June 20, 2008

We will benefit from foreign universities setting up shop here

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Last Updated : Friday, June 20, 2008 Education for Life
Failure to provide education by failed state
Education World India Sauvik Chakraverti Thursday, June 05, 2008

Every activist in Indian education suffers from a ‘delusion of knowledge’ — the notion that the socialist State, i.e. government, is in possession of knowledge that the poor need to succeed in life. In reality, the State is itself based on failed knowledge, writes Sauvik Chakraverti in the Education World

Every activist in Indian education suffers from the 'delusion of knowledge' – the notion that the socialist State, i.e. government, is in possession of knowledge that the poor need in order to succeed in life.

In reality, this State is itself based on failed knowledge. Economic liberalization was resorted to in 1991 after half a century of socialism precisely because of knowledge failure. And it is only because of 'liberty' that Indian society can now access various fragments of knowledge that were previously unavailable. We now have modern cars, mobile phones, plasma TVs, frost-free refrigerators and so on because we allowed knowledge developed abroad to flow into the country. The state-promoted IITs have been operational since the early 1960s but this knowledge wasn't available in India. The State-owned IIMs are of similar vintage – but there were hardly any business enterprises to manage then.

On the other hand, the poor are in possession of various fragments of knowledge – but they are denied entry into markets by repressive legislation. Poor girls can sing and dance, but the socialist State has outlawed nightlife. Tribals in the jungles of central India distil the stimulating mahua liquour from a jungle flower of the same name, but they cannot sell it. Tapping toddy and fermenting it is specialized knowledge. Last year Karnataka reported a bumper toddy season – but nowhere on Bangalore's swanky Brigade Road will you get a glass of toddy. And why toddy or mahua – even Goan feni is not available anywhere outside Goa. It takes considerable knowledge to make feni.

Several years ago former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie showcased many rock bands from the North-East in Delhi, inviting them to perform at the State-owned Ashoka Hotel. The North-East is poor and underdeveloped; but there are numerous great rock bands there. These bands cannot perform in heartland states because of State-imposed restrictions.

These are all examples of real, hard knowledge going waste. And ironically the State, which is responsible for this waste, wants to teach. Establishment educationists shout in concert and an education tax is immediately imposed. But the 'planned' flow of knowledge from State to the poor never happens. It never will. The minister in charge is a Nehru family "loyalist". He will teach socialist propaganda. And his loyal educrats will dictate what private institutes will teach, and meddle with what they want to teach.

Thus, for the immediate benefit of the poor, and for the immediate spread of real knowledge, Liberty is essential. Just as the public has benefited from foreign car companies entering India, so will we benefit from foreign universities setting up shop here. And just as the poor benefit from freedom, so will the national knowledge pool if anyone with a fragment of knowledge can set up shop and teach to whoever is willing to pay for it. The problem we have to solve is that of the transmission of knowledge from one who has it to another individual, who wants to acquire it. The market alone can solve this problem. The State has no 'collective pool of knowledge'. Indeed, the socialist Indian State is a naked propagandist, and all its attempts at securing a 'uniform standard' in education have only resulted in the uniform teaching of errors.

Anarchy – the complete absence of State control – is vital for knowledge. In an anarchic scenario there will be errors – but only of individual teachers and professors who will be exposed by other academics. And when knowledge is free from government control reputations will need to be earned. This is how errors will be gradually weeded out of teaching.

Thus, the Union ministry of human resource development – or is it the ministry of human resource destruction? — should be shut down; every educrat should be fired; and all schools and colleges freed from government control and supervision over curriculum as well as certification. Private edupreneurs can then compete for testing scholastic competence and issuing certification – as with SAT, IB or the ISC in my time.

What about poor kids in such a scenario? If they learn how to use a calculator, to read, write and speak English, to type on a keyboard and use a computer, to operate a mobile phone and send SMS, and how to drive a car – they will have all the 'basic knowledge' required for success in the contemporary world. I am positive that private for-profit as well as non-profit efforts can easily transmit these fragments of knowledge to them in a manner that is 'efficient' in terms of both money as well as time.

Poor kids need to enter the workforce early. For them, 12 years of schooling is a massive waste of time. The basic knowledge they need, as outlined above, can be transmitted to them by private edupreneurs cheap and quick. Thereafter, they can continuously acquire fragments of knowledge relevant to the specialized occupations they choose – best learnt through apprenticeship. Thus, there is no role for the State in education either for the rich or the poor, in primary, secondary or higher education.

I conclude with what the great French economist Frederic Bastiat, who was also in active politics, wrote in his election manifesto over 150 years ago: "Education is also bound up with the same fundamental question that precedes all others in politics: Is it part of the State's duties? Or does it belong to the sphere of private activity? I believe that government is not set up in order to bring our minds into subjection, or to absorb the rights of the family. To be sure, gentlemen, if it pleases you to hand over to it your noblest prerogatives, if you want to have theories, systems, methods, principles, textbooks and teachers forced on you by the government, that is up to you; but do not expect me to sign, in your name, such a shameful abdication of your rights."

Indeed, Bastiat stressed that an academic monopoly under the State can only work if the State is infallible. In a nation of widespread State failure, the very idea of government infallibility lies in tatters. I rest my case.

A version of this article was published in the Education World. This article was published in the Education World on Thursday, June 05, 2008. Please read the original article here. Author : Mr Sauvik Chakraverti is an author and journalist, closely involved with India’s liberal movement [The Delusion of Knowledgefrom ANTIDOTE by Sauvik]


[Traditional drink 'Handia' sells like hotcakes in Orissa Economic Times - Friday, June 20, 2008 BHUBANESWAR: In the tribal areas of Orissa, the traditional drink 'Handia' is very much in demand in summer. The drink made by fermenting rice through a special procedure, is intoxicating, keeps the stomachs cool and is a source of high energy.]

[Pisani cites neither Landsburg nor Kremer so I believe her account is independent. Note that Pisani also credits Thailand's successful condom program. More Sex is Safer Sex
from Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok]

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