OVERVIEW, CORPORATE WORLD - AN OVERVIEW and ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, on 29th January 2010 edition.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Nowhere in the world, the concept of Deemed University is in vogue. India has the dubious distinction of calling some higher educational institutions as Deemed – to – be University. Even as per the present UGC stipulations, a higher educational institution may be declared as a deemed university only after 10 years of solid and substantially high quality education with infrastructural facilities, more importantly, excellent research facilities, backed up by highly competent and eminent guides.

It is sad that some of the institutions which got deemed university recognition has not even completed one year of existence. Any management of such institution, with correct contact at the UGC and HRD ministries, could easily get the deemed university status, and get away with the murder of quality education.

Prof. Yashpal, an academician of highest repute, who was the pioneer in recommending to the Govt of India, on numerous occasions with his exemplary reports for uplifting the quality of education in India, was heartbroken to see mushrooming of deemed universities, to over 120 in number in Chatisgarh, which made him file a public interest litigation petition in Supreme Court, way back in 2004, against such blatant breach of norms in according Deemed University status.

The Supreme Court took note of such serious degradation in the higher educational system, passed the historic judgment in de-recognising those dubious universities in Chatisgarh by a stroke of pen.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the road for deemed university system. The mushrooming continued with the blessings of the-power-that-be. Now, out of 126 such deemed to be universities, 88 such universities are found to be worthless by the Tandon committee report. Here again, justice is done only in installment.

44 Universities have now been de-recognized, by the HRD ministry and the remaining 44 universities have been given an extended lease of life for another 3 years of life to improve the standard or face the axe.

But, the tragedy is the fate of over 2 lakh students and faculty members in these 44 universities, which got de-recognized. The Damocles sword is hanging above the remaining 44 universities.

Dr Balaguruswamy, former Vice Chancellor of Anna University, was perfectly right in his observation that the higher education system, would collapse under deemed university system, as he had the first hand information about the maladies.

(This is the extract of the interview given by the author to Deccan Chronicle on 23rd January 2010)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


A seminar was organized on 25th July 2009, at Shri Natesan Vidyasala Matric Hr Sec School, Mannivakkam, near Tambaram, on the proposed educational reforms at school level, in which more than 500 parents, teachers from various matric schools, students and educationalists participated. Prof. R Balasubramaniam, Retd. Principal, A M Jain College, Meenambakkam, presided.
All the participants opposed the proposal to scrap 10th public examination and also introduction of uniform syllabus in Tamilnadu. They welcomed the Tamilnadu legislation to regulate private school fees with a caution that good schools should not be harassed.
Dr N Ramasubramanyan, Founder of Natesan School, dealt with all issues in detail, in his special address. He mentioned that proposal to scrap 10th public examination, is applicable to CBSE schools only, which is also not correct since there is no motivation for students to accomplish any target till 12th standard, which is too late. But there is definite need for reforming public examination which is at present a rote learning system. Introduction of seminars, workshops, practicals, continuous assessments etc. as part of public examination, would certainly enhance better learning skills. Opposition to the proposal by Kapil Sibal, HRD Minister, to introduce uniform syllabus throughout the country is unfortunate. Uniform syllabus throughout the country would certainly be beneficial to parents and students considerably.
Introduction of uniform syllabus in Tamilnadu alone would lead to deterioration of quality education. In this regard, the statement made by Chief Minister, Tamilnadu in the legislative assembly, with a foresight and in the best interest of matric school students, has to be welcomed.
The noble objective of obviating exploitation of parents and students by passing legislation to regulate private school fees in Tamilnadu is certainly laudable. However, certain provisions of the legislation suffer from principles of equity and natural justice.
1. Empowering the Govt officials to fix the fees, administer and pass judicial orders u/s 3 (2) will be quiet inappropriate as executive and judicial power should not be with the same person.
2. Secondly, the central government’s right to education bill provides for free education to poor children to the extent of 25% of seats in private schools. The Government would offer some pittance as compensation which cannot be compared to the voucher system in the west. The Tamilnadu Government does not take into account such loss in the legislation.
3. To get recognition from the education department, private schools should provide excellent infrastructural facilities. Private teachers also demand very good salary. Otherwise, they have other employment avenues open to them, including lucrative e-teaching.
4. If the Tamilnadu government fixes low fees not commensurate with the infrastructural facilities, future growth and decent return on investment, private schools cannot survive. The provision regarding “The right to appeal” is inadequate.
5. Though this law is also applicable to private CBSE schools in Tamilnadu, ICSE schools (Presently numbering about 56 in Tamilnadu) seem to be out of the purview of this legislation.
6. The district committee U/s. 11, with the Chief Educational Officer, at its helm of affairs and a team of Govt. officials as members, has enormous powers of investigation of a school, search and seizure of documents, and application of criminal procedure code. This could lead to inspector or license raj.
7. Thus with the Damocles sword hanging above private schools, it is apprehended that private schools are under threat of nationalization in an indirect way.
8. There are different kinds of schools functioning. Government schools are liberally funded by the Government, Sarva Siksha Abyan Scheme, funds from MLAs, MPs, corporates and philanthropists.
There are private schools promoted by Corporates, which have no problem in releasing substantial funds for creating excellent infrastructure and payment of fabulous salaries to teachers.
There are private schools in which children of rich people, top corporate executives study. There will be huge inflow of funds into these schools.
There are professional fund-raisers, whose business is to seek donation from any one and every one, whether required or not. Some also use political and religious clout to collect donations. Vast resources are collected by such institutions by fair and foul methods and the end-use of funds cannot be traced in most of the cases.
There are other schools which are run with no other source except the limited resources from promoters. Majority of such promoters have good intention to serve the society without profit motive.

