Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Sixth pay commission debacles and looking forward... (Part 2)

In my last post I presented my views on what I believe went wrong during the 6th pay commission at the level of “policy changes” in our country’s higher education system, i.e. in colleges, universities and institutes. In this post I address issues related to salaries all the way from primary schools to universities and institutes and try and make a case for making the teaching/academic profession in our country a more economically attractive option than it is today. If I have your patience I believe I will be able to make a case for a model which can link economic growth with growth in knowledge for members of our society.

Two points before I start:

1. I’m going to present my views within the framework of state and central government educational institutions (with the additional hope that they also translate to private institutions). So I’m going to assume that housing and medical benefits are already extended to teachers and academics at all levels from primary schools up. If not, it is my request that this happen. As far as medical benefits go, it is my submission that every teacher and academic be given comprehensive medical coverage for self and any dependents that he or she may have. As far as housing goes, I suppose the extent will vary in the sense of size of quarters provided. But at a bare minimum a decent one bedroom apartment should be provided to every primary school teacher in my opinion and we move up from there.

2. Wherever I talk about salaries, I will simply talk about gross salaries. To be frank, I’ve never really understood the whole Basic, D.A., etc breakup. So I won’t get into that level of detail and simply mention the net or gross amount that I believe teachers at different levels ought to be making.

First a bit about what motivates this post:

I firmly believe that teachers, academics and those committed to seeking knowledge in all disciplines and fields (scientists, historians, archaeologists, etc) are the bedrock of society as knowledge sustains everything else. If we want our society to be intellectually and culturally healthy and vibrant once again (I do not believe it is either today), we need to make the profession of knowledge itself something to aspire to instead of thinking of knowledge merely as a means to some material end.

Now I do not believe that the strategy to achieve this mindset shift ought to be purely economic in nature. One has to be drawn as much, if not more, towards knowledge as material possessions to start with. Knowledge is a wealth too. This realization needs to set in firmly if we as a society are to start valuing the pursuit of knowledge as much as more “material” pursuits. Plus a large part of the solution lies in my opinion in restoring the social respectability of the teaching/academic profession - particularly at the primary and secondary school levels. The situation in this regard is particularly dismal in our country from what I can see. We need to realize one thing very very clearly: disrespect the teaching profession, discourage good people from taking it up, and we descend into ignorance. It’s as simple as that. Our children will no longer grow up with a sound foundation in knowledge and values and it will be a pretty sad day when such a state of affairs comes to pass. So respecting teachers and realizing that their contribution towards sustaining a knowledge centric and humane society is something very immense is critical.

But this said, we need to be aware that there is an economic aspect to this profession like any other that needs to be fairly addressed too. Teachers, academics, scientists and others in the profession of knowledge have the need to be economically secure too. They too would like for their children to be assured of the best possible education and healthcare just like anyone else. They will have ageing parents at some stage as well and would like them to have a comfortable old age with access to high quality health care whenever needed just as anyone else would. Plus they themselves would be well within their rights in my opinion to want a reasonably comfortable and well off life both during their professional careers and in their years of retirement and old age (for which they too would need to save and invest just like anyone else!). “Austerity” needs to be a personal choice in my opinion. We need not go about imposing it on some professions as some sort of a moral requirement while being alright with outright debauchery in others. A more balanced approach rather than harbouring extreme viewpoints would be what I recommend. This is a mistake we have been making for quite a while in our country in my opinion and we need to correct it.

To repeat an example I gave in a recent post that I believe underlines my concern that the teaching profession is not as economically sound as it ought to be:

Some 5-6 years ago I took a cab from Delhi airport. I happened to strike up a conversation with the cabbie during which I asked him how much he makes per month. I still remember his answer: things used to be better some years ago but now he was making only about Rs. 30,000/- to Rs. 35,000/- per month. Now I have absolutely nothing against cabbies making a decent living, but how many primary schools in our country do you think were paying their teachers at least Rs. 30,000/- to Rs. 35,000/- per month around 2009-2010 (i.e. 5-6 years ago)? And remember, as per the cabbie these were not as good days for him as before when he made more.

If we have allowed things to come to such a pass that being a cabbie in Delhi or Mumbai (or perhaps even a paan-bidi shop owner or a pizza delivery personnel in some establishments) have become more lucrative options than being a primary school teacher in one’s own town then, with due respect to all these professions, it only reflects our immense lack of maturity and foresight. Likewise with other essential professions (as I like to call them): nurses, hawaldars, soldiers... We need very good people (and lots of them) to man these professions and cannot afford to compromise on quality one bit. And we can’t hope to make this happen if we don’t sort out the economics of it. Idealism in its own place, family bread and butter in its own.

