Monday, September 8, 2014

Random thoughts on higher education

Just finished the 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver's' episode on 'Student debt'.
After I finished the episode and went through many of the YouTube comments (which are far more interesting than the actual video, many times); I felt that a serious rethink about the importance of education & current education system is needed. Hold on, I am not one of those arm chair critics who likes to ruminate over the content in our textbooks & state of our government run primary schools! I am more in favour of critical & dispassionate examination of role of education & its importance in our modern capitalist society in India.

Just to put things in perspective- I graduated from one of the top 2 business schools in India with a loan of close to 13 L. After more than a year in job, I am yet to pay off a significant part of that loan. Still, I consider myself fortunate enough to be able to earn a decent salary & have a spendthrift nature. Others will find it a long & tiring job.

John Oliver, apart from usual dose of sarcasm presented some appalling stats- Student debt in US now amounts to more than 1 trillion USD; that's more than credit card & auto loans and surpassed only by home mortgages. Also, for profit institutes account for 13% student intake & 31% of total student debt. And the level of fraud instituted by these schools would make IIPM feel proud. India & US are not much different, it seems!

But the thing which strikes me odd is nobody seems bothered about a much worse scenario developing in India. I finished my school education (class I-X) for a cost less than Rs. 5000/- (including tuition fees, books & other costs) but my cousin is spending close to Rs. 1,00,000/- /year on my niece's education in a private (non-funded) school. This is not just true about primary education; it is true across the board. The government may have made the secondary education compulsory & free in government funded schools; but any further education would cost you an arm & a leg. An engineering course would cost at least Rs. 50,000/- an year in a third rung engineering college. And to what end? It seems that engineers are not faring better these days. Sensationalism aside, but the returns on investment in higher education seem to have gone down pretty low (though I don't have sufficient data to back my claim at this point). And still, hundreds of engineering colleges, B-schools & vocational institutes are popping all over the country.
What could be the reasons behind this seemingly glaring anomaly- of education not being so important when we were told the exact opposite our entire life?
Firstly, I believe the poor quality of infrastructure & faculty of these educational institutes are responsible. I agree that every engineering can not be an IIT (at least one of the older ones :P) but some sort of restraint in approving these new institutes. After all, education, unlike manufacturing cannot be scaled up within a couple of years. So, unlike other areas of market driven economy , education cannot simply be a function of demand & supply.

Secondly, I sense the case of decreasing marginal returns (from education) at a societal level. Assume, you are one of the only carpenters in a small village, good for you. But, if suddenly many people decide to take it as their main occupation (and assuming you don't have exceptional skills); everyone will be worse off. In India, people just need to know a way success, a channel to direct all their efforts- may it be becoming a Computer engineer, joining US universities to pursue MS or one of latest fads- pursuing CFA. No doubt, the early movers & the more talented will succeed but same won't be true of the blind followers.

Thirdly, the unholy nexus of education czars & politicians! We know enough stories about private engineering & medical colleges flouting norms left & right only to be looked after by their powerful political guardians.

So, how does this affect us as a society? When inputs costs skyrocket, so does the output price! So, when an aspiring medical student has to shell out a crore plus rupees to complete his medical education; expect the rates of private medical care to go through the roof. Secondly, I see India  becoming a country of highly educated (but somehow under-qualified) unemployed youth. By some estimates, 1 crore youths are going to join workforce every year for a next decade or so.And, if they are under-qualified & there are not enough job opportunities (this is an albeit a separate topic); we will see huge societal issues. And last but not the least, only a section of society would be able to afford the education they want (e.g. only Doctors can afford to send their children to private medical schools). It may seem all doom & gloom, but I am confident about the occurrence of these problems even if not the scale

Finally, it brings me to role of capitalism as a whole plays in our life. In spite of its many shortcomings, I am a big fan of free market economy. As Warren Buffet once famously said, "Capitalism has many faults, but it seems to be the only system that works across the world (unlike communism et al)".