Fee structure cannot be the same for all such schools. But legislation has no criterion to take stock of such situation while determining the fees structure.

But, it is heartening to note that Minister of School Education has given assurance that suitable amendments would be made to make it fair and equitable to protect the interests of private schools.
Dr Ramasubramanyan, concluded by saying that education to every child can be made a reality only with public and private participation.
Gayathri Ramachandran, Principal of Natesan School, proposed the vote of thanks.
[This was reported in TIMES OF INDIA and DINAMALAR]

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Though right to education to Indian Children has been declared as a fundamental right, under right to life, in Unnikrishnan case, by Supreme Court in 1993, a formal provision by the 86th amendment to the Constitution of India, by inserting Article 21A was made by the Parliament in 2002. This mandatory provision makes the Government of India to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years, by passing appropriate legislation.

Further, Article 45 of the Constitution under the Directive Principles of State policy also specifies that the Government of India shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children upto six years which means from Kindergarten to I Standard.

Article 51A(K) of the constitution declares that the parents have the Fundamental Duty to educate their children.

In view of these statutory requirements, the Right to Education Bill 2005 was drafted by the Government of India, but it was dropped due to stiff opposition from State Governments and powerful private schools.

However, the UPA Government has once again prepared another Right to Education Bill 2008 and tabled it in the Rajya Saba on 15th December 2008. During the current parliament session, it is expected to be passed as an act.

But most of the people, particularly the academicians are ignorant of this move. To create awareness about the provision of the bills and discuss about the pros and cons, a seminar was organized on 21st Febraury 2009,

by Shri Natesan Vidyasala Matric.Hr.Sec.School, Mannivakkam,
Chennai 600 048, near Tambaram, Chennai City, Tamilnadu State, India.

Excerpts of the seminar:

Mr.K.Govindarajan former Asst.Director of Matric.Schools, in his presidential address, briefly mentioned as to why such legislation was required.

Dr.N.Ramasubramanyan, Chief Principal and Correspondent of Natesan School, in his special address, made a detailed and critical analysis of the bill. He commenced his power point presentation with a sarcastic remarks “I spoke in 2006 about the Right to Education Bill 2005 which got lapsed. Now I speak on the Right to Education Bill 2008 which may also not which see the light of the day as legislation. I may again speak in 2010 or 2011 on yet another bill may be introduced later. ”He said, “ the age of 40% of Indian population is upto 18 years and that the average age of India is now about 24 years. Though 95% of the children between 6 and 12 years have been enrolled into schools, the drop out is as high as 50% from VI Standard and it goes upwards.