Sure let us set high standards in recruiting teachers. Sure let us expect teachers to continuously develop themselves in terms of knowledge as well as teaching pedagogies. To teach children and nurture them into becoming mature adults and responsible members of the society is no small thing. And we certainly need to recruit the best people we can to do this. But at the same time let us also then pay them salaries that are respectable enough for the teaching profession to become economically sound and not be a constraint that comes in the way of capable people choosing it as a career option – at least early in their lives before they have earned higher degrees that can enable them to pursue options of either teaching at colleges and universities or perhaps taking up other career paths if that be their eventual choice (I'll expand on the 2nd part of this statement later in this post).

So here’s my first proposition: Let the starting gross salaries for school teachers be set as follows (I’ll talk about the need to cap these salaries as well later):

Primary school (Grades 1 to 5): Rs. 30,000/- per month.                  
[Minimum qualification: B.A./B.Sc./B.Com.]

Secondary school (Grades 6 to 10): Rs. 40,000/- per month.
[Minimum qualification: B.A./B.Sc./B.Com. + B.Ed.  OR  B.Tech./B.E. (longer program)]

Higher secondary school (Grades 11-12): Rs. 50,000/- per month.
[Minimum qualification: B.A./B.Sc./B.Com. + B.Ed.  OR  B.Tech./B.E. (longer program)]

Yes! I do believe that we need to value our bachelors degrees as well as the teaching profession this much.

Similarly, starting salaries for instructors for Diploma programmes in Technical Education at institutes such as ITIs can be set at Rs. 60,000/- per month with minimum qualification requirement being a B.Tech./B.E.

I want to make a point here that I will keep coming back to again and again: Let us aim at establishing a culture wherein people in the teaching profession continue to study more themselves and pursue higher degrees alongside their teaching responsibilities at different levels.

Say someone takes up a teaching position at the primary school level right after their B.A., B.Sc. or B.Com. Let them not stagnate there. Instead, let them pursue a B.Ed. alongside and try and move up to being a secondary school teacher, and after some experience perhaps a higher secondary school teacher. Again, during this period let them pursue masters degrees in their subjects so that they can try and obtain a lectureship at the college level where they teach B.A./B.Sc./B.Com./B.Tech. students. Or they could pursue the M.Ed. degree and involve themselves in teaching B.Ed. students.

Sure pursuing higher degrees alongside one’s teaching responsibilities would likely take more time than pursuing them full time. But one earns a salary alongside and that can be exactly what is needed for many a individual or family.

To encourage this continuous pursuit of higher education oneself and migrating to teaching at higher levels, I believe we also need to put caps on salaries at each level. So the salaries at the primary school level can perhaps be capped off at say Rs. 35,000/- per month. One then has to put in the required effort, obtain a B.Ed. degree and try and move up to secondary school teaching if one wants to earn more (thereby also opening up primary school spots for others). Likewise, salaries at the secondary and higher secondary school levels and diploma institutes can perhaps be capped off at Rs. 45,000/- per month, Rs. 55,000/- per month and Rs. 65,000/- per month respectively as well. If someone wants to earn more than Rs. 65,000/- per month, he or she then has to obtain a masters degree and try and obtain a lectureship at a college.

In a similar spirit, I propose that gross salaries of lecturers in colleges range from Rs. 70,000/- per month to Rs. 80,000/- per month until they obtain a PhD (which can be pursued alongside one's teaching responsibilities). After obtaining a PhD one can either choose to continue teaching at the college level and be eligible for promotions with higher salaries within the college system or follow up the PhD degree with some post-doctoral research experience if needed and try and obtain a faculty position in a university or institute where one would also be involved with post-graduate education or a scientific position at a research laboratory.

Coming to institutes and universities:

In my last post I had argued for a reversal to PhD being the minimum requirement for an Assistant Professorship at universities and institutes (instead of PhD plus three years of post-PhD experience) while pointing out that selection committees have the discretion anyway to recommend if necessary that a particular candidate first gain some more research experience through a post-doctoral research fellowship or perhaps spend some time as a senior lecturer before being appointed as an Assistant Professor. So, I’ll first suggest salaries at the post-doctoral research fellow and senior lecturer levels (both of which should ideally be at the most 2-3 year positions in my opinion):

I would recommend setting the monthly salary for post-doctoral research fellows at Rs. 80,000/- (fixed) i.e. the salary cap for lecturers at the college level (see above).