Can we keep in check the pursuit of profits from our education system? Can we model our essential services like healthcare & higher education on the lines of socialist models followed by the Scandinavian countries? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Road to Perdition (Well not exactly..:P)

Well. This post was long in the coming. I wanted to write it for more than one year. I will clarify a few things first. This post is not intended to be some CAT guide, nor an inspiring story for any one. Its just to state things as they happened from my point of view.
Year -2004 Some young guy from COEP appeared for CAT without any preparation and scored an amazing 98.3 percentile. That was my first introduction to CAT.
Year -2005 The same gentleman scored 99.89 percentile and bagged all the 6 IIMs calls. Finally, he converted L, K and I. I was fascinated. The same year 2005/06, I got an admission in Computer Engineering in COEP. Soon, in my second year, it became clear to me that I was not a technical guy. It was not that I was bad at coding but simply did not find the subjects interesting enough. As a result, I spent more time on Boat Club in next 3 years than in Computer Department.
Year 2008- I joined Career Forum with Rohan; but did not even attend 25 % of the classes. Afterall, I had Oracle in my kitty; so clearly there was a lack of motivation. I tried my hand at the mocks but the result was going to be a writing on the wall. CAT 2008, the last paper and pencil CAT, went without any major incidences. My score - a mere 87 percentile.
Year 2009- I joined Oracle in June and soon my CAT fever was back. Moreever, I knew why I wanted to do MBA. The motivation was there but still I was far behind in preparation. I joined TIME AIMCAT series in August when almost half of the mocks were over. I prepared haphazardly, without any plan. And soon my preparation met another roadblock when I went to San Francisco ,US to undergo one month training at Oracle's headquarter. It was the first week of November with CAT less than one month away. Somehow I convinced my manager that I would return one week earlier than others in my group, as I had to appear for CAT. In this memorable time in US, I enjoyed a lot. But there was this constant fear.CAT. I tried to prepare as much I could. Even missed a 4 day trip to Las Vegas for preparation. I know I would be the laughing stock for years to come as I had missed the chance many would simply die for..:P
6 December 2009, D-Day, 1500 hrs -1730hrs After 22 hours of journey, I came back to Hyderabad and appeared for CAT the very next day. The paper was easy enough compared to previous years' CAT. But I simply could not make the breakthrough. The morons from Prometric had another surprise in their bags. They declared for RCs and DI caselets which had 2-3 questions on same data, it was Compulsory to attempt all of them as individual attempts would not be counted. The reason, ambiguity arising from the instruction- " Following data is common for Question x-y. Please be sure to attempt all of them." I was naive enough to beleive them and attempted Qs which should have been left alone. I knew I was not going to make it as soon as I finished the exam.
28 Feb 2009 The CAT results were out . 95.64 percentile. Simply not good enough. As expected, I did not receive any IIM calls. To add to the gloom, I had flunked VA which was my strongest section with a percentile of 86.*
Year -2010 I started all over again. This time I was more determined and lot more systemetic than earlier. The AIMCATs were not going so good but I knew I can make it on the D day. I cleared the cut-offs sometimes but was not a consistent performer. There were times when I doubted myself after a really tough mock. But somehow I kept going. I knew I had to .
22 November 2011- It turned out to be the perfect day, as I found all the sections doable. Final attempts were QA-16 VA-16 DI-18 Still, I was not happy as I missed a simple RC with 2 Qs in my hurry to finish off VA. I felt I would miss the cut-offs by a fraction because of this. Also, the normalisation was a mysterious force which Prometric was going to unleash on all of us.
12 January 2011- The results were out at midnight. I could not control my curiosity, got up and checked my result. I could not beleive what I saw on the screen. QA-96.34, DI-99.18,VA-99.50,OA-99.84 I got A,B,C,L,I calls apart from SP Jain and MDI. It was an amazing feeling. The interviews were there and I knew it was the final hurdle. Whatever may be the result of these interviews, my journey for CAT was a great experience. There were people who always helped me throughout this journey. Aniket Khasagiwale(Khasgi) was a constant source of motivation and so was the gentleman mentioned at the start of the post. (Incidently he happens to be my elder brother..:D). Shishir and Mandar were the ideal flat partners. Nikhil Sarode and Yatin Kamat were partners in mischief ( and I hope they convert their calls) as I discussed with them everything about CAT. Finally, my parents and my best friend are the ones who truly motivated me to go for it. I donot want to thank you guys but just acknowledge your credit..:D
P.S.- IIM A,B-reject C-selected . So going to join IIM -C. \m/

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Public Warning :Very Important

Hi friends,
I got this info from one of my friends .Recently,one of his cousins was arrested on Angola airport.His crime was that he was carrying a water bottle.The laws in Angola and rest of the sub-Saharan countries have changed recently.According to them,due to acute shortage of drinking water in these countries,it is a punishable offense to store water for private use ;as water is a national property in those countries.This offense carries a max punishment of 15 yrs in jail.
The person who was arrested is still in jail.Even the Indian Consulate has disowned him.His life is all screwed up due to this small mistake.So pl take care if you are planning a journey there. Forward this to all your friends.