Though the Sarva Siksha Abyan Scheme has succeeded in enrolment of students at primary level drop out rate is very high, because of poor quality of education in schools. 38% of private schools and 60% of Government schools are very poor in standard and more than 50% of Government school teachers simply while-away the time without teaching. Contract teachers, with less salary, training and experience, contribute better till their services are confirmed.

Our very high quality education was targeted by Lord Macaulay to ruin our culture when he addressed the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835 as follows.

Ø Perhaps the address of the Lord Mecaulay to the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835, after traveling length and breadth of India for four years, may throw some light on this issue.

Ø “I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless
we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and
cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and
ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all
that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they
will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become
what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

The rest is history.
Some more facts about present Education.

Ø About 3.5% of GDP of the Central and State Governments are spent on education as against 6% proposed by Kothari Commission.

Ø Only about 10% of children pursue higher education in India as against, 60% in developed countries.

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS Under Constituion of India

Ø Right education has been declared as fundamental right under Right to Life under Constitution of India. This has been vindicated in the famous Unni Krishnan case in 1993.

Ø Subsequent to this judgement, by the Supreme court, the following Right to Education Article has been formally incorporated in the Constitution by way of 86th Amendment in 2002.

Ø Article 21A. Right to education. – The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law,determine.


Ø Article 45. Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years. – The State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

Ø Article 45- Provision for free and compulsory education for children. – The state shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.”


Ø Article 51A. 1[K] who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

Right to Education Bill?

Ø Right to Education Bill-2005, was made known to people on 25.08.2005.

Ø Due to stiff opposition from State Govts. and powerful private schools, the bill never got the light of the day.

Ø Now, UPA Govt. as per its election manifesto introduced the new Right to Education Bill 2008 on 15.12.2008 in the Rajya Sabha. This is likely to be passed in the current parliamentary session.

Ø Only 23% of married people who use SMS know above the bill. More than 92% of people think, it is a State legislation.

“PROBE” Public Report on Basic Education.

Ø In the age group of 6 – 12 years gross enrolment ratio has risen to 95% and for the first time the goal of universal school participation is within reach, in accordance with the resolution under Article 2 of the UN constitution.

Ø This includes children from SC and Muslim community also, though ST level is lowest at 89%. Thus disparities in school enrolment have considerably reduced.

Ø As regards infrastructure in Govt.schools, this has also improved. 3/4th of all primary school have drinking water facilities. At least 2 pucca rooms in schools have gone upto 84%.

Ø Toilet facility in 60% schools.

Ø Free uniform, free textbooks, etc are distributed to almost 100%

Ø Mid day meals scheme is in place 84% of schools.

But what about Quality Education?

a) It remains abysmally low. Enrolment does not mean attendance.
b) Class room activities are low.

Ø Shortage of teachers
Ø Pupil-teacher ratio is not proper and adequate.
Ø One teacher schools are about 33% which is mainly due to teacher absenteeism.
Ø Teacher present does not mean teaching. 50% of the teacher don’t teach, but while away the time.
Ø More than 50% students in 4th and 5th class, can’t do single digit multiplication or simple single digit division even in 5th class.
Ø Contract teacher number is increasing -40% in Govt. schools are under this category. Inadequate training and low salary of contract teacher affect their quality of work.

Ø But surprisingly their contribution is better than the permanent staff.
Ø The local village Education committees have helped to improve infrastructure, select teacher, and supervise mid-day meals schemes.
Ø But they can’t ensure quality teaching.

Does, this mean Private schools are the best suited?
Ø “Cheaper” Private schools are not different from Govt.schools. They cheat in the name of “English medium”
Ø Parents prefer 74% boys in private schools, Earlier it was only 51%
Ø In 1996-97,Girls are mostly sent to Govt.schools.
Ø The growth of private schools is phenomenal. It now accounts for 22.5% total schools -77.5% govt. schools.

