September 27, 2010

indian institutions and the politics of ranking - I

India's top engineering and management institutions have slipped in the ranking of global top institutions once more. The question is not only 'why have they ranked poorly' but also 'why were they there in the list at all?'

Such rankings are almost always perception based. However transparent the surveyors claim them to be, by their very nature these surveys are opaque and subject to manipulation at various stages. Even if, for argument sake, we agree that a survey has been done in a perfectly transparent and logical manner, perceptions in themselves are extremely subjective.

In a capitalist, consumerist, globalised and highly competitive world of today, research and surveys are used with a pre-conceived outcome. It is rule, not exception. So, diseases spread from poor countries to the rich ones, corruption is most prevalent in these very countries, the level of filth, crime and social discord is dismal in poor countires' societies, 50 million Indians are carrying AIDS virus. Don't be surprised to find that their institutions produce managers, doctors and engineers who are poor in academics, practicals, employability, world view and what not. Talk of deficiencies in infrastructure and teaching aids, less exposure and all other weaknesses you can find in these institutions to look credible. Hardly any good things happen in these countries. They are uncivilised societies that need wealthy nations' goods and services; their own youth must study in the west [and also learn western ways of life] to get into the league of the wealthy.

Indian institutions could not be wished away in the first place because they did not pose a threat to western institutions. Now that a large number of Indians are heading or are in the top rungs in multinationals and are seen as successful [despite large scale racial discrimination], it has rung alarm bells in wealthy nations. Moreover, due to their being less expensive, youth from poorer [eg African] countries flock to India for study. So downgrade Indians and their institutions and prop up your own.

My argument is NOT that top Indian institutions like IIMs and IITs are perfect [and I will talk of their weaknesses sometime later], but the bias in global ranking is also a reality - as big.
Indians should not shy away from publicizing to the world the many positives of Indian institutions.

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