Saturday, June 16, 2012

Prof. P.V. Indiresan's Bold Idea


Quotas are bad, bad, bad, except for the rich and powerful.

... in the past week, I had come to the conclusion that the youth from rich and powerful families too have their own rights. Whether we like it or not, they will have enormous influence over how the economy will grow.

The former US President, Mr George Bush, was admitted to Yale not because he was brilliant, but because he was the son of another former US President.

Such youth need good education, particularly, good Indian education. Hence, I suggest that the IITs apply the Pareto criterion — reserve 20 per cent of seats for the very rich or powerful after charging them 80 per cent of the costs. The other 80 per cent should be selected on the basis of merit — as decided by the faculty — and get charged only 20 per cent of the costs. [Bold emphasis added]

That this stuff comes after some muddle about ownership of IITs is also revealing. I looked for sarcasm alerts around this latest brain wave, but couldn't find any.

15 Comments:

  1. Atanu Dey said...

    Dear god in heaven! The man has completely lost it. What a pity.

  2. pramod said...

    Doesn't this sort of thing already happen? When I went to RV, there were three kinds of seats. My seat was a "general" seat and cost about 11k a year in fees. There were a small number (IIRC 15 or so) "payment" seats which cost 46k a year in fees. There were also a few "management" seats which were rumoured to have cost around 12 lakhs as a "donation" in addition to the yearly fees of Rs. 46k.

    On a related note, I'd be interested in knowing the income distribution for parents of students in the IITs. I think SAT scores correlate with income, and so I would suspect the same is true for the JEE as well other entrance examinations like the AIEEE. Further, my experience suggests that succeeding at these entrance examinations requires the parents of these students to invest several tens of thousands of rupees on coaching classes, books, mock exams and the like and this fact alone puts these "elite" institutions out of the reach of the vast majority of the population.

  3. Anant said...

    I like the fact that this article is filed under "WTF"!

  4. Suresh said...

    Surely, the "after charging them 80% of the costs" is not irrelevant to the argument that Professor Indiresan makes. You might disagree but putting the rest of the sentence in boldface while ignoring this amounts to misrepresentation.

    That said, I don't think the suggestion is as loony as you seem to suggest. The rich --- actually, even the upper middle class --- can always opt out of the Indian education and send their children abroad. This is already happening. Are we better off as a society due to this "secession"? In my opinion, the answer is no.

    Due to the idiocy of our system, there is already a segregation (both class and caste) at the crucial school level. When I went through (private) school, all my school mates were "people like us": upper class and mostly upper caste. There was some mixing (not a whole lot) at the university level but that was because relatively few could afford to go abroad for their undegraduate education.

    Now, more and more in the middle and upper middle class are able to go abroad even for their undergraduate education. Hence, with the system now in place, we are essentially ensuring that the segregation at the school level carries over to the university. I would argue that the resulting polarisation is not good for us as a society.

    I read Indiresan as saying that perhaps we might be better off ensuring that at least some of those who now go abroad study within the country. The question is how to do it? Indiresan's suggestion is to give the rich a certain number of seats in return for charging them more. Would this lead to a "better" outcome? That is not clear and one can argue against it. (I am not in favour of it myself.) But there is a case to be made in favour of such a strategy also.

  5. Suresh said...

    Surely, the "after charging them 80% of the costs" is not irrelevant to the argument that Professor Indiresan makes. You might disagree but putting the rest of the sentence in boldface while ignoring this amounts to misrepresentation.

    That said, I don't think the suggestion is as loony as you seem to suggest. The rich --- actually, even the upper middle class --- can always opt out of the Indian education and send their children abroad. This is already happening. Are we better off as a society due to this "secession"? In my opinion, the answer is no.

    Due to the idiocy of our system, there is already a segregation (both class and caste) at the crucial school level. When I went through (private) school, all my school mates were "people like us": upper class and mostly upper caste. There was some mixing (not a whole lot) at the university level but that was because relatively few could afford to go abroad for their undegraduate education.

    Now, more and more in the middle and upper middle class are able to go abroad even for their undergraduate education. Hence, with the system now in place, we are essentially ensuring that the segregation at the school level carries over to the university. I would argue that the resulting polarisation is not good for us as a society.

    I read Professor Indiresan as saying that perhaps we might be better off ensuring that at least some of those who now go abroad study within the country. The question is how to do it? Indiresan's suggestion is to give the rich a certain number of seats in return for charging them more. Would this lead to a "better" outcome? That is not clear and one can argue against it. (I am not in favour of it myself.) But there is a case to be made in favour of such a strategy also.