If I’m not mistaken, this would be a significant increase in salary at this level and I believe it would be a step in the right direction. Post-doctoral research fellows can play an important role in increasing the research impetus in our universities and institutes. Such a salary might not only increase the probability of some of our brighter PhD graduates choosing to gain their post-doctoral research experience in institutes and universities within the country rather than going abroad for the same but may also help us attract candidates from outside the country.

The salary for senior lecturers at institutes and universities can be set at Rs. 1,00,000/- per month (fixed) with an expectation that they contribute in teaching as well as research.

The starting salary for Assistant Professors at institutes and universities can be set at Rs. 1,20,000/- per month. From here on it would be a matter of being promoted to an Associate Professorship and then a Professorship based on performance and I suppose an evaluation of one’s academic maturity. Again, I believe there should be salary caps at the Assistant and Associate Professor levels so that one stays motivated to keep progressing to higher levels. But I am going to desist from opining on what these should be or what the starting salaries for Associate and full Professorships ought to be.

A full Professorship, in my opinion, ought to indicate a judgement by the academic community that one has attained to a level of academic maturity beyond which one need not be judged or evaluated anymore. So there really needn’t be any more posts as I see it.

Posts of administrative and academic leadership in institutes and universities (Heads of Departments, Deans, Directors), as I see things, ought to indicate responsibilities being given to members of the academic community from time to time and not be looked at as “promotions”. I do not believe any of these responsibilities need have separate salaries associated with them. Instead, I am of the opinion that one simply continue to earn salary as per one’s station in his or her academic journey while executing such responsibilities. Just that how well one executes such responsibilities (yes, that needs to be evaluated too!) be accounted for when forming a judgement on one’s overall credentials.

I end this post with a submission that while we have certainly come a long way since our independence in 1947, we have a longer way to go still before we can claim to be relevant in the global academic community. I believe that in order to achieve such a standing we need to address the economic aspects of knowledge centric professions in our country as much as correcting our mindset vis a vis how we view knowledge and its relevance and importance in our lives. I have presented my views on what would be a balanced approach as we move forward. It is my hope that the relevant bodies in our country’s academia as well as state and central governments will take the necessary steps during the 7th pay commission to remove any lacunae that might exist and give a positive thrust to the teaching, academic, scientific and all other knowledge centric professions in our country.

True that the above will possibly require significant budgetary revisions as far as allocations to the education sector go. Would it be worth it? I hope I have been able to convince you that it would. Additionally, one mindset shift in the society at large that would go a long way in bringing about this economic impetus to the education sector is the willingness of those who can afford to pay for education to do so while subsidies and scholarships be reserved exclusively for those who actually need them. Most of us who are well off don’t really hold back from spending money on material comforts and luxuries. While I don’t really have a problem with that as such, I do believe that we shouldn’t hesitate on spending on education either. Knowledge is no less important.

Actually perhaps many of us already do spend a fair bit on education when we feed the humongous coaching industry that has taken root in our country. From what I have heard salaries in coaching institutes are possibly significantly higher than in schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if better people teach at coaching centres today than at schools. Or if school teachers double up as coaching class teachers.

I recommend that we direct our resources directly at schools. Let’s upgrade them, hire the very best to teach our children, demand the very best from them and be willing to pay them salaries they deserve.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Sixth pay commission debacles and looking forward... (Part 1)

[Note 1: This article focuses only on policies, not salaries.]

[Note 2: That said, salaries are an important consideration too. I’ll discuss that aspect in my next post.]

A few things went very wrong in my opinion as far as sixth pay commission recommendations and their implementation went for the academic community in our country. I’m going to talk about these a bit here (within the context of college/institute/university level academia as that’s the part I am aware of) before presenting my views in the next post on what the seventh pay commission can do to provide a thrust to academics as a whole in our country all the way from primary schools to institutes and universities.

The first bungle that happened was the removal of lectureship as a post across the country. This has resulted in people with Masters level education becoming Assistant Professors. While a Masters degree is certainly indicative of a certain level of command in a field, I do not believe it is a high enough benchmark to allow the academic title of Assistant Professor. Sure salaries for Assistant Professors with a Masters degree have probably been kept lower than PhD holders at the same post. But just setting salaries lower or higher is not enough as far as the overall picture goes. Attaining to appropriate posts at the right stage in one’s career after having obtained the necessary educational qualifications and demonstrated a certain level of competence and ability is equally important if we wish to maintain high standards. Else titles lose their significance and people who are not intellectually and professionally ready get them before time. That’s not healthy for the profession as a whole in my opinion.

