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Sunday, April 13, 2008

For quality & quantity, overhaul education policy

‘Respect academics’: Mr T.V. Mohandas Pai, Director–HR, Infosys, and Mr N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu group of Publications, at a meet on ‘Creating India’s tomorrow – The HR Challenge’, organised by the Business Line Club, in Chennai on Saturday.

Chennai, April 12 The biggest challenge of India as its GDP continues on a robust growth mode in the coming decade will be finding “adequately skilled, educated and trained manpower. If we expect the economy to double in the next 10 years, we will need 6 crore more people to come into the formal job market, and the challenge is to find them,” said Mr T.V. Mohandas Pai, Director-HR, Infosys Technologies.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Business Line Club here on Saturday on ‘Creating India’s tomorrow – the HR challenge’, he said India’s current GDP is $1.25 trillion and at an annual growth rate of 7 per cent, it could double to $2.5 trillion in 10 years. But what could derail our growth was finding skilled and trained manpower. Another challenge was the skewed salaries.

“Just imagine that a rookie who comes from an IIM gets an annual salary of Rs 25 lakh, and a professor with 30 years’ teaching experience in an IIT, who is brilliant and has got a doctorate, doesn’t get half that much.

“The professors in the IIMs who go in the Convocation procession to give degrees to the students probably get one third, or even one fifth, of what the students are going to get at the start of their careers. So we’ve created an absurd situation, but hopefully there will be a more egalitarian, equal and just society in the India of tomorrow.”

The HR shortage in the coming years would be across sectors, but even at the topmost level, our education system was not geared to meet this challenge in terms of both quality and quantity.

The solution was to expand the capacity of quality educational institutions by setting up more colleges and universities in the private sector, give them total autonomy and freedom, pay our faculty better and give our vice chancellors respect and recognition they once commanded.

“If a frontal attack on policy is not possible, we’ll have to employ guerrilla tactics in education,” he said.

Higher fees were necessary to pay teachers more and those who couldn’t afford them should be helped through massive and nationwide scholarship schemes, said Mr Pai.

And foreign universities should be allowed to come into India. Today, if two lakh Indian students were studying in the US, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, etc, why should the education sector shy away from inviting foreign universities into India, he asked.

When reservations were expressed on this suggestion in the lively interaction session that followed, Mr Pai said it was only fair that parents and children were given the freedom to choose.

Addressing the session, Mr N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu group of publications, said the South, particularly Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, had led in the field of education, specially engineering colleges. Karnataka and Kerala were not far behind, and thanks to this leadership role, the South had proved to be a magnet for software companies. But there were concerns on the quality of education which experts would have to address.

Mr K.Venugopal, Joint Editor, The Hindu and Business Line, said the BL Club was started in 2004 with just a few institutions and barely 1,000 members. Today, it has over 15,000 members from 125 institutions in the Chennai region, and in the coming academic year, hoped to enlarge its base to 25,000 members in 150 institutions.

The audience included Vice-Chancellors, professors and heads of MBA departments of institutions in the Chennai region. Faculty from 80 institutions and senior managers from the corporate sector participated.

Participants included Prof D. Viswanathan, Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, Mr G. Viswanathan, Chairman, VIT, Mr M.V.M. Vel Murugan, CEO, Velammal Engineering College, Mr Kishore Kumar, Director, Vel Tech, Mr Vishnu Manshu, CEO, Sri Vidyaniketan, Mr Srinivasalu, Chairman, KMMIPS and Mr Kuppurajalu, Vice-Chairman, SITTOMS.

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