Proposals & non-viability:
Ø With little seats, how to select? Even in Govt. schools, there are screening system.
25% free seats to poor students with a moderate compensation from
This will be lead to emotional problems for poor students. Further,
75% of students will have to bear 100% students cost. Govt.
Compensation may range from Rs.900 to Rs.3000 p.a. Voucher system
may be introduced. But this has not worked even in USA-President
Mr.Obama sends his children to the best Private school and not to
Ø Donation / Capitation Fees: Any violation will result in 10 times of such fees as fine
Ø Instead of capitation fees, the fee itself may be as high Rs.10,000/- per month. No term as Donation/Capitation fees but, as tuition fees.
Ø No private tuition by teachers:
Ø It can’t be monitored. Even former U K Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said he sent his children for private tuition. Now retired teachers run tuition centres. Who will stop? Probably govt.teachers can be stopped, as per the rule and not others.
Ø No failure upto VIII
Even in USA UK, this is found to be not good.
Failure between 9th and 12th is very high.
31% pass in English and 35% in Maths.
These failed guys become anti-social elements.
Punjab and Himachal Pradesh Board exams is for V and VIII ndards
Due to ABL, (Activity Based Learning) in Tamilnadu, III class students
do well in Maths and language and top in all India basis, according to
NCERT nationwide survey. But ABL is opposed by more than 50,000
teachers because this is not teacher-friendly nor student friendly and
does not enjoy the support of public. This is one reason for shift
from Govt.Schools to Private schools, according to them.

But NGO-PRATAM for 2008, reveals that
Ø Only 54.7% students in classes I and II can read letters and words.
Ø Only 36.3% students between classes III and V could perform basic arithmetic.
Ø Only 35.8% of students between class III and V could tell time.
Ø TN primary students perform poorly as compared to all other states.
Ø Only 2.7% children in the age group of 7-10 and 6.3% in the 11-14 years are out of schools in India, mainly due toSSA.
Ø Private Schools number is 22.5% in 2008, whichmean govt. schools 77.5% by 2008.
Ø 38% Private schools and 60% govt. schools are poor in quality.

Quality Secondary Education proposal by Central Government – Two schemes
Ø National Mission on Education through Information communication Technology (ICT)
Ø Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA0 to improve enrollment to 75%.
Ø No.of Secondary schools 44,000
New schools to be added in the 11,188
11th five year plan =======
Total 55,188

The bill mentions about duty of parents to admit children in “neighborhood schools” but if such schools are poor in quality, parents can’t be forced to do so. Though the bill does not mention about common school education, the proposal of “national curriculum” is good as it is hoped that a uniform syllabus will be made applicable throughout the country.

Though donation cannot be collected, many private schools already collect enormous tuition fees. Reservation of 25% seats for poor students in private schools will result in higher fees burden on the remaining 75% students.

Further, the free education to poor students would lead to mental agony and emotional disturbances for such students, when comparing with tuition fees paying affluent children. Instead the voucher system giving option to parents to select schools of their choice and the Government paying the fees will be better. But this has not worked even in western countries.

Even slight punishment to highly mischievous children is prohibited. Hence talented teachers will not take up teaching in schools. They have started earning hefty income from their homes through e-teaching.

No screening of children and parents is perfectly justified. However, when more applications come for lesser seats, some method of selection is necessary as suggested by Delhi High Court.

No examination upto VIII Standard is a draconian measure which will only worsen quality of education. Such an experiment even in developed countries does not produce desired results.

While private schools will be subject to so many unreasonable restrictions to start and run, no such requirement for Government schools, however ill-equipped. It is a draconian measure, with a view to reduce the space for private schools.

Instead of rushing with such a half-baked proposal which is a political rhetoric, the government can wait for some more time, getting proper suggestions from un-biased, honest academicians and practical social activists”, Dr.Ramasubramanyan said.

Mr.Lakshmanan, former District Educational Officer, Chengalpet appreciated the thread-bare discussion on each and every provision of the bill and the efforts of the school to create awareness among various sections of the society.

Mrs.Gayathri Ramachandran, Principal welcomed the gathering and Mrs.Sujatha, a teacher proposed vote of thanks.

Many academicians, teachers from various schools, parents and public in large number participated in the seminar.

NOTE: As per the forecast of Dr.N.Ramasubramanyan, the Right to Education Bill 2008 was to made to lapse. Only after the Parliament Election in 2009, this proposal may be taken up for consideration, by the new Government at Centre.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Choice of food in Schools

This refers to the Op-Ed article (“Breeding contempt: a deliberate choice?” Dec.10) by Ms.Kanimozhi, M.P. It is true that schools should not be the starting point for communal politics and houses of intolerance and hatred. This is the reason for introduction of uniform dress code for all students, irrespective of the caste, creed, religion and financial status. A school should teach morals, values and imbibe in its wards good character which is the need of the hour. Quality education for all is a must. In this context, it is sad to note that public schools in India are ineffective at 40% of enrolled 8 to 10 year olds cannot read a page. More than 44 crore Indians, i.e. 40% of the population are under 18 and it is not clear how India will generate enough jobs over the next two decades to employ them. Further, Child labour, unsafe drinking water and filthy streets are quite serious problems, which merit immediate corrective action. Even globally, one billion people suffer for want of food and India has 81% of population below poverty line.

Thus schools have to teach that we live by food and not for food. Allowing children to eat the food of their choice inside the school premises is not at all an important issue and should not be a religious issue also.

If parents want to feed the children with different dishes, let them do so in homes or elsewhere. Let children eat simple but wholesome vegetarian food at school.

[This appeared in the Letter to the Editor column of The Hindu
dt 12/12/2008.]

( The above referred article, in a subtle and indirect way recommends
non-vegetarian food at school on the basis of religion ).

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The first signs of subprime impact on the industry are cutting costs and reducing man-power. Organisations are using the recession to optimise resources. Earlier IT industry used to hire indiscriminately even when orders were not in pipeline. Now there is cautions approach everywhere. Rising costs have made organisations to think as to whether they want – skills or more experience. More weightage is given to skills and not mere experience. There are employees with several years of experience but their skills have remained like a junior staff. Organisations are now bold to take steps to weed out inefficient people and processes. If employees are not upgrading their skills, they are likely to get marching orders i.e., Pink Slips.
People have an assured career as long as they are sharpening their skills and are in touch with the emerging technology.
This introduction is sufficient to explain why skills are needed or pink slips are given.
The financial meltdown has a very bad news for US workers and the likely affected would be less skilled people.
Earnings per annum and likely % of workers to be laid off
1. Less than $30,000 - 23%
2. Between $ 30,000 to $ 49,999 - 17%
3. Between $ 50,000 to $ 99,999 - 11%
4. More than $ 1,00,000 - 8%
(Source : Rew Research Centre telephone survey)
The unbiased assessment made recently by Assocham is that 25% of Indian work force is likely to lose jobs, through trimming exercise. The affected will be mostly less skilled. This was critisised by the Govt. and therefore the report was withdrawn quietly.
As far as the employability skills are concerned, it is a sad story that only 10% of the graduates and 25% of the engineering graduates are employable. This is repeatedly emphasized by various studies.
K. Pandia Rajan, M.D. of Ma Foi says that “India is on a time-bomb and that the mismatch between jobs, skills and societal structures warrants urgent attention and reforms to get a grip on the impending crisis. The issue of employability has to be dealt with as an emergency”.
Our Indian universities are symbols of huge number of students with both mediocre teachers and students.
Indian Universities are supposed to be breeding ground for talented teachers to provide the role models for society. But the way academic world has been functioning does not augur well for the future of our country. It is no longer in a position to maintain its “holier than thou” approach as the mask of hypocrisy is falling very fast.
The mode of recruitment is defective and candidates with abysmally low levels of knowledge and unimpressive abilities are appointed as teachers. Accountability is the least honoured principle. This is not only applicable to colleges and universities but also the schools.
Former Vice Chancellor of Anna University Dr. E. Balaguruswamy’s candid remark that with poor current educational assessment system, corruption in colleges, with more than half of the Vice-Chancellors having a criminal background, “I find that students lack in all types of skills, there is no depth in knowledge. Even if we keep the communication and soft skills aside, they lack any understanding of the subjects,. This is where the education system needs to step in” is quite serious.
As regard the skills shortage that every industry is facing today, he was very clear, “We need more professionals everywhere but it needs to be planned properly. You cannot expand without consolidation, but what needs to be changed foremost is attitudes”
But Vivek Gambhir, Partner, India office of Bain & Company was optimistic that the present downturns rewarded strength also, by boosting the core competency, innovation and skills development.
Ramesh Thakur, the foundation director of Balsillie School of International Affairs suggest the following regarding skills development at University level :-
“Changing student profile – where previously education and employment came together in the ideal of a career, today it is becoming common place to think of multiple careers and periodic skill enhancement, leading to demand for lifelong learning opportunities and modules.
The shelf life of knowledge is also shorter than it used to be, which places a premium on critical analytical and problem – solving skills rather than acquired knowledge”.
Technical proficiency is pre-requisite for professions to have entry level. Apart from technical skills, “can-do-attitude” is a necessity. A senior H.R. manager of an IT firm says “Hire for attitude and Train for Skills” as the new mantra while recruiting freshers.
Apart from the core competent technical skills, the soft skills required may be summed up as follows.
The core technical skills and knowledge on subjects are called the hard skills with this soft skills need to be developed.
a) Communication Skills : Employees are required to posses superior communication skills that go-hand –in –hand with the technological knowledge. It is on a one to one basis, e-mail and telephonic communication. Most of the students, especially from rural area do not have adequate communication skills.
b) Inter-personal skills : The cordial relationship with collegues in the organisation is very important.
c) Team skills : Any organisation to be successful needs to emphasise the importance of team-work. Employees need to develop team skills. Individual excellence is important but working as a team alone will bring about the desired result.
d) Presentation skills : When a project / proposal or suggestion has to be explained one needs to have sound, cogent, convincing presentation skills.
e) Leadership skills : Every employee needs to develop leadership qualities. India Inc. is now worried about shortage of leaders. A leader should focus on building self-directed teams coaching for success, and improvement and making meetings work. The leader should, at higher level, focus on building talent, culture, translation of vision and mission into organisational values and competencies, feel many corporate analysts.
The behavioural attributes like correct attitude, integrity and motivation are required.
Thus, a candidate for a job has to have the right technical skills and also the right “cultural fit” for the company. In other words the candidate should conform to the culture of the organisation which can happen with soft skills and sound technical competency.
Today the lack of employability is much more serious than lack of employment opportunities (it is estimated at 9%), as explained earlier. Satyanarayana, V.C. Andhra University said that meeting the growing demand for skilled professionals is going to be a “huge task” for the Indian higher education sector.
At higher position, there will be need for soft skills at higher levels.
v management, interpersonal and commercial awareness / market knowledge
v sales, marketing
v finance and accounting skills
v customer handling
v team-working and net working
v problem solving
When India’s human resources are expected to fulfil the global needs also, it is high time that our students from school level itself develop the soft-skills.
It is heartening to note that initiative is made by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) at some Govt. Schools to develop soft skills of students from 6th Standard onwards, to integrate them into the main stream when they enter college. The curriculum includes basic skills in self-management, communication, team dynamics, emotional intelligence, health and hygiene, values, laws, etiquette and other skills.
On a comparison of Chinese employees with Indians, Chinese were found to be relatively strong in hard skills or core technical knowledge but in terms of soft skills, Indians have an edge over them according to a recent study.
In the coming years, we will have huge number of graduates from leading colleges who will make India the leading country in technological advancements. But the big question is, if these graduates can represent themselves in India or at international level. A BCG study reveals that India will have about 1.3 million surplus of untrained and under educated people. The irony is that we will also fall short of real talent by about 5.3 million. We will have a surplus that we will not need and a deficit that we cannot fulfil.
Students community from schools to colleges should understand one thing very clearly – “Develop the Skills or Take the Pink slips – This is the Corporate Mantra”.