(P.S.-This post is dedicated to all of us who mindlessly forward random spam emails in the name of public welfare. e..g.the coke and the mentos mail, pressing some code lets you call from your cell when there is no network coverage, some prankster call from a number (displayed in red) cauese brain hamourage and all such crap...)

Come on guys lets use our brain and common sense, before forwarding such spam ...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Failed Comeback...

My announcement of a comeback of this blog proved like one of the many promises we hear during the season of Elections...Fianlly, this blog will be up & live once again...More to come in next 2 days...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm Back....

I hav almost forgotten this blog.. Its nt tht nthing notable was happening my life, d reason being d age-old laziness had crept in.. But almost after 6 months, I hav decided to give this place a new lease of life...This comeback is not comaprable to Schumi returning F1, but it is a comeback,none the less..

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Critic's Eye

"Its easy to impress a beliver, little difficult to impress a non-beliver but impossible to impress a critic." I was just reading reviews about some very famous & commercially successful movies of our times. But I was surprised to see some of the very best movies like LOTR, POC ,Scent of a woman, Forrest Gump , The Pursuit Of Happyness drawing heavy flak from some self-proclaimed critics.(See Reviews). I know that each person may have diferent opinion about a movie but the manner in which the criticism is directed (or mis-directed would be more truthful) is rather shocking !! Like
1) a critic having a go at Peter Jackson's directoral work.... " When we talk about Jackson's directorial style, what exactly are we talking about? The ability to juggle a production this size is a feat, but what else does he bring to it??".........

Peter Jackson's LOTR is one of the very few examples where the movie does not mar the reputation of the equally illustrious original work (in this case by JRR Tolkien).

2) another fathead having his say about Will Smith's performance inThe Pursuit Of Happyness as mediocore & calling the movie a 'crowd-pleasing hollywood style self- help video '......

And I thought I recognised a good movie when I saw on :P. Shame on me :(

The film industry had critics right from the time the fine art of film-making started &
they will be there till the very end of this world....
I think there are only two ways to proceed from here.-
a) To convince urself that u dont understand a bit about movies & submit urself to this mighty power and form ur opinions accordingly...
b) To watch movies & form ur opinions without giving a shit about what the critics say always keeping in mind that movies too follow Darwin's Law of Natural Selection(in most cases)
I prefer the second one......

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Joker & The Taj

26 November 2008 will not go easily down my memory lane. At the start, the day was as normal as I hoped it to be. The night before that I saw " The Dark Knight" which I hadn't seen till then(shamefully).
I was very impressed by the movie.Especially by the Joker, Heath Ledger in a truly unforgettable role. I was totally bemused by the Joker's idea of fun - causing as much destruction as possible just for the sake of it. As the joker says " Introduce a little anarchy......upset the established order...& everything becomes chaos ".
The evening was fine with India completing another thumping victory over England to make it 5-0. But the trauma started when night was falling silently in Mumbai.Several terrorist started firing & throwing grenades at crowded places when it was least expected.This started the terrifying drama which lasted for almost 3 days and left 200 dead & hundreds injured. The terrorist were as mindless as the Joker in their modus operandi causing as much destruction possible without any real motive. Their efforts were rewarded by the panic & fear felt by all of us during that time.
The attack may be over but the planners are still at large. I wonder how short-sighted we can be at times. A few months back,when we were busy in our little quarrles of Marathi vs Non-marathi & Hindu vs. Muslim ; the real enemy was out there, planning d big attack. I hope we realize our folly at least after this attack. Though we have won this battle, the Joker is not dead .He is still lurking out somewhere. And sadly,we dont have a Batman !!! :P

"The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming,but on our own readiness to receive him;not on the chance of his not attacking,but the fact that we have made our position unassailable."
-The Art of War, Sun Tzu