Being an Assistant Professor is no small thing. This title cannot be given to people before they are ready if we wish to avoid a dilution of standards overall. Benchmarks need to be set high and people need to be encouraged to put in the effort required to reach them.

So this is one thing that needs to be reversed in my opinion: A few junior lectureships for people with only a Bachelors degree but with demonstrated potential for excellence in teaching, lectureships for Masters degree holders and post-doctoral-research-fellowships/senior-lectureships, Assistant Professorships and above for PhD holders. Additionally what needs to be encouraged in my opinion is people continually moving up in their professional careers by pursuing higher degrees alongside their teaching responsibilities. For example, a junior lecturer can pursue a Masters degree alongside his or her teaching responsibilities and upon completion apply for a lectureship. Similarly lecturers can pursue PhD degrees alongside their teaching responsibilities and upon completion apply for either post-doctoral research fellowships or Senior lectureships (or Assistant Professorships if they are judged to be exceptional). Higher posts (Associate and Full Professorships) of course are a matter of promotion based on performance since PhD is the highest academic degree one can obtain.

For my next few observations I’m going to focus on where I believe things went wrong as far as IITs are concerned but I hope I’ll be able to draw a few points in the process that I believe should apply to institute/university level academia in our country as a whole and not just one set of institutes. I was not only teaching at an IIT when the 6th pay commission came around (still am) but was also an active participant of the IIT faculty federation that engaged in a dialogue with the then Minister of Human Resource and Development, Mr. Kapil Sibal.

The first thing that I believe went wrong (and I’ll elaborate on why I think so in a moment) was in introducing the requirement that one necessarily have three years of experience beyond his or her PhD to apply for a "regular" Assistant Professorship at an IIT. A new post called Assistant Professor on Contract was introduced that is given today till these three years of experience are accumulated.

This was a departure from the past when the minimum requirement to apply for a regular post was having a PhD degree. Sure some post-doctoral experience was looked at positively and it was possible to recognize the experience gained at this level through additional increments in one’s starting salary. But fresh PhD graduates with a sound academic background overall and demonstrated competence and readiness who wanted to enter the teaching profession right away were equally welcome to apply – they didn’t necessarily have to wait for an additional three years for a regular appointment if they were good enough to be absorbed sooner. The selection committee was empowered to gauge the merit of each applicant and decide who to offer a position and who not.

That was a better system in my opinion. Not only did it give more flexibility but it also increased the chances of addressing faculty shortage in IITs in a shorter time frame. A candidate is more likely to apply for a regular post instead of a contractual one. And as I remarked above, selection committees have the discretion to not offer someone a regular post anyway if they judge that he or she is not ready yet. They can always recommend after evaluating the candidate that he or she spend some time as a post-doctoral research fellow first to gain more research experience, or maybe gain some teaching experience as a senior lecturer (this provision existed at IITs and can be enabled again), if they feel that the candidate is not ready yet. On the other hand, if someone is academically ready sooner than others then why not absorb them sooner? It is only to our advantage to do so in my opinion. Why "hard code" this three year requirement at the level of policy and tie ourselves down?

So that’s the next thing that needs to be reversed in my opinion: The minimum requirement for an Assistant Professorship at IITs (or any Institute and University in the country for that matter) needs to be reset at having a PhD degree. Individual institutes have the prerogative to require further experience anyway. But I don’t think there’s any case for making such requirements mandatory for all institutes. In fact I feel that is only counterproductive. It reduces the level of flexibility available to selection committees and can potentially result in bright candidates taking up positions elsewhere because all the IITs are able to offer them presently are contractual positions for three years after their PhD.

Along the same lines, the following policies were brought in during the 6th pay commission for appointments at the associate and full professor levels:

Associate Professor: To become an Associate Professor at an IIT, one now requires at least six years of post-PhD experience of which at least three should be at the Assistant Professor level at IITs or equivalent institutes.

There are two problems with this as I see things:

1) The requirement of first having been an Assistant Professor at IITs or equivalent institutes to apply for an Associate Professorship at an IIT can potentially lock out people (or unnecessarily delay their career progression) who have been at other institutes despite the possibility of them having performed well there. This is unnecessary in my opinion. In fact appointments at all levels (Assistant, Associate and Full Professorships) in IITs are through open advertisements and selection committees ought to evaluate candidates based on their performance at the previous level regardless of whether they are internal or external candidates. So we need only focus on how one has performed and not be concerned about where one has worked previously. Why rule out the possibility of people improving themselves with time? In fact, I am of the opinion that people should be encouraged to "move up in life" by continually improving themselves.

Say someone did not manage to obtain an academic position at an IIT or an equivalent institute right after his or her PhD and joined some other institute instead. And then worked really hard to improve themselves further and in some years started performing at the level of an IIT faculty member. Say such a person demonstrates sustained performance at an academically high level and can make a case for an Associate Professorship at an IIT at some point. I really don’t see why he or she should not be encouraged to apply for the same. Sure let these candidates be evaluated with as much rigor as anyone else. But in principle they should be as eligible to become Associate Professors at an IIT as anyone else as long as they are able to demonstrate that they are competent enough for the post when they apply.

Such a policy can also discourage people working in industries or research labs from migrating to academics. Someone may choose to join an industry or take up a scientific position in a research lab right after his or her PhD and wish to enter the teaching position after some years. As long as he or she has demonstrated a high enough level of competence and performance I do not see a problem with them coming into IITs as Associate Professors in a manner commensurate with their seniority and experience elsewhere instead of having to necessarily take a dip in their careers, spend three years as Assistant Professors, and then apply for an Associate Professorship. In fact, I would see it as a positive for our academic community if it can draw good people from industries and research labs towards itself. It is only counterproductive to discourage such migrations in my opinion.

2) Six years after PhD is too soon in my opinion (in general; there can always be exceptional people and exceptions can and should certainly be made for them) to attain to the academic title of Associate Professor.

Prior to the 6th pay commission, the requirement to apply for an Associate Professorship was simply 8 years of post-PhD experience with no other conditions. I feel we need to revert to this. It is simple, uncomplicated and offers complete flexibility for people who might wish to migrate upwards from a lower ranked institute to an IIT (and there’s no reason why they should be prevented from doing so as long as they prove themselves worthy – in fact, as I have remarked above, the idea of working hard and "moving up in life" needs to be encouraged in my opinion!) as well as laterally from industries and research labs to academia.

Professor: To become a Professor at an IIT one now requires at least 10 years of post-PhD experience of which at least four years should have been at the level of Associate Professor at an IIT or an equivalent institute.

This is double jeopardy!

Say someone who is an Associate Professor elsewhere wishes to apply for a Professorship at an IIT. What is it that we expect of him now? That he first be an Assistant Professor ( i.e. actually take a demotion!) for three years, then be an Associate Professor for four years at IIT and then be eligible to apply for a Professorship. I see absolutely no point in insisting on this.

Likewise for people who might want to move from industries or research labs to IITs later in their careers. If they are good enough, then they ought to be able to come in as Professors in my opinion and that so in a manner that is commensurate with their seniority and experience. I see absolutely no point in necessarily making people take a dip in their careers if they want to move to an IIT.

If someone can prove that he is academically ready to be a Professor at an IIT, he should be made a Professor at an IIT. As simple as that.

[All this makes even lesser sense in our present predicament when all IITs are said to be facing a faculty shortage!]

The policy prior to 6th pay commission for appointments at the level of Professor was simply that one have at least 10 years of post-PhD experience to become eligible to apply for the same – no other conditions. It was simple, uncomplicated and offered far more flexibility than the policy brought in during the 6th pay commission.

It is my submission that the above policy changes that were brought in during the 6th pay commission have not been beneficial. The previous policies were more sound and I believe we need to revert to them for a healthier and more rational functioning of our country’s academic system.

[As indicated at the start of my post I will present my thoughts on matters related to salaries in the teaching/academic profession all the way from primary schools to institutes and universities in my next post.]

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Different knowledge systems may call for different education formats.

I'm going to keep this post relatively short as the point I wish to make is quite straightforward in my opinion and I believe I'll be able to make it fairly succinctly.

Consider systems of knowledge such as modern day science and technology that have developed and evolved over the last few centuries primarily in the west.

[I'm not saying that these knowledge systems do not have parallels or commonalities with (or are necessarily better than) science and technology as practiced in other civilizations either in the distant past or present times. Perhaps they do and perhaps there are alternate viewpoints and models that are in some ways better. I do not know enough about these matters to compare or comment meaningfully at present. All I am saying is that at least as far as the present day mainstream understanding (and acceptance) of such subjects goes, pretty much all significant advancements that have taken place perhaps at least in the last 300-400 years have been primarily in the west.]

For such systems of knowledge it is perhaps an acceptable premise that the manner in which the rest of the world engages with them and the educational framework through which they are communicated to the next generations of students are aligned with educational methodologies in the west, at least till such a time that someone somewhere either demonstrates the existence of a better knowledge system or establishes that an alternate educational framework would be better.

What the presently and widely accepted educational framework for "western" knowledge systems (phrase used in the sense above) translates to in more concrete terms is three to four year bachelors degree programs followed by two to three year masters programs and finally doctoral programs that can vary a fair bit in their lengths from student to student and advisor to advisor. Within these durations, recent times have seen the implementation of the semester system along with credit based coursework across universities in India. These structures (and degree titles) have essentially been adapted from the west and as I remarked above I can see the validity of doing so for knowledge systems that can essentially be called "western" today since that's where they have primarily developed and progressed for quite a while now.

Again, I'm not saying that these modalities and structures of transmitting knowledge are the best possible. Perhaps there were better approaches in the past that academic communities drifted away from for some reason. Or maybe its the future that will reveal different modalities which prove to be academically more sound in the long run. These are certainly valid debate points in my opinion and I keep an open mind.

I'm simply saying that I do not have any fundamental objections per se in adapting education formats from the west for knowledge systems that have essentially developed there.

However, I do sense a problem with imposing such modalities and structures on every knowledge system.

Consider education in Indian classical music for example:

The first thing to realize is that Indian classical music is a serious knowledge system just as western classical music is, although extremely different in its conception as well as delivery. Music education is taken very seriously in the west and pretty much every university of standing has a school of music that offers education in diverse forms of music all the way till the doctoral level. The west of course focuses on forms that have developed there. Likewise, we must primarily focus on forms that are central to us.

The very cultural identity of any people is intimately connected with their knowledge systems and for this identity to persist it is of paramount importance that these knowledge systems not only be preserved but an ecosystem created (academic aa well as economic) in which they thrive. Integration of Indian knowledge systems in Indian universities is of paramount importance. And we must do this in a way and through an educational framework that is appropriate for our knowledge systems. I'm starting with music but will expand to other subjects soon.

[Any one who even suggests that Indian classical music is any less profound than its western counterpart has basically had one too many for his or her own good in my opinion.]

Coming back to the point I wish to make, I'm not quite sure that the framework of bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees is the best possible framework for education in Indian classical music. In fact if you read about any of the maestros in the field, past and present, you will likely find that the way they have been educated is very different from how we have become used to viewing education. And the results of their manner of education are absolutely beyond any discussion. I'll just take a few names from north Indian classical music to drive home this point: Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, the Dagar brothers. Note that these are names from the recent past and the present. I have not even gone to the distant past: example: Mia Tansen. So their manner of education does extend to the contemporary.

Now I'm not an expert myself in this field so shouldn't really opine on how to go about implementing an alternate method of education that may be more appropriate to the field of Indian classical music in our universities. Can it be done? If so how? What kind of teacher-student ratios would be ideal? How would one qualify to teach in such a university program? Note that some of the best Indian classical musicians in the world today would probably not have "PhDs"! What would be the approximate length of such a program and what would be its structural breakdown (if any)? What might be some of the intermediate benchmarks till one arrives at the status of being called a Pandit or Ustad? Ar what stages (if any) can one be meaningfully absorbed as a teacher at different levels so that the students' (and their families') economic conditions may be addressed? These are all important questions that must be addressed in my opinion by none other than experts in the field of music themselves. So I propose the following:

Let the Ministry of Culture along with the Ministry of Human Resource and Development and the University Grants Commission organize a conclave of maestros in north as well as south Indian classical music and seek advice from them on all these questions. Let us adapt the educational framework they recommend. The same university can have different frameworks and modalities for different knowledge systems. I don't see a problem with that. In fact, our universities would only be the richer for it as I see things.

I propose that such an effort be extended to the following uniquely Indian systems of knowledge:

1. Indian classical music (all forms) [already discussed above]
2. Indian classical dance (all forms)
3. Yoga (philosophy and practice)
4. Indian philosophical systems

I look forward to the day when universities across India will thrive in knowledge systems from all parts of the world with each system being addressed and communicated through modalities and structures appropriate to it.