  6. Abi said...

    @Pramod: Take a look at the 2011 JEE Report. It has some demographic info on JEE candidates.

    @Suresh: The really relevant stuff here is Indiresan's (rather well known) stance against quotas (sorry, no links). This is why his talk about the rights of youth from rich and powerful families (and his policy prescription -- quotas for the rich!) is worth highlighting.

    As for his Pareto mumbo-jumbo, IIT students already pay less than 20% of the cost of their education, thank you.

  7. Raj said...

    There are two parts to Indiresan's article. One about who should be responsible for running the IIT (and who should get credit for it). IMO he could have used better word than ownership neverthless his argument is clear (in spite you calling it a muddle). The second part is about quota for rich. Though I don't agree with it, it exists already as another repsonse here notes and has not diminished the reputation of institutes like RV or PESIT in Bangalore. This idea is no more or no less ridiculous than quota for athletes in IITs or minority sub-quota.

  8. Unknown said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  9. Unknown said...

    "The former US President, Mr George Bush, was admitted to Yale not because he was brilliant, but because he was the son of another former US President." Wow, great. When George W Bush Jr got admitted into Yale, his father was not even Vice-President. Indiresan is a very mediocre man never bother about facts & logic. The fact that a sub-standard like him made it to IIT directorship speaks for the quality of our IITs.
    Narayan

  10. Desi Babu said...

    Not a comment on this post, but Professor Abi, I was sorry to hear about your accident. I hope you get well soon.

    Somehow, I couldn't tell that you had been typing with one hand only, the handwriting was just as good,
    as it has always been :-)

    Peace!

  11. ptolemy said...

    Errm..could you give any pointers to the calculation that students already pay less than 20% of the cost of their education? I totally believe you up until 2000-ish but right now I think the tuition fee 'is steep'.

  12. Abi said...

    @Ptolemy: Check out the Kakodkar Committee Report (2011).

  13. ptolemy said...

    @Abi: Thanks for pointing out the report. It is much to my satisfaction to note that their calculation of expenditure on undergrads is done in the same shoddy way that universities all over the world do (albeit for other reasons like making money). They lump together 'all' expenditure of the university and divide by the number of students which is a mindless number. The correct calculation should take into account that faculty mandate is to spend atmost 40% of their time on undergrad instruction (in practice it is less equal 6 hrs per week at IIT which is less than 20% of their time), a part of the service time for institute should be taken (typically 1/3 of 20%), equitable part of running equipment should be taken (so as to not include the expenditure on research by faculty) and the time taken off by faculty on sabbatical should be subtracted as well as the vacation time for students should be subtracted. I bet this will amount to just about what a typical student pays at IIT these days (if not less). World over it is always less than 1/4 of university expenditure and India will be no different!

    Anyways, sorry for the hyperbole. I am just happy to finally get a hand on actual calculation of cost of education. Totally agree with your post though!

  14. Suresh said...

    @ptolemy: Your points are well-taken but there will always be some arbitrariness in any such measure. For instance, what fraction of the library expenditure (used by faculty, undergrads, postgrads) should be assigned to undergrads? What about overheads (pay to university bureaucrats, maintenance expenditure on buildings and so on)? There is no clear way of dividing such costs.

    Even some of your own assertions can be challenged. For instance, why should the vacation time for students be subtracted? Note that the vacation time is used by academics not only for research (those who do research, that is) but also to prepare for teaching. Even on research, matters are not so simple. Sometimes research done by faculty makes it way into the lectures delivered to undergrads. One can then argue that such research should be accounted for in expenditure on undergrads.

    Taking all this into account in a "proper" way is going to be quite complex and will inevitably be somewhat arbitrary.

    @Abi: IIT undergrads may be paying less than 20% of the cost of their education (however computed) but I believe they are subsidised. Indiresan is talking about a self-financed system of undergrad education:
    ...reserve 20 per cent of seats for the very rich or powerful after charging them 80 per cent of the costs. The other 80 per cent should be selected on the basis of merit — as decided by the faculty — and get charged only 20 per cent of the costs.

    Of course, whether this (self-financing) is desirable is a different question.

  15. jbeck said...

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Hundreds-of-fake-OBC-quota-IIT-aspirants-back-out-of-Joint-Entrance-Exams/articleshow/14288941.cms

    Fake certificates! Interesting!
    But TAB, I did go through the JEE candidates data report. The categorisation is flawed. General Entry category consists of all candidates who have met the minimum qualifying mark right? So this would include candidates from the other 3 categories - OBC, SC and ST. So while in the application the GE category is exclusive of the other three, among the selected candidates, the GE would include